David Darling

“Maverick cellist” is the phrase most often assigned to Grammy-nominated artist David Darling (1941–2021), but it hardly captures the richness, diversity, breadth, and sense of humor of a man who literally redefined the way the cello is played and the way music is taught. His prolific collection of recordings and innovative performance style represent an eclectic variety of musical genres. His playful and unconventional teaching methods helped open the world of music and improvisation to thousands of individuals.

Darling began piano lessons at the age of 5 and the study of classical cello at age 10. He attended Indiana State University, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. He studied cello with internationally recognized artists/teachers Lorne Munroe, Gilbert Reese, Fritz Magg, and János Starker, while at the same time pursuing studies in music composition. He was a scholarship student with the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, and he studied jazz performance at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

In summer 1970, Darling joined the Grammy Award–winning group the Paul Winter Consort. He made his home in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as assistant principal cellist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and worked as a studio session player in the Nashville recording scene. But his main focus was the Consort, an extraordinarily progressive band. He retired from the Paul Winter Consort in 1987 and began to explore the new experiences of working as a solo performer, teaching, and making recordings.

Throughout the years, Darling collaborated with a wide variety of international artists including Paul Winter, Ralph Towner, Glen Moore, Collin Walcott, Paul McCandless, Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Paul Horn, Steve Kuhn, Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen, Ketil Bjørnstad, Pierre Favre, Glen Velez, Bobby McFerrin, Spyro Gyra, Allaudin Mathieu, Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai, Patrick Leonard, Joseph FireCrow, Arlo Guthrie, John Marshall, and Baba Olatunji. Darling’s self-produced CD, Cello Blue (2001), earned rave reviews as well as a 2002 Grammy nomination and the AFIM Indie Award from the Association for Independent Music.

In 1986, Darling cofounded Music for People, an internationally recognized nonprofit educational network dedicated to teaching and fostering music improvisation as a means of creative self-expression. Music for People’s training and certification program, now in its 35th year, continues to flourish in the United States and has expanded to offer seminars and workshops at the Center for Wellbeing and Creativity in Kiental, Switzerland. Darling traveled extensively for more than 40 years, enthusiastically encouraging all humans to explore their musical talents and creative abilities. He inspired and encouraged thousands at numerous holistic facilities and retreat centers such as Esalen, the New York Open Center, Hollyhock, and Omega Institute.

Starting in 1986, Darling worked for Young Audiences, a National Medal of the Arts award-winning organization dedicated to enriching children’s lives by providing in-school programs in the form of workshops, artist residencies, and guest performances. In 1995, he received the Artist of the Year Award by the Board of Directors of Young Audiences, given “in recognition of his hard work, innovation, and creativity in the service of arts-in-education.” In 2001, Darling received the Arts Advocate of the Year Award presented by the Connecticut Music Educators Association for “his excellent work in music education and improvisation.”

Author photo © David Darling

Also By Author

The Cello and David Darling in Love

David Darling, a Grammy®-winning cellist and maverick musician who redefines the way the cello is played and the way music is taught, speaks with Tami Simon about his unique perspective on music. With Sounds True, David has released a new record called In Love and Longing with vocalist Sylvia Nakkach, as well as Just Being Here, a collaboration with Coleman Barks featuring David’s music and the poetry of Rumi. In this episode, David and Tami discuss the cello as an instrument of melancholy, what it takes to be a good collaborator, and the art of good listening. (72 minutes)

See David Darling live in August 2014. Visit WakeUpFestival.com for more information.

You Might Also Enjoy

Hard Pivot

In this podcast, Apolo joins Sounds True founder Tami Simon to discuss his new book, Hard Pivot: Embrace Change. Find Purpose. Show Up Fully. Tami and Apolo also discuss being relentlessly curious; fear of failure and “FOPO”—fear of other people’s opinions; doing the hard work; how to work with disempowering self-talk; the power of visualization; the concept of “process over prize”; having a full dedication to one’s craft; the Japanese principle of ikigai; maintaining self-discipline; and Apolo’s Five Golden Principles for building resilience, overcoming self-doubt, reinventing ourselves, and pivoting gracefully into new opportunities for success.

What Is Wanting to Find Expression Through You?

Dr. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, a former director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian Studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is the author of The Middle Passage, Living an Examined Life, Through the Dark Wood, and Living Between Worlds, among many others. With Sounds True, he’s released the expansive audio program A Life of Meaning: Exploring Our Deepest Questions and Motivations. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with James about the journey for personal fulfillment—how it starts, what it demands, and how it changes your life. James explains what it really means to take responsibility for your life’s path, as well as how you can rediscover and reclaim your innate authority. Tami and James discuss how childhood experiences shape our present behavior and what it takes to live fearlessly. Finally, they talk about overcoming lethargy and the joy of becoming comfortable with mysteries.

What You Can Do to Make Your Relationship Work

Elizabeth Earnshaw works with individuals, couples, and families and is the founder of A Better Life Therapy. She holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is a certified Gottman Method couples therapist. Elizabeth also trains and supervises new therapists seeking their licenses in the counseling field. With Sounds True, she is the author of I Want This to Work: An Inclusive Guide to Navigating the Most Difficult Relationship Issues We Face in the Modern Age. 

In this podcast, Sounds True founder, Tami Simon, speaks with Elizabeth Earnshaw about what she has discovered to be the building blocks for a successful relationship—and the most common pitfalls that can lead to irreparable damage. They also discuss the unique approach of the Gottman Method and the research behind it; the importance of turning toward your partner (and the dangers of turning away); “bids for connection” as key moments in relationship; the “four horsemen” of unhealthy communication: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt; the three Rs of a healthy relationship: reliability, respect, and responsiveness; interdependence, or how we balance our desires for connection and our desires for autonomy; repairing broken trust; the recent dramatic decline in the divorce rate; the connection between happy relationships and physical health; avoiding the trap of “triangulation”; and more.

>