David Colson (b. 1957) is an American educator, administrator, percussionist, conductor, and composer of classical music. He is Professor of Music at the Western Michigan University (WMU) Irving S. Gilmore School of Music, where he has taught composition, music theory, and leads the new music ensemble Birds on a Wire. He served as Director of the School of Music from 2007 to 2014 and Director of the Gwen Frostic School of Art at WMU from 2017 to 2021. He came to WMU from California State University–Chico, where he taught composition and music theory, chaired the Department of Music, and was the David W. and Helen E.F. Lantis University Professor, the University’s first endowed professorship.
Born in Estherville IA, Colson was raised in Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota, and Michigan. He started piano lessons at age seven, and percussion lessons at age ten. He began learning about percussion, conducting and composition from his late father, John F. Colson, an accomplished musician and educator. Growing up, he was immersed in traditional and modern classical music, music theatre, popular, and jazz music, and studied percussion with Gene Pollart. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA), where he studied composition and was principal percussionist and concerto soloist with the IAA Orchestra.
Colson received the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan, where he studied percussion with Charles Owen and composition with Curtis Curtis-Smith, William Bolcom, William Albright, and George Balch Wilson, and received the Halik Composition Award and Earl V. Moore Award; the Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa, where he studied composition with William Hibbard, percussion with Thomas L. Davis, and received the University’s Philip Greeley Clapp Composition Award; and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from Rice University, where he studied with Paul Cooper and Ellsworth Milburn, and was awarded the Sallie Shepherd Perkins Prize for highest achievement in music.
Compositions by Colson have been performed in Europe, Russia, and the United States. His works are recorded on PARMA Recordings, Centaur, Summit Records, MMC Recordings Ltd., and Red Mark, and are published by Avera Music Press and McCoy’s Horn Library. Colson’s recent commissions and performances include Dionysian Mysteries for the Capitol Quartet, premiered at the 2019 International Saxophone Symposium; RISE, a micro concerto written for pianist Lori Sims and the percussion quartet, Clocks in Motion Percussion; Ghost Music for solo marimbist Matthew Coley; Transcendental Preludes performed by pianist Lori Sims at the 2016 Gilmore International Keyboard Festival; The Better Angels of Our Nature commissioned for the Western Brass Quintet’s fiftieth anniversary; String Trio No.1: Zazen composed for the Concordia String Trio; and Cat Tales, for soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, and piano.