David Darling

“Maverick cellist” is the phrase most often assigned to Grammy-nominated artist David Darling (1941–2021), but it hardly captures the richness, diversity, breadth, and sense of humor of a man who literally redefined the way the cello is played and the way music is taught. His prolific collection of recordings and innovative performance style represent an eclectic variety of musical genres. His playful and unconventional teaching methods helped open the world of music and improvisation to thousands of individuals.

Darling began piano lessons at the age of 5 and the study of classical cello at age 10. He attended Indiana State University, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. He studied cello with internationally recognized artists/teachers Lorne Munroe, Gilbert Reese, Fritz Magg, and János Starker, while at the same time pursuing studies in music composition. He was a scholarship student with the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, and he studied jazz performance at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

In summer 1970, Darling joined the Grammy Award–winning group the Paul Winter Consort. He made his home in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as assistant principal cellist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and worked as a studio session player in the Nashville recording scene. But his main focus was the Consort, an extraordinarily progressive band. He retired from the Paul Winter Consort in 1987 and began to explore the new experiences of working as a solo performer, teaching, and making recordings.

Throughout the years, Darling collaborated with a wide variety of international artists including Paul Winter, Ralph Towner, Glen Moore, Collin Walcott, Paul McCandless, Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Paul Horn, Steve Kuhn, Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen, Ketil Bjørnstad, Pierre Favre, Glen Velez, Bobby McFerrin, Spyro Gyra, Allaudin Mathieu, Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai, Patrick Leonard, Joseph FireCrow, Arlo Guthrie, John Marshall, and Baba Olatunji. Darling’s self-produced CD, Cello Blue (2001), earned rave reviews as well as a 2002 Grammy nomination and the AFIM Indie Award from the Association for Independent Music.

In 1986, Darling cofounded Music for People, an internationally recognized nonprofit educational network dedicated to teaching and fostering music improvisation as a means of creative self-expression. Music for People’s training and certification program, now in its 35th year, continues to flourish in the United States and has expanded to offer seminars and workshops at the Center for Wellbeing and Creativity in Kiental, Switzerland. Darling traveled extensively for more than 40 years, enthusiastically encouraging all humans to explore their musical talents and creative abilities. He inspired and encouraged thousands at numerous holistic facilities and retreat centers such as Esalen, the New York Open Center, Hollyhock, and Omega Institute.

Starting in 1986, Darling worked for Young Audiences, a National Medal of the Arts award-winning organization dedicated to enriching children’s lives by providing in-school programs in the form of workshops, artist residencies, and guest performances. In 1995, he received the Artist of the Year Award by the Board of Directors of Young Audiences, given “in recognition of his hard work, innovation, and creativity in the service of arts-in-education.” In 2001, Darling received the Arts Advocate of the Year Award presented by the Connecticut Music Educators Association for “his excellent work in music education and improvisation.”

Author photo © David Darling

Also By Author

The Cello and David Darling in Love

David Darling, a Grammy®-winning cellist and maverick musician who redefines the way the cello is played and the way music is taught, speaks with Tami Simon about his unique perspective on music. With Sounds True, David has released a new record called In Love and Longing with vocalist Sylvia Nakkach, as well as Just Being Here, a collaboration with Coleman Barks featuring David’s music and the poetry of Rumi. In this episode, David and Tami discuss the cello as an instrument of melancholy, what it takes to be a good collaborator, and the art of good listening. (72 minutes)

See David Darling live in August 2014. Visit WakeUpFestival.com for more information.

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How to Bloom in the Dark: Self-Compassion, Compost, an...

Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

 Some time ago, I found a strange bloom in the kitchen. It was elegantly twisted, like a dragon at a Chinese New Year celebration. It was frilled, purple, and pungent. This exquisite thing grew out of a chunk of purple cabbage that I’d put under the sink to go out for compost. Instead of fading quietly however, it burst into new life in the dark grotto of my cabinetry. It blossomed into something unexpected, unusual, and fiercely beautiful.

Reflecting on the discovery of this “flower” in the shadows, I’m reminded of, and heartened by, the fertility of dark times. Many people are feeling a collective spiritual darkness now, exhausted and frustrated, maybe also angry and scared. Having compassion for ourselves and others is especially important in times of literal and metaphorical darkness. How can we do this if we already feel overloaded?

Nature is our ultimate model and guide—in the light, in the dark, and in the most surprising and gorgeous ways. Cue the weird, glorious cabbage flower which came to life in the dark. What was being shown there?

There is the clear compost metaphor. Compost is the stuff we reject, the moldy, wilted, too hard, too soft, nasty bits that don’t make it to the table. It’s also the leftovers from delicious things we appreciate and enjoy, silky mango skins, green tea leaves, dark coffee grounds.

It all transforms into a rich sloop that eventually nourishes future plants. Our personal work includes processing our own “dark” sides, the parts we’d like to hide or discard. Self-compassion (and compassion for others) holds both the rejected and respected parts of who we are. Like composting, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s potent. Research shows self-compassion helps us stay present and kindhearted without sinking into absorptive empathy, which can lead to overload and burnout. This meditation is part of the toolkit in the audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out.

The cycles of the natural world, into which we are interwoven, take time. It’s hard to be patient, to let everything, both scorned and enjoyed, stew in our symbolic personal compost piles. The speed with which that brew changes from nasty to nourishing varies widely with the internal and external conditions. Sometimes all those different elements take a long time to dissolve and break down. Sometimes it turns around faster than we think possible, like time-lapse photography of a log rotting on the forest floor with new green shoots springing to life overnight. Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

The dark supports transformation. Times of literal darkness are needed for regeneration. Roots, seeds, and bulbs prepare. People and animals sleep. Times of symbolic darkness are also helpful. In darkness, transformative processes happen without spectators, often below the level of our conscious awareness. These are periods of catharsis, healing after trauma, cocooning in preparation for the next version of ourselves and our world.

We sometimes feel hopeless and helpless in the dark. Our society avoids sinking into it. Instead, we gravitate towards purveyors of easy “love and light!” spirituality, shying away from the deep, gooey work that happens to the larval versions of ourselves (and those around us) when we’re in the darkness of the cocoon. Self-compassion is most needed when we’re a mess.

The dark is a vital part of the wheel of our days, our years, our lifetimes. We need it to survive and be healthy in the long term. So, let’s embrace it, explore it, and be gentle with ourselves as we confront our fear of it. From this darkness we are nourished to bloom into the light.

@ 2021 Mara Bishop MA

Preorder Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism, psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and plants.

More information about Mara is at www.WholeSpirit.com

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