An American Composer

Donald Cobb was born in 1936 in Oakland, California. His music-making began in the family home, and at age 15 in a hotel summer band. He studied with composers Richard Donovan, Leon Kirchner and Darius Milhaud. He has taught and led musical ensembles in many schools and colleges, including Mills College, the Athenian School, Wildshaw School in San Francisco and Friendsville Academy in Tennessee. Community and traditional song has been an abiding study. In the 1970’s, he was musical director of the Oakland Museum Spring Concerts, highlighting music of American and California composers.

The composer’s path of finding musical expression through poetic language and the contours of our spoken language led first to the Irish poet, W. B. Yeats, and his Crazy Jane Poems , and followed over years to the possibilities for song in the work of admired American poets, including Walt Whitman, Vachel Lindsay, Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, whose translation of Cold Mountain Poems  by Han-shan is the basis of another recent volume, Cold Mountain Songs , scored for high voice, violin and piano.

3 thoughts on “An American Composer

  1. I liked Don. I didn’t know him well; he drifted across my life from time to time. We met in 1967 at the Cabrillo Festival where I heard his Crazy Jane Songs, which I’ve always liked — I hope the Cabrillo tape will be posted online one of these days. He seemed like a man who knew how to be boisterously gentle, or gently enthusiastic, while still maintaining a critical and analytical mind. Above all he seemed honest and forthright, in his opinions, his music, and his conversation. Authentic. I’m sorry he’s gone.

  2. Don and I were friends for about 30 years. We both were at the same school, where I taught math, and after going our separate ways still stayed friends. For the last 10 years or so, we would meet at Brennans when Don made his trips down to the bay area. I think we both enjoyed our discussions. Don was always interesting and contrarian. and I am very sorry to have lost him.

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