Composer/performer David Vayo (b. 1957) is the Fern Rosetta Sherff Professor of Composition and Theory, Emeritus at Illinois Wesleyan University. During his three decades at IWU he taught composition, improvisation and contemporary music and hosted close to two hundred guest composers, performers, ensembles and scholars. Vayo also taught at Connecticut College, and in Costa Rica at the National University and the National Symphony Orchestra Youth Program.
Vayo has received awards and commissions from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, ASCAP, the Koussevitzky Music Foundations, the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the American Music Center, the Saint Louis Symphony Society, the University of Wisconsin, and the Illinois Council for the Arts. He has been granted fourteen artist residencies at such institutions as the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Five hundred performances and broadcasts of his compositions have taken place, in venues throughout the USA as well as in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Spain, France and the Netherlands, among other countries. Festivals which have programmed his work include two International Trumpet Guild festivals, the International Trombone Festival, the International Double Reed Festival, two Grand Teton Music Festivals, and three World Music Days of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Vayo’s compositions are published by Honeyrock, Bèrben/Italia Guitar Society Series, and the International Trombone Association Press.
Among the distinctive features of Vayo’s catalog are ten pieces for traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments, six “musical poetry readings”, three pieces for live synthesizer, and six for instruments with electronic sound or enhancement. Vayo’s fascination with unusual instruments has led to compositions for extended-range glockenspiel; contrabassoon and three double basses; bass viola da gamba; hammered dulcimer; and ships’ horns. His theatrical works include the opera Fertile Ground; the performance piece Eight Poems of William Carlos Williams for trombonist; and Chambers, a unique musical ritual in which the audience plays integral roles as sound-makers and active listeners. Jazz, a strong element of Vayo’s musical identity, appears in both subtle and straightforward ways in many of his concert compositions, and explicitly in such pieces as Entelechy for fusion-jazz quartet, Reach for big band, Signals for woodwinds, brass, piano and bass, and the piano pieces We Will, Ours and Jazz Jig for Jim.
Vayo performs on piano, keyboard harmonica, synthesizer and voice; his repertoire encompasses new and old concert music, jazz, popular music, personal interpretations of music from folk traditions, and free improvisations. Since 2022 he has presented intimate themed concerts at his home which draw on all of these sources.
Vayo holds an A.Mus.D. in Composition from The University of Michigan, where his principal teachers were Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom; his M. Mus. and B. Mus. degrees are from Indiana University, where he studied with Frederick Fox and Juan Orrego-Salas. Vayo’s principal piano teachers were Marie Zorn, Michel Kozlovsky and John Ogdon at Indiana, and Lynne Bartholomew at Michigan; his undergraduate degree was a double major in Composition and Jazz Studies.
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