After an injury in 1982 ended his career as a modern dancer, David Kirtley focused on a new path as a self-taught composer. His efforts were rewarded when in 1987 he was granted a residency/fellowship from the Yellowsprings Institute in Pennsylvania for his piece, Songs for the Outcasts of Great Turtle’s Back, a song cycle recounting the great losses of life, land, and culture suffered by the American Indians. For the next nine years, Kirtley continued to compose while working as a waiter in Yellowstone National Park, where he deepened his interests in backpacking, botany, birding, geology, and anthropology. In time, urged on by a persistent feeling that formal training in composition would offer a necessary new direction, he enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder, earning a BA in music (1999), and a MM in composition (2001). He had additional studies in composition at the Aspen Music Festival in the summers of 2001 and 2002.
Kirtley has received commissions from David Wheeler, shakuhachi; Erika Eckert, viola; Gilmar Goulart, marimba; Kazuhiro Miura, piano; the Playground Ensemble; Claricello; and others. His works have been performed at the 1998 International Shakuhachi Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Colorado New Music Festival, the 2004 NATS Convention, New York City Opera’s “VOX 2007: Showcasing American Composers” and at other venues in the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Europe.
His orchestra piece, Leaves falling from the Holy Tree; a work dedicated to the memory of Nicholas Black Elk, holy man of the Oglala Sioux, was recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic under the baton of Robert Ian Winstin and released in 2006 on volume 9 of ERM Media’s CD series MASTERWORKS OF THE NEW ERA. Subsequently, this recording was remastered, edited, and re-released by PARMA Recordings in September 2014 on the Navona Records CD album, LUMINESCENCE.
An avid hiker, nature lover, and world traveler, David Kirtley brings to his music a synthesis of Western musical traditions, sounds and impressions of nature, and elements drawn from indigenous musical traditions from around the world. Born in 1954 and raised in Bardstown, Kentucky, he now makes his home in Louisville, Colorado with his wife Mutsumi Moteki.