David Malek, clarinetist, is originally from San Antonio, Texas. In 1987 David made his solo clarinet debut with the San Antonio Symphony performing Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody. His clarinet studies led him to the North Carolina School of the Performing Arts under the instruction of Robert Listokin. Here David was one of three students selected by Affiliate Artists, Inc. New York in their Search for Talent in America competition.
In addition to an active chamber music career, David has performed in orchestras across Europe and the U.S. David’s chamber music group, Group du Jour, was selected as the first group to participate in the Chamber Music for Rural America Initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Affiliate Artists, Inc. After touring with The Russ Morgan Orchestra, the longest continuously touring big band in the country, David joined the United States Air Force Band in San Antonio, Texas as principal clarinet. While in San Antonio, David was professor of clarinet at St. Mary’s University for eight years and played clarinet in the Corpus Christi and Victoria Symphony Orchestras. Recently David was selected to play principal clarinet in the inaugural concert of the International Wind Symphony in New York’s Avery Fisher Hall.
David’s passion for teaching has led him to working with kids in rural parts of America, inner-city high schools in San Antonio and most recently as a member of the Harmony Project, where he worked with underserved students in South Central Los Angeles.
A Talk with David Malek
How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?
I heard about the Abreu Fellows program through my affiliation with Youth Orchestras of Los Angeles (YOLA).
Why did you apply?
I wanted to surround myself with people who share the common vision of making a difference in children’s lives through arts education. I also wanted to experience the power and phenomenon of El Sistema first-hand.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?
Some of the tools we will be developing include: leadership and communication skills, creating and managing partnerships, strategic and business planning, and marketing and public relations. A successful program depends on excellence inside and outside the classroom. These are the types of business skills that I have not had the opportunity to develop as a musician and that are needed to lead a successful organization at any level.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?
I see myself working in Los Angeles with an El Sistema-inspired program in the capacity of creative management. I will be doing this work because I believe in the power we have as individuals to better the lives of others through art.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?
Music is an entry point into the world of the self. It gives the child a creative language that enables him to both access and express the innate creative urges. This language will allow him to connect the dots in life and therefore create a life of meaning.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?
The overall state of music education in the U.S. is in jeopardy as evidenced in the state of California and specifically Los Angeles. El Sistema-type social programs are left to pick up the pieces and carry on the work that should be happening in public school curricula. Unfortunately, this has led to a privatization of arts education with the burden falling on small non-profit organizations. In contrast to the depravity of arts education around the country are states like Texas that protect their arts programs with legislation.
How did you learn about El Sistema?
My first experience with El Sistema was watching a clip on YouTube of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. My next experience with El Sistema came from teaching in Los Angeles in a program called The Harmony Project and the El Sistema-inspired program Youth Orchestras Los Angeles (YOLA).
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?
El Sistema is unique in that it prioritizes the spiritual elements of the human being, self-esteem and a sense of value, above all. This combination of spiritual and musical elements has birthed a transformative social program that is recognized the world over. From an early age children are immersed in a safe and nurturing atmosphere filled with joy, learning and an overall sense of play. Much of El Sistema’s success stems from their work with parents and families in order to foster a powerful sense of community.
Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?
I have been working with underserved and at-risk youth off and on for over ten years. Most recently I have had great success in teaching clarinet and flute to students in South Central Los Angeles through a program called The Harmony Project.