The unselfish selfishness of David Mallamud

Written by Gregg Shapiro

Composer-lyricist David Mallamud says, “I think there’s something very selfish about being an artist.” 

At the same time, his music is his gift to the world — a way to connect with others and offer them an escape from everyday cares.

Such is the case with his eclectic first album, the recently released “The Wild & Whimsical Worlds of David Mallamud” (Broadway Records). Featuring Dogs of Desire, a 16-piece ensemble made up primarily of classical musicians, and a host of Broadway performers, the recording of song cycles “runs the gamut from French chanson to Celtic folk to glam metal — and just about everything in-between.” The goal, he says, was to “capture the nuances of each style with care and respect, but also to make everything sound like it came from the same world.” His world.

“I’ve always loved and listened to all kinds of music and never really made much of a distinction between styles. So the music on the album embodies my kind of all-encompassing, no-borders relationship with music.”

That relationship has been going on for as long as he can remember. Mallamud credits his mother, who was very involved in the folk music scene, and says that music was always around him, although he didn’t really start studying it until age 9. Degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Juilliard and New York University’s Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program would follow.

The accolades keep coming for the Katonah resident. Already the recipient of a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a pair of Morton Gould Young Composer Awards from ASCAP, and the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at Tanglewood, Mallamud was recently named a 2016—17 Dramatists Guild Fellow.

“Since I only compose and don’t perform,” he says, “I tend to spend a lot of time behind the scenes, so it’s definitely very nice to be recognized in this way. A lot of times recognition like this ends up being important in that it allows people to take you more seriously.” 

He also values the fellowship’s ability to connect him with people such as Michael Korie, lyricist for “Grey Gardens,” and “Legally Blonde’s” co-composer-lyricist Laurence O’Keefe. Other artists whose work he admires include the Irish group Planxty and Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid.”) After taking his 3½-year-old son to see “Aladdin” recently, he’s been on a Menken listening binge, describing the North Salem composer as “one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th (and now 21st) century.”

Mallamud is nourished by his northern Westchester home as well.

“We can see musicals and concerts and I can go in for meetings — even last minute — but I also get to come back and have a nice yard where my kids can play, great schools and a lot of really nice, interesting people.” 

He says that he finds the beauty and serenity of the area really inspiring. When he’s stuck on a piece, or just needs to get out, he can walk from his house to trails in the woods. He adds that having spent 11 years in Manhattan before moving to Westchester County, “it’s really nice to be able to work anytime I want without having to worry about getting screamed at by a neighbor.”

His real inspiration, however, is his wife, Michelle, an oncology nurse practitioner. 

“If you ever want to feel selfish and whiney, talk to someone in oncology about how bad your day at work was.  True giving is about being there when people need you most.” 

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