Alumni Spotlight: David Daniels

Music alum David Daniels (B.M. ’01) shares how Meadows' helped him find his unique voice and make a mark in the world of music composition.

Alum David Daniels plays instruments to compose original works.
Alum David Daniels plays a variety of instruments to compose original works of music.

David Daniels (B.M. ’01) is this week’s featured alum in our new Alumni Spotlight series for the This Week at Meadows e-newsletter. Each week, a different Meadows alum will be highlighted for their accomplishments post-graduation.


David Daniels, a graduate of Meadow’s music program, is an award-winning composer who recently received recognition for his work in the 2022 documentary, El Paracaidista. Daniels composed the score for the documentary, which explores the work of Dallas muralist and visual artist Robenz who creates installations around the world concerned with the plight of migrants. The film won Outstanding Excellence in Musical Score in the Docs Without Borders Film Festival.


Being able to weave his distinct musical voice with the narrative of the film was crucial to the success of the score and looking back on his experiences in the world of music composition, he has some sound advice for students looking to follow in his professional footsteps.


“Work hard to discover your unique voice,” Daniels says. “I’ve found that people who hire me are looking for me to bring myself to the project, not just fill a hole that anyone can fill.”


Daniels’ music is a unique blend of pop, rock, folk, and electronic, the combination of which led NPR to name his collaboration with Matthew E. White, Fight the Big Bull, one of the five best genre-defying albums of 2010. From his classes with private composition professor Kevin Hanlon to his time exploring free improvisation with Kim Corbett, many of Daniels’ Meadows experiences helped shape the unique musical voice he has today. He also credits his time at the school with building him into a more multi-dimensional person and music maker through the vast skillset he learned.


“At Meadows, I got chances to write for ensembles of instruments I didn’t necessarily play,” explains Daniels. “Being able to write or arrange for strings, brass, or winds…those are skills that a lot of composers today don’t always have.”


Thanks to his vast array of instrumental skills, Daniels provided string, horn and choral arrangements for the folk duo Penny & Sparrow. He has also arranged and mixed for the rock band Frightened Rabbit and recorded on other projects for Fat Cat Records. His songs have been used in Showtime comedy United States of Tara, the documentary series This American Life, as well as several feature and short films, some of which premiered at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival and Palm Springs Film Festival. Today, Daniels is currently working on a commissioned theme song for The National Parks Foundation.


Learn more about Meadows' Division of Music here.


Alum David Daniels works on an original composition.