Death of Grammy-winning cellist, 79

Death of Grammy-winning cellist, 79


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2021

The cellist David Darling, who won the 2020 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album, has died at his home in Hartford.

He made 15 recordings for ECM and founded Music for People, which fosters improvisation in young players.



  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    I took part in one of his improvisation workshops twenty-five years ago when I was in high school; my school was hosting him so students got to go for free. He had a way of making classical players let go enough to be able to actually do it without being self-conscious that I could never duplicate myself, and I remember him being a very gracious man.

  • Christopher Culver says:

    Even though Darling had spent the last two decades doing New Age music and gaining a reputation as a musician rooted in that genre (aided by his early association with the Paul Winter Consort), his collaborations with famed European and American jazzmen in the 1980s and 1990s for the ECM label are strong work. Cycles and The Sea are among my all-time favorite jazz recordings.

  • David J Hyslop says:

    Got to know him at the Omega Summer Institute in upstate New York in 1987 . Fine artist and, as mentioned in an earlier comment, a very gracious man.

  • Mr. Andrew Salcius says:

    Great liberator of sounds and souls
    Lay down thy cello
    Rest In Peace brother

  • Philip Myers says:

    Very sorry to hear this. He was a star already as a high school musician in our hometown of Elkhart, IN. Very gentle soul, he conducted a summer student orchestra in which I played and was very encouraging to us younger players. He enjoyed it. Also a nice tennis player. He will be missed.

  • David Hughes says:

    Oh wow, just seeing this and am stunned to hear about David’s passing. What a soul this man was, just a wonderful person and musician in every aspect and he had an influence on me that has stayed with me for years.
    I was fortunate to get do a workshop with David at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur back in 1997. He was so incredible and completely opened my head up musically by offering the idea that there were no “wrong” notes. Coming from such a highly skilled and studied musician, this was quite unusual for me to hear as a musician myself. I had dropped out of Berklee College of Music years before our meeting, in search of a life of improvisation and had never heard anything like this before. He literally clipped close pins on to the strings of his cello and started playing in front of this small group of about 10 of us in his workshop. He encouraged us all just to chime in and play whatever we wanted. I had my guitar but most of those in the class were not musicians and so he provided pots and pans and anything else that a sound could be made with. There was a piano in the room and he encouraged a couple of people to share the piano and play wherever they wanted to on the keyboard. Somehow, the improvisational experience we were all having had turned into this incredibly rhythmic senergy between us all. By the end of our 20 minute or so stream of consciousness style “jam”…everyone was speechless. A couple of people were in tears. One middle age woman confessed that she was crying because when she was a child, her piano teacher had hit her hands with a stick when she would hit wrong notes. She had given up piano because of this and had not touched it since. David’s class was life changing for her, she started playing again and went into creating and recording her own music.
    For myself, it freed me from the guilt I had carried about dropping out of a major music school and never going back to studying music. That same week while at Esalen, I was playing piano alone one evening in the same room where David had held his workshop. I rarely played in front of anyone because I am not really a piano player. I happened to turn around after playing some of my own improvised stuff and standing in the doorway listening was David Darling. He said “don’t stop”…so I played a bit more. When I finished, he told me that if I ever wanted to do a record of my material, that he would play cello on it. I was blown away and asked him why. He said he liked what I was doing and that he just wanted me to know he would do play on it. I thanked him and instantly realized that the reason I was playing so freely and from some other place that I wasn’t familiar with, was because I had been in his workshop just a day or two earlier. By that next weekend David was still hanging at Esalen and Joan Baez showed up there to celebrate her birthday. She was doing a small concert that really was more of a jam and had asked David to play with her. He asked me to play guitar with them and we all had a great night.
    I never did that piano record but thought many times about contacting David, booking some studio time and doing it. At one point, between 2007 and 2010, I was living in NY and really wanted to reconnect with him and ask him if he would still be up for playing on a record if I were to do it. That never happened and as much as I now wish it would have, the awareness that I gained during the short time while being around David, has inspired me and stayed with me for all these years. Thank you David Darling, you were one of those rare teachers from somewhere else. Until we meet again, peace to you my friend…
    Much love and many thanks,
    David Hughes

  • Elaine says:

    David Darling was an amazing human being.