Music Director – David Benoit
He began his career working as Musical Director and conductor for singer Lainie Kazan in 1976 before moving on to similar roles with singer /actresses Ann Margaret and Connie Stevens. His career as a contemporary jazz pianist began in 1977 and includes 25 solo recordings over the past 29 years. Many of these, including his 1987 GRP Records debut Freedom at Midnight and its Grammy nominated 1988 follow-up Every Step Of The Way, are considered influential classics in the genre, which became known as “Smooth Jazz.” Among his other Grammy nominations are those for Best Instrumental Composition (for “Dad’s Room,” from 1999’s Professional Dreamer) and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance (for the GRP All-Star Big Band). He was voted “Keyboardist of the Year” in 2000 and 2001 by the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards, and on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart with his latest CD recording, Full Circle featuring the latest instrumental singles “Beat Street.”
David has also embarked on a multi-faceted journey into the classical music world which has lead to guest pianist and conductor spots with numerous world-renowned orchestras, four performances at Carnegie Hall (including one with Leonard Bernstein on the podium), a performance on the steps of the Capitol Building with the National Symphony Orchestra for the annual PBS July 4th event, honored to perform at the White House for many dignitaries, including U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. Other dignitaries include Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Senator Dick Durbin and Los Angeles Mayors: the late Tom Bradley, James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa. Lending his remarkably versatile conducting talents and legendary piano skills to a wide variety of settings, David has conducted the music of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Camille Saint Saëns, Wolfgang Mozart, Francis Poulenc and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, London Symphony, Nuremberg Symphony, Philippine Philharmonic, Toledo Symphony, New World Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony “Pops” Orchestra and of course, the Asia America Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Piano performances have included Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano, Suite for Cello & Piano, Concerto for Guitar & Jazz Piano Trio with Angel Romero, guest soloist with Lalo Schifrin and his orchestra and as a tribute to Charles M. Schultz, performed the Peanuts Piano Concerto and the music of Vince Guaraldi in conjunction with his recording of Here’s To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years.
David has also been a popular film and television composer. His most notable film scores are The Stars Fell on Henrietta, produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Robert Duvall; and The Christmas Tree, produced by Sally Field, voted Best Score of 1996 by Film Score Magazine; His association with Charles Schulz and the famed Peanuts realm led to over 10 years composing music for the Peanuts TV special on CBS. In addition, he has written themes for the long running soap opera All My Children (ABC) and Sisters (NBC) and scored the “Movies of the Week” Final Descent (with the late Robert Urich) and Cadillac Jack (Starring Clint Black). In collaboration with lyricist Mark Winkler, David completed his first Broadway musical, Something’s Got To Give about the life and times of Marilyn Monroe. His symphonic tone poem “Kobe” had its world debut with the Philippine Philharmonic in 2001 and performed again in 2003 with Kent Nagano conducting the Berkeley Symphony. In 2004, his first piano concerto “The Centaur and the Sphinx” featuring the distinguished pianist, Frederic Chiu and the Asia America Symphony Orchestra.
He has arranged, conducted and performed music for many popular pop and jazz artists over the years, including Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons (he was involved with the band in its formative stages), Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin, Dave Koz, Kenny Rankin, Faith Hill, David Lanz, Cece Winans, David Pack, David Sanborn, The Walt Disney Organization and Brian McKnight. He also paid homage to one of his chief influences, Leonard Bernstein, by playing, arranging and performing The Songs of West Side Story, an all-star project produced by David Pack, which achieved gold sales status.
As founder, current Music Director and Conductor of the Asia America Youth Orchestra, David devotes countless hours mentoring talented young musicians up to 18 years in age. His involvement as guest educator with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation has taken him to classrooms throughout the country, where he has devoted many hours to teaching children about music and in 2001, was awarded the foundation’s coveted “Excellence in Music Education” award. He has also been involved with the Grammy in the Schools Foundation and was voted “Music Mentor of the Year” by the International Foundation of Education and Performing Arts (IFEPA) and guest conducted the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra.
Born in Bakersfield, California, David grew up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. At age 13, he studied piano with Marya Cressy Wright and then continued studies with Abraham Fraser, who was the pianist for Arturo Toscanini. At El Camino College, he focused on Music Theory and Composition studying orchestration with Donald Nelligan, and later took Film Scoring courses by Donald Ray. His education in Conducting began with Heiichiro Ohyama who was currently the Assistant Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and continued studies with Jan Robertson, the Head of the Conducting Department at UCLA, and Jeffrey Schindler. Currently, David is a Peak Records recording artist, music published by Boosey and Hawkes, and resides in Palos Verdes, California with his wife Kei and daughter June Koko
Asia America Symphony Past Guest Performers: Japanese Tsugaru-Shamisen sensation, Agatsuma; Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medal Winner, Jon Nakamatsu; world-renown jazz saxophonist Sadao Watanabe; Er-hu virtuoso, composer and vocalist, Karen Han; East meets West jazz band, Hiroshima; Spanish maestro of the guitar, Sir Angel Romero; Grammy award winning jazz guitarist, Earl Klugh; Jazz Superstar and Japanese treasure, Keiko Matsui; and one of the best–selling and electrifying classical trios, The Ahn Trio.
For more information about Mr. Benoit, please visit his web site, benoit.com.