Brent Michael Davids. Professional Concert and Film Composer, and American Indian citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation. Born: June 4, 1959, Madison, Wisconsin. Currently operating a music company he founded, Blue Butterfly Group (BBG). American Indian Music Expert, serving as Educator and Consultant to Schools, Festivals, Seminars and Workshops. Founding Artistic Advisor of the First Nations Composer Initiative (FNCI) with the American Composers Forum (ACF). Master performer of American Indian instruments and styles. Designer of original music instruments.
BRENT MICHAEL DAVIDS’ composer career spans 40 years, including awards from the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, ASCAP, National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, In-Vision, Joffrey Ballet, Park City Film Music Festival, Kronos Quartet, School for Advanced Research, Chanticleer, Meet-The-Composer, Miró Quartet, National Symphony Orchestra, Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and Jerome Foundation, among others. In 2011, the “Dakota Music Tour” featured a full concert of Davids' orchestra works, performed by the Mankato Symphony with the Dakota drum group Maza Kute, on a tour to Dakota communities in MN. The tour was filmed for TV broadcast in the following year. Davids was featured in 2009 by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the famed Porcupine Singers on a SDPB-TV network special, following a road trip of his “Black Hills Olowan” performed in Lakota tribal communities across South Dakota.
Davids’ work, “Powwow Symphony (for Powwow M.C. and Orchestra)”, was premiered by New Mexico Symphony (1999), Phoenix Symphony (2002), and Mankato Symphony (2011) to rave reviews. Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, his “Canyon Sunrise” (1996) premiered at the Kennedy Center to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center and the 60th Anniversary of the NSO. Garrison Keillor asked Davids for the orchestra work, “Prayer & Celebration” (2005), that premiered on “A Prairie Home Companion” show. Davids has also been commissioned by Grammy Award-winning Chanticleer, for “Night Chant” (1997), “Mohican Soup” (1999), “Un-Covered Wagon” (2003), and “Leather Stocking” (2012).
In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts named Davids among the nation’s most celebrated choral composers in its project “American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius,” along with Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Foster, and 25 others. In 2011, Davids was invited to conduct a month-long tour of Russia, lecturing and performing in Khabarovsk, Birobidjan, Vladivostok and Moscow under an award from the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission of the American Seasons in Russia program. And the Indian Summer Festival awarded Davids its "Lifetime Achievement Award" in music, in 2015.
Davids holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music Composition from Northern Illinois University (1981) and Arizona State University (1992) respectively, trained at Redford’s Sundance Institute (1998), and in 2003 apprenticed with film composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare In Love) on the TV-Miniseries “Dreamkeeper” (Hallmark and ABC). He has garnered the Distinguished Alumni Awards from both of the universities he attended, NIU (1996) and ASU (2004), and has been nominated for the prestigious CalArts Alpert Award two times (1995, 2006). In 2011, Davids won a Silver Medal for “Excellence in Original Scoring” from the Park City Film Music Festival for his orchestral score to the animated feature “Valor's Kids.” Davids has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, and NAPT. Davids’ film scores include: "Lake of Betrayal" (2017), The Mayors of Shiprock" (2017), "Waabooz" (2016), Iroquois Creation Story" (2015), "The Jingle Dress Tradition" (2015), "By Our Nature" (2015), "Living With the Land" (2012), “Valor's Kids" (2011), "Opal" (2011), "Raccoon & Crawfish" (2007), "The 1920 Last of the Mohicans" (2003), "World of American Indian Dance" (2003), "The Business of Fancy Dancing" (2002), "The Silent Enemy" (1996) & "Bright Circle" (2006).
Most of Davids’ works employ traditional Native American instruments and often instruments of his own design, including a soprano quartz crystal flute (1989), bass quartz crystal flute (1991), and a dozen other percussion devices that chirp in the air on strings, or whistle when dunked into water. Many of his bowl-shaped devices and resonating drums can be bowed, shaken, or tapped. With an expert hand, he fashions ink manuscripts that are themselves visual works of art, visually beautiful manuscripts that are performable as written sheet music. He has worked extensively in the choral field as well, often featured as a clinician for conventions, such as his work with Chanticleer at the 6th Annual World Choral Symposium held in Minneapolis (2003). His work for 200-voice chorus and orchestra, We the People (2004), honors the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. with the names of all the American Indian nations sung back to back, without repeats, for 30 minutes.
As an Educator, Davids originated and founded the Native American Composer Apprentice Program (NACAP) in Arizona (2000), and the Composer Apprentice National Outreach Endeavor (CANOE) in Minnesota (2005), to teach Native youth to compose their own written concert music. Under these programs, over 100 students have successfully written music scores for string quartets and other instrumental ensembles; and, many of these students did so without the ability to read music prior to Davids’ innovative curriculum. Dedicated to education, Davids founded a new organization in 2004, the First Nations Composer Initiative (FNCI.org), as a virtual chapter of the American Composers Forum, and served as its first Artistic Advisor (2005). Today, with support from many funding organizations including the Ford Foundation, FNCI operates with a 12-member advisory board of leading Native American composers and performers, and has initiated additional composer programs and educational residencies in several communities in Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado, South Dakota, Wisconsin and California.
Davids is widely regarded as an American Indian music expert in all geographic culture areas of North America, and he is schooled in American Indian Religious Studies at the Masters degree level. He is remarkable as a professional Source Music Director for projects involving American Indian singers, drummers, flutists, solo artists and contemporary bands. Davids began composition studies at the early age of 16, and upon graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, accepted a position as Composer-In-Residence at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. Twenty-three at that time, he was teaching and mentoring students only a few years younger than himself. Thirty-one years later, Davids has become highly successful as a professional composer of both concert music and film scores, and remains one of the country’s most sought after composers.