David Kornfeld is a Jeff-Nominated composer who writes "soaring" (Chicago Sun-Times) music that seeks to be lyrical and accessible, while bringing new soundscapes into the realm of musical theatre. His background in rock bands, jazz improvisation, and west African drumming infuses his eclectic compositions with syncopated rhythms, instantly memorable melodies, and infectious grooves. By playfully turning audiences' expectations on their heads, his music challenges them to listen actively and engage with the underlying narrative.

Photographer: John Moore

Photographer: John Moore

I suspect I’ll be writing his name again.
— Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Growing up in rural California, David spent his days exploring the woods around his house, inventing complex and dramatic stories taking place in far-off worlds, to which he composed cinematic soundtracks, which he would sing at the top of his lungs. One of the first pieces he ever composed (at the age of 10) was meant to accompany a space-adventure video game he intended to make. Though he never learned to program computers, the theme song did become a reality. Storytelling has forever influenced his work, and when he discovered musical theatre at Carleton College, naturally he found his calling. His studies there with Alex Freeman and Mary Ellen Childs introduced him to contemporary concert music, opening up new harmonic and melodic avenues to explore. Long interested in non-western rhythms and harmonies, his studies abroad in Mali of West African music and storytelling traditions cemented that predisposition, most notably influencing the composition of his chamber work, Gilgamesh.

After 5 years working as a freelance composer, music director, accompanist, teaching artist and children's entertainer in Chicago while serving as Producing Artistic Director for his own company, Underscore Theatre, he moved to New York to pursue his master's degree in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. There he studies under Michael John Lachiusa, Stephen Lutvak, Kirsten Childs, Mel Marvin, Fred Carl, Julianne Wick-Davis, Randall Eng, and many other fabulous teachers who have shaped his artistic vision and his skills as a musical dramatist.

Sketch: Kailyn Kent

Sketch: Kailyn Kent

David has performed as a pianist, keyboardist and organist with numerous ensembles, including Remember JonesJazzsquatch, and the Hip Young Gunslingers Big Band, and has shared the stage with such prestigious musical acts as Blue Scholar, RJD2, Blue Cranes, and Brother Ali. His musicals have been performed in theatre festivals throughout the Midwest, and his incidental music, song settings and arrangements have been commissioned by theatres nationwide. His love of musical theatre and passion for discovering and sharing new work led him to co-found Underscore Theatre Company in Chicago, with whom he co-produced the first ever Chicago Musical Theatre Festival in 2014.

David's past collaborations range from prominent regional theatres to sketch comedy groups, and everything in between, including Loyola University Chicago, Playhouse on the SquareEnsemble Theatre CincinnatiStone Soup Theatre ProjectTheatre-HikesHey LadiesEx-Pats Theatre CompanyWhiskey Wry ProductionsSummer Place TheatreThe Cabaret ProjectCPA TheatricalsPublic House Theatre, and Li’l Buds Theatre Company.

Photographer: John Moore

Photographer: John Moore

Most recently, David's show 57th National Mathlete Sum-It was produced by CPA Theatricals at the New York Musical Festival, and is slated to be released for publishing by Theatrical Rights Worldwide in 2018. His second show, Grounds: A Fresh-Brewed Musical (formerly titled Grind), was workshopped with a cast of high school students at Actors Training Center, and his song "Blame" from Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook was featured in You Can Always Come Home, a cabaret by Common Man Musicals. Last season Haymarket was nominated for the 2017 Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best New Musical and Best Lighting, and the Hip Young Gunslingers Big Band recently recorded three of his jazz compositions.

Apart from music, David loves the outdoors, cookery, and rearranging his furniture (to his wife's chagrin).


Awards & Nominations

Tisch School of the Arts Scholarship (2016)

Joseph Jefferson Award: Nominated (Haymarket: the Anarchist's Songbook, composer, 2017)

Ostrander Award: Nominated (Assassins, Music Director, 2015)

Kennedy Center Commendation (The Tempest, composer, 2012)

ASCAP Young Jazz Composer's Showcase: finalist ("¡Levántate!", composer, 2011)

Sigrid and Erling Larsen Award in Creative and Performing Arts (2010, 2011)

Carleton College Independent research fellowship (2010)