The Kennedy Center

Darin Atwater


An artistic force in the broadest and most creative sense of the word, Darin Atwater's career has encompassed the roles of composer, conductor, pianist, record producer, artist, arranger, film composer, vocalist, entrepreneur, educator, and arts advocate. As a master inventor of musical hybrids, he has blended American pop, soul, Hip Hop, jazz, classical, and gospel music into many dazzling fusions, traversing virtually every medium, including records, live performance, radio, and television--literally reinventing the symphony orchestra in America.
Born in Washington, D.C., Atwater made his orchestral debut as both composer and pianist in May 1995 with the National Symphony Orchestra performing his own Piano Concerto. The following year the National Symphony and the National Cathedral Choral Arts Society premiered his Proclamations. In 1997 he accompanied Kathleen Battle and the NSO for the re-opening of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall along with a performance that summer with Jennifer Holiday and the NSO for the PBS national broadcast of "A Capitol Fourth." Engagements with major orchestras, In Performance at The White House, European tour, and world premieres of his numerous compositions followed. As a guest conductor he has appeared with the Baltimore Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, Memphis Brass, and the Columbus Symphony. Atwater appears regularly with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as both guest conductor and composer. From 2004–2007 Atwater served as Composer-in-Residence with the Baltimore Symphony. This collaboration produced many evening length works that have become staples in the repertoire. Among them are Song in a Strange Land, Evolution of a People, Paint Factory, Southern Folk Sketches, God's Trombones, and a ballet, Ghetto Safari. As solo artist, Atwater presented annually for the Steinway Series presented by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. He was vocalist, pianist, and arranger with the U.S. Air Force Band for America's Veterans; A Musical Salute on PBS. Most recently, Atwater performed a solo piano recital for the grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the first artist to perform in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre.
In 2000, Atwater founded Soulful Symphony, an 85 member orchestra with vocals made up of mostly African American and Latino musicians. After 10 wildly successful seasons of sell-out performances in a joint venture with the Baltimore Symphony, Soulful Symphony entered into a historic partnership with Broadway Across America. Soulful Symphony delivered another three seasons of sold out performances at the Hippodrome Theatre before a triumphant return to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to celebrate 15 years–taking an entire culture and setting it to music. The 2009 Emmy Award(r)–winning "Soulful Symphony with Darin Atwater" is one of the longest running pledge specials, airing currently nationwide on PBS/APT.
Atwater remains a strong advocate for Arts, Culture, and Music Education. He served on the board of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, testifying before the House and Senate for state and national funding. Through his work with Soulful Symphony, Atwater has lectured and spoken to countless schools along with hosting open rehearsals that has accompanied every concert since the inception of the organization.
The critics' praise has been unanimous: The New York Times described him as composer with a "muscular imagination." The Baltimore Sun wrote, "Atwater has an uncommon ear for instrumental coloring and the urban beat." The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, "Atwater has created a musical antidote for the malaise gripping classical music and is a unifying vessel for a dozen or so genres of music in the commercial and art realms" The Washington Post adds, "From the first few chords, his music sets itself apart, emotional and riveting." Among his many honors and recognitions, NBC named him in "The Grio 100: History Makers in the Making". Ebony magazine dubbed him one of the "30 Leaders of the Future," and the Baltimore Business Journal placed him on their exclusive "40 under 40" list. Atwater received The Prestige Award by the State of Maryland for individuals who bring prominence to the region along with Legends and Pioneers Award by The Afro American Newspaper and The Vision Award from Maryland Public Television. He was profiled on an ABC special for Entertainment Studios "We are the Dream" following President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and the late Ted Kennedy.
Along with expanding the cultural footprint of Soulful Symphony, He is scoring two feature films along with recording his debut album with a label release scheduled for the summer of 2017.
2016-2017 season
Darin Atwater