Death of a widely referenced conductor, 86

Death of a widely referenced conductor, 86


norman lebrecht

April 28, 2020

The American conductor David Daniels, who was music director for 36 years in Michigan and taught at Oakland University, was best known as the author of Daniels’ Orchestral Music (5th ed. 2015, Rowman & Littlefield), possibly the most-thumbed maestro and manager reference book.

It says on the website: ‘You can browse the classical repertoire from Karl Friedrich Abel to Ellen Taffee Zwilich and find basic information on composers and instrumentation plus inspiration for advanced programming.’

So that’s how it’s done.


  • Cubs Fan says:

    Very sorry to hear about his passing. “Daniels” as it is known has been an invaluable reference for decades and a tremendous legacy. In recent years, with so much turmoil in the publishing biz, some of the information is invalid. The online version is terrific. Let’s hope it keeps operating.

  • Larry says:

    The book is absolutely indispensable. I’m sure it– or the on line version — is used hundreds of times per day around the world. I met David twice over the years; a very lovely man, with a wonderful sense of humor. I also know that he was a jazz fan.

  • Graham Young says:

    The music librarian and music directors bible. He has saved me thousands of hours over the years. You cannot do those jobs properly without it.

  • William says:

    I am sorry to hear this. He was one of my mentors. My copy of Orchestral Music is the one he gave me. Beyond this indispensable reference work, he was a fine conductor, a fine man, and gave more than one young conductor a break. I’ll miss him.

  • One of David Daniel’s most significant contributions to music librarians world-wide is his standardisation of the concise representation of the number of players and instruments required to perform any musical work. His work in this area has become the default for cataloguing orchestral music and is commonly referred to as the “Daniels Format”. While only part of his legacy, Daniel’s name will live on whenever we need to decipher an orchestration code that looks like this:
    2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1 – strings. Librarians and custodians of orchestral music salute you.

  • Marianne Breneman says:

    Dave Daniels was one of the nicest, most musical conductors around. A real mentor for me. His presence will be missed.

  • As a composer I was saddened to hear about David Daniels’ passing. He was so very very kind to me in our email exchanges and in accepting my works for the database. And, even most recently just in February, when I contacted him about an outreach initiative to generate interest in programming one of my works, he responded immediately referring me to the two conductors who took over the database for him. He was such a generous soul. I considered him as a friend and will miss connecting with him.

  • frank ridley says:

    David often conducted staged and concert versions of operas and operettas for the Boston Academy of Music. He was always steady and quietly put together an amazing performance is very little time. Great artistry with to confidence to not have to draw attention to himself.