Avram David

Portrait of Avram David

Avram David (born Allan Dexter Kemler), composer and trumpet player, was born in Boston on June 30, 1930. As a young child Avram studied piano with his mother, Rae Shapiro Kemler, and studied trumpet with his grandfather, Aaron Shapiro. He played the trumpet at age four.  David began studying composition at the age of twelve with Francis Judd Cooke at the New England Conservatory. At the age of the 17, his String Quartet in four movements was premiered by the Ziegler Quartet from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. From 1947-1949 David studied with Julius Hereford at Indiana University’s School of Music. David continued his composition studies with Hereford as well as Irving Fine at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood in the summer of 1948. In addition, David also studied conducting that summer with Leonard Bernstein. After studying privately with Rosalyn Brogue Henning, David attended Boston University where he earned his Bachelor’s (1955), M.A. (1956), and D.M.A. (1964) degrees. While at B.U., David studied under Hugo Norden and Gardner Read.  David’s other composition teachers included: Harold Shapero (Brandeis University, Summer 1960), Karlheinz Stockhausen (Darmstadt, Germany, Summers 1961, 1966) and Pierre Boulez while he was at Harvard.  

In 1965-1966 David was Research Fellow at Harvard University examining the relationship of spatio-graphic arts to music.  Among David’s awards are: BMI First Prize, (1958) selection of his composition ’Factorial 17, No. 1’ for the Saint Cecilia Library, Rome and Royaumont Concours (Second prize, 1965). In addition David received fellowships from Boston University (1956-1958), Brandeis University (Summer 1960), Carpenter Center, Harvard University, (1965-1966), and a National Endowment for the Arts Bicentennial Commission Grant (1975-1976). David served as a member of the  Composition Department faculty at Boston Conservatory from 1964-1973. He died on December 27, 2004 in Roslindale, MA.


Contemporary American Composers: a biographical dictionary.  Compiled by E. Ruth Anderson. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1982.

Boston Area Music Libraries. The Boston Composers Project: A Bibliography of Contemporary Music. Linda I. Solow, editor. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983.

Physical description

The Avram David Papers are comprised of of 3 volumes (scrapbooks) and approximately .5 lin. ft. of other materials.

Access to David's printed and manuscript music (1948-1992) can be found in our online catalog. Classic Catalog


The sister of Avram David, Raisa Newman, donated this collection to the NEC Archives in June 2005 after David’s death the previous year.


Access to the David Papers is granted by the Archivist. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are limited restrictions pertaining to this collection.  Access to David's printed and manuscript music (1948-1992) can be found in our online catalog. Classic Catalog


All copyrights to this collection belong to the New England Conservatory. Permission to publish materials from this collection is granted by the Archivist. This collection should be cited as: NECA 18.9. Avram David Papers, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.


Scope & Content

The Avram David Papers are organized into nine series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Concert Programs
  3. Newspaper Clippings
  4. Press Releases
  5. Materials relating to musical works
  6. Documents
  7. Photographs
  8. Miscellaneous
  9. Scrapbooks.

Access to David's printed and manuscript music (1948-1992) can be found in our online catalog. Classic Catalog

The General Correspondence in this collection, mainly dating from the 1960s, includes letters from Boston University faculty (Karl Geiringer and Hugo Norden), concerning David’s studies at BU, as well as letters from Senator Saltonstall, WBAI-FM, Bowdoin College, Wheelock College, the Cercle Culturel de Royaumont, and copies of letters from Karlheinz Stockhausen.  The following folder contains the original correspondence from Stockhausen to David from the years 1962-1971.

A large number of the Concert Programs originate from David’s tenure on the faculty of Boston Conservatory.  These include concerts featuring David’s works, David as performer/conductor, or performances being given by his students. The majority of the other Concert Programs feature performances of David’s compositions at other venues including Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard University, Brookline Library and NEC.  Also included are concert programs featuring Stockhausen’s works and the Carl Ruggles Festival program.

The Newspaper Clippings file contains articles about performances of David’s
compositions, including the string quartet that was premiered when he was only 17. Also contained here are some reviews of Stockhausen’s music. 

The Press Releases date from David’s years at Boston Conservatory - they are notices announcing performances/premieres of his works. 

Materials relating to David’s musical works include a photocopy of the manuscript of his Amavdas with performance notes; program notes from Quintet, op. 50; program notes for selected solo piano works; and texts for the Farewell Cantata

The Documents folder contains a letter stating David’s credentials from Boston University, change of name documents (from Alan Kemler to Avram David), two certificates from the fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and an announcement of a research fellowship appointment at Harvard.  Also included in this folder are papers relating to the donation of this collection including a brief biographical outline drafted by the donor of the collection, Raisa Newman.

There are four Photographs – two of David alone, one of David and his wife, and a fourth with David, his wife, and jazz pianist Dave McKenna (at the Copley Plaza bar?)

The Miscellaneous items from Boston Conservatory consist of: a poster announcing a concert, a Boston Conservatory course catalog from 1970-1971; two copies of a BCM newsletter featuring a brief biographical sketch and interview with David; a handwritten outline of David’s works performed during his time there; and a kind of portfolio containing photocopies of programs, award announcements, and correspondence from September 1964-June 1968. The first of the two remaining “Miscellaneous” folders contains photocopies of manuscripts for the works Sentence: a Song and Sinfonia Insignificata by Frank D. Willis. Among the materials in the general Miscellaneous folder are a published pamphlet entitled The Orchestra by Henry C. Lahee, a notebook with title “Musico-spatial Diagrams” containing a few handwritten diagrams, and general information about the contests in which David was awarded prizes.

Scrapbook 1 (Black):  contains primarily concert programs featuring David’s (Kemler’s) works and newspaper clippings about him.  The first items are newspaper clippings and programs from the earliest performance of a work by Kemler while he was still a high school student in Brookline, MA.  Other programs include concert performances of his work as student at Tanglewood and Boston University, and as a faculty member at Boston Conservatory.  The scrapbook also contains programs for concerts from the Boston area including the Brookline Library and the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston.  Miscellaneous items include evaluations of Kemler’s thesis at Boston University and an award announcement from BMI.

Scrapbook 2 (Green): largely contains concert programs from the early 1970s during David’s time as composer in residence/faculty member at Boston Conservatory. They consist of performances of David’s music, performances given by David’s students, and concerts featuring David as a conductor or performer on piano or trumpet. Also included are two photos of David (Alan Kemler) from 1932 when he was only two years old.

Scrapbook 3 (Yellow): contains materials from the 1960s and early 1970s. There are concert programs from Boston Conservatory, Harvard University, Brandeis University, NEC, and other local venues.  There is a program from the Civic Symphony of Boston accompanied by newspaper reviews.  Also included is a program for a Carl Ruggles Festival and a corresponding article written by David as well as the newspaper article featuring David (Kemler) as a high school composer (also in Scrapbook 1)


Container List

Series 1: Correspondence

Folder 1 – Correspondence, General
Folder 2 – Correspondence, Stockhausen

Series 2 – Concert Programs

Folder 3 – Concert Programs, Boston Conservatory
Folder 4 – Concert Programs, Commencements, Boston Conservatory
Folder 5 – Concert Programs, Boston University
Folder 6 – Concert Programs, Brandeis University
Folder 7 – Concert Programs, Brookline Library
Folder 8 – Concert Programs, Harvard University
Folder 9 – Concert Programs, NEC
Folder 10 – Concert Programs, Miscellaneous

Series 3 - Newspaper clippings

Folder 11

Series 4 - Press releases

Folder 12

Series 5: Materials related to David's musical works

Folder 13

Series 6 -  Documents

Folder 14

Series 7 - Photographs

Folder 15

Series 8:  Miscellaneous

Folder 16 – Miscellaneous, Boston Conservatory
Folder 17 – Miscellaneous, Music of Frank D. Willis
Folder 18 – Miscellaneous, other

Series 9: Scrapbooks (3)