Versatile American horn player David Byrd-Marrow has been appointed to the tenure-track horn professor position at Oberlin Conservatory. He brings an expansive range of experience and repertoire to the role, including his most recent five-year position as assistant professor of horn at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.
“I'm honored to become a guiding and motivating part of the student journey at Oberlin,” Byrd-Marrow says. “It is such a rich place for young musicians to explore and develop their artistic creativity. Most of a musician's education happens after graduation. So, my job will be to ‘set the bones,’ so to speak.”
“We’re delighted to welcome David to the brass faculty,” says Conservatory Dean William Quillen. “The impressive breadth of his professional experience will lend a phenomenal dimension to his work with the Oberlin horn studio and students throughout the Conservatory more broadly.”
Byrd-Marrow established his performance credentials as a freelance musician after earning his undergraduate degree at the Juilliard School, where he studied with Jerome Ashby, and his graduate degree at Stony Brook University, studying with William Purvis.
He was part of Carnegie Hall’s inaugural Ensemble Connect (formerly Ensemble ACJW), a two-year fellowship program for young artists that hones skills in teaching, community engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
His foray into the New York freelance scene began in more traditional roles—on Broadway and in orchestras. He also became the solo hornist with the International Contemporary Ensemble, which expanded his career in a direction he had not anticipated, opening his exploration of experimental music and improvisation—as well as much more chamber music.
Over the last 15 years, Byrd-Marrow has established himself more prominently, appearing with the New York Philharmonic, the Atlanta and Tokyo symphony orchestras, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Washington National Opera, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
He frequently performs at festivals including the Ojai Music Festival, Spoleto Music Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, and Summerfest! at the La Jolla Music Society.
Byrd-Marrow is also a member of the acclaimed flexible orchestral collective, The Knights, and in April 2022 was featured in a familiar role as soloist, performing Eleanor Alberga’s Shining Gate of Morpheus during the ensemble’s 2021-22 season residency at 92Y.
His career focus as a chamber musician of contemporary and experimental music has early roots. He grew up hearing a lot of jazz French horn—and more experimental sounds from the instrument—from his father, who was also his elementary school band director.
This allowed him an open-minded value set for music-making and led to collaborations with a uniquely wide range of performers and premieres of works by Anna Webber, Arthur Kampela, George Lewis, Tyshawn Sorey, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Oberlin alumna Du Yun ’01, Marcos Balter, Eric Wubbels, Jörg Widmann, Miguel Zenón, and Chick Corea.
"I've had the benefit of playing the horn in a great variety of forums,and I've experienced making music in a wide spectrum of situations that have very different sets of priorities and creative expectations,” he says. “This has strengthened my sense of artistic identity, which is a powerful thing for an artist to understand about themselves."
In an interview for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center last April, prior to his performance of György Ligeti's Horn Trio, Hommage à Brahms, Byrd-Marrow said, "The thing that I'm looking for in my music-making is a sense of freedom: the freedom to be expressive as an individual and as a group."
At Oberlin, Byrd-Marrow hopes to help students build a solid foundation that encourages a long career of physical and mental performance health. “And, I hope to inspire the students to cultivate a sense of purpose and a positive relationship with the craft."
And what excites him the most about coming to Oberlin?
“Being surrounded by so much musical activity. I'm looking forward to the energizing effect it will have on me.”
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