Dr. David Ott is an internationally recognized composer and conductor whose impressive works have been performed and recorded by some of the most notable orchestras in the United States and Europe. In 2003, he was awarded the prestigious Music Alive Award, co-sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer.
David Ott completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin at Plattsville, earned his Master's degree in Piano Performance at Indiana University, and received his Doctorate in Music Theory & Composition at the University of Kentucky in 1982. He has served on the faculties of Houghton College (NY), Pfeiffer College (NC), DePauw University (IN), being honoured as Outstanding Professor at two of these institutions. David Ott held the appointment of Pace Eminent Scholar and Composer in Residence at the University of West Florida.
From 1999-2001, he conducted the Northwest Florida Symphony and from 2001-2008, was the conductor of the Philharmonic of Northwest Florida. His guest conducting experiences include the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. In September, 2009, David suffered a broken back in a fall immediately after conducting his opera, Widow's Lantern. Fully recovered, David continues to create and play music that transcends the stress of everyday life, raises the spirit and touches the soul of his audiences. He and Susan have been married for 40 years and call Destin, Florida home.
Words about Music from David Ott
Music is a great gift of God. Within the realms of nature are locked the mathematical relationships of harmony, which give direction to the creation of melody. Our bodies move in rhythms and nature is filled with cycles and patterns that revolve in short or long duration. The forests are alive with sounds, movement and an array of colors. The sun and oceans combine with other natural factors to produce wind that creates energy. The composer takes these and fashions music. Who put these all here for man to enjoy and utilize? God.
That one can be so fortunate to compose music is itself a gift. It is with a thankful heart that I accept that. It implies honor, but also responsibility. As composers, we embark on a high and noble cause. Do we hope for fame or admiration? Certainly, some of that drive us on. More than that, we only wish that beyond our lifetimes, some others may come to enjoy or be inspired by our music. We understand that our road is paved with successes and failures. We enjoy the first and hopefully learn from the latter. I count myself among the lucky ones who have been bestowed with this gift to compose.
We can never underestimate the power of music. My dad died on Christmas morning, 1992. He suffered from cancer and fell into a coma around 6:00 the morning before. All day, we crept silently around the house and whispered the few words we did speak. Meanwhile, Dad lay motionless in the bed. That evening, around 8:00, members of the church choir came to the bedroom window and sang carols in hushed voices. Somehow, those familiar strains of music touched Dad and caused a single tear to fall from his left eye. Here was a man, wracked by cancer, dehydrated by kidney failure, whose body somehow produced enough water to generate a tear. A droplet of liquid that became the greatest gift I received that Christmas season. That tear proved the intense power of music to reach deep inside the body and mind until it eventually touches the soul. In turn, the soul gave the body the power to generate a single tear; one that would say “good-bye.”
Another proof of music’s healing power was granted me in the recovery from a horrific fall I took on September 25, 2009. That evening, I conducted the premiere of my opera, Widow’s Lantern. Immediately following the performance, I went to retrieve my orchestra score and fell some fourteen feet into the basement under the orchestra pit. Considering that I landed on a concrete floor, to have survived the impact was amazing. Although I broke eleven vertebrae in my back, the backbone did its job: to protect the spinal cord. I suffered no paralysis and quite astonishingly was able to walk out of the hospital the next day.
Recovery took several months. Without question, music enhanced and sped up the healing process. Each day was spent listening to great music, as a vehicle to relieve the pain, increase the endorphins that enhance healing and to aid me in moments of reflection. I spent time reading about the documented healing qualities of music. Over and over, I read about the overwhelming evidence that classical music promotes healing, while relieving pain and stimulating the mind. On the occasions when discomfort returns, I remind myself how God protected me.
Today’s composers face an interesting dilemma. Just what is it that we want to say? Then, how do we say it? The signposts are confusing in the least. From 1600 to the outbreak of World War I, the principles of harmony, melody construction and rhythmic structure remained quite consistent. Then, it seemed, everything went awry. All kinds of questions were asked. What about tonality? Is melody really that important? Can music truly portray stories? Can it express emotions? What is the meaning of beauty in music? Then, too, great value was put on originality. So much so, that should a composer use another composer’s music as a model, he or she was to be criticized as “derivative.” (Nothing is more feared than to be accused of that!) None of those questions have been answered satisfactorily to this day. However, to the younger composer, these are issues that must be faced.
In my own development as a young composer, I was practically embarrassed to write a “lovely” melody. I certainly did not want to be accused of sentimentality, a curse nearly as serious as being derivative. Any writing I did that smacked of loveliness, I pretty much kept to myself or a small circle of friends.
The events of spring, 1987 began to shape my new approach to composing. That spring I had been offered a commission to compose my Concerto for Two Cellos. Two brilliant cellists, David Teie and Steven Honigberg had been selected by Music Director Mstislav Rostropovich to perform the concerto with the National Symphony. Four performances in Kennedy Center and a national broadcast on NPR topped off the excitement of such a commission. After several feeble attempts, I finally felt confident enough to send the first movement to the cellists. Their reaction? From David Teie came the four words that changed my life forever. He put it this way, “It needs a tune.” “Tune?” I thought, smarting madly from the comment, “Didn’t the first movement have some decent melodies?” Over and over, I asked myself that question. Besides, that term “tune” bothered me. It implied simplicity, a certain flightiness, lacking depth. So, I set out to show him a thing or two! Over the course of the next three weeks, I set out to create “the tune.” Those struggling 21 days taught me the greatest composition lesson ever. First, I could see how difficult it was to compose a great melody. More importantly, I learned value of great melody writing and its importance as the primary compositional tool. In these intervening years, nearly every movement of every work I write begins with focusing on melody and making it the predominant element in my music.
Music is truly a wondrous part of life. It takes three things to make music happen. First, someone has to write it. Second, someone has to play it. Third, someone has to hear it. Surely, these three seem so obvious. It is crucial that the first two of these be taught to promising composers and performers. The story does not end there. We must never overlook the importance of teaching those that hear music. Let’s face it. The audience is just as key to the success of music as the composer and the performer. What good is the full value of music if it is not heard and enjoyed by the masses? While composing music is my primary function, teaching others about its joys and intricacies is certainly part of my mission of being a responsible musician. If we truly want to experience all of its wondrous powers, we need to learn how to listen, so that we can fully appreciate the masterful works of great music. Composers have given us a treasure trove of miraculous music. To appreciate such music, it is of great help to know about the composer. That’s why I authored the book, Incidental Music: Stories of the World’s Greatest Composers. In each chapter, we meet one of music’s greatest composers on a given day. The story highlights some interesting aspect of the composer: whether it be lifestyle, composing methods, personal difficulties, or a career-shaping incident. My aim was to expose each composer’s uniqueness as an individual. In doing the research, I could barely find one element common to all. That is, with the exception of one thing; each composer worked with a high work ethic. In spite of personal difficulty, and even tragedy, each composed with great diligence and commitment. As a composer I am uniquely positioned to carry the message of the composer’s message to the initiated, the dilettante, as well as the novice. I find audiences truly hunger to learn about great music so they can love its wondrous contributions to a better life.
Music and the Healing Powers of Music Music has a tremendously powerful effect on the healing powers of the body. Listening to classical music for one hour:
Music and the Healing Powers of Music
Music has a tremendously powerful effect on the healing powers of the body. Listening to classical music for one hour:
- Promotes physical changes that reduce pain.
- Increases endorphins which promote healing.
- Impacts the cognitive powers of the brain.
That's why I have begun a "Healing Ministries" component in my approach to composing. The two collections described below are designed to promote and enhance the dramatic healing powers of music.
Preludes for Piano
- 24 highly original, color pieces.
- Intimate, suggestive music with lots of imagery.
- Designed for the moderately advanced pianist.
- Excellent recital pieces.
- Wonderfully creative interpretations afforded the pianist.
At the Cathedral Hymn Collection
- Collection of 24 beloved hymn tunes in classical style.
- Highly varied interpretations of familiar melodies.
- Unique set, unlike any other.
- Incredibly powerful force promoting physical and mental healing.
For more information, click on "Music in the 21st Century" found within the heading "My Music" on the website. Listen to a few samples of the Preludes and the Hymns, found under Sample Music, Piano Solos.