David Fuentes

David Fuentes

David Fuentes
Professor (Composition & Theory), Music
(616) 526-6569
CF 241

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Music Composition and Theory, Brandeis University, 1988
  • M.M., Composition, University of Iowa, 1983
  • B.M., Music, Roosevelt University, 1981

Biographical Information

David Fuentes is Professor of Composition and Theory at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he composes concert and liturgical music for chamber ensembles, solo instruments, orchestra and chorus. He also writes music for theater, film, television, dance, and integrative collaborations with visual artists, here and abroad.

Fuentes lectures on contemporary composers, film music, music and faith, and music vocation, and the place of music in human flourishing. His book, Figuring Out Melody, is a step-by-step manual for composition, valuable for novices and experts alike. He is currently working on Ears To Hear, a book which looks at ways in which people throughout human history have considered music spiritual and demonstrates how Christians might use these to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. As part of that project, he received a McGregor Foundation to work with a student researcher on a project titled, “Exploring the Role of Music in Identity, Sports, and Faith Formation.”

The recipient of numerous commissions, grants and prizes, Fuentes’ accolades include: League International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) Leo Snyder Prize in Composition; Wellesley Composers’ Conference, Fellowship Composer; Illinois Music Educators Association Prize in Composition; M. Gordan Fellowship; Irving Fine Fellowship; Remis Fellowship; Lilly Foundation for Vocation Research; Calvin Research Grant; Laureate of the Lincoln Academy; and Presser Scholar Award.

Fuentes earned a Ph.D. in music, music composition and theory from Brandeis University in 1988; a master of music in composition from the University of Iowa in 1983; and a bachelor of music from Roosevelt University in 1981.


Here is the online version of Figuring Out Melody, which presents a way of thinking about melodic figures and metric placement. It's helpful in inventing and working out your own musical ideas, as well as hearing and performing others with clarity and insight. The book has been in development for about 20 years, and deemed safe for human consumption by over 1200 students (who may remember either of its former titles: Sensible Counterpoint or Composition through Counterpoint). I hope that you enjoy it and find it useful in your own music making and hearing. Please feel free to contact me with comments and questions.

click here to download zip file (highly recommended)

Compositions & Publications

Selected Compositions

  • “Beauty Marks” (2014) five pieces for marimba and Sprechstimme, on texts by L.S. Klatt, commissioned by Marc Wooldridge, Chair of Percussion at Indiana Wesleyan University.
  • “Thou Art My Love, I Think” (2014) a rock opera, the libretto taken from Act V of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, commissioned by the Calvin Theater Company.
  • “Meditations on the Prophet Zephaniah” (2013) recitatives and arias for tenor and piano.
  • Incidental music for “Book of the Dunn Cow” (2012) by Walter Wangerin, adapted for stage by Stephanie Sandberg, Calvin Theater Company production.
  • Incidental music for “Hamlet” (2011) Calvin Theater Company production.
  • “Clouds, Radiance, Sweetness, Gold, and Fire” (2011) an antiphonal work for brass and percussion, an ArtPrize collaboration with Romanian sculptor Liviu Mocan.
  • “Brahms One: Historical Remix,” (2011) commissioned by the Calvin Orchestra, co-written with student Evan Dice.
  • Incidental music for “Backborn” (2010) in collaboration with Hungarian playwright Andras Visky, Calvin Theater Company production.
  •  “Covenant Hymn” (2010) commissioned for the dedication of the Covenant Fine Arts Center, text by Bert Pollman.
  • “Our Hands and Hearts we Offer” (2009) an anthem for Calvin College.
  • “Neo-Baroque ‘Cello Suite” (2008) for solo violoncello.
  • “Matinee” (2007) for piano trio, commissioned by Ensemble Montage.
  • “Donning Armor” (2006) seven canons for alto saxophone, violin, and dancers.
  • “Four Lily Psalms” (2005) for chorus, tuba, harp, and soprano soloist, commissioned by the Calvin College Chapel series.
  • “Inner Compass theme music” (2004) (a nationally-syndicated television interview program).
  • “Passacaglia on the Emmaus Road” (2003) in collaboration with the poet Debra Rienstra, commissioned by the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship.

Books & Chapters

  • Figuring Out Melody (a manual on composition and counterpoint), 1995; 2001; 2010.
  • “The Best Thing in Life is Free.” (a chapter on music and freedom) in It Was Good, Making Music to the Glory of God. Baltimore, Maryland: Square Halo Press, 2013, pp. 17-26.

Honors, Awards, & Grants

  • Committee on the Humanities Annual Lecturer, Bethel College, 2014
  • Rall Symposium keynote speaker, 17th annual Honors Day at North Central College, 2013
  • Faculty Lectureship Award for the Calvin College Division of Arts, Languages, and Education, 2013
  • McGregor research grant to explore “The Role of Music in Sports, Identity, and Faith Formation,” 2013
  • McGregor research grant to compile and review existing research on music audiences and music criticism, 2007
  • Lilly Foundation for Vocation Research grant to explore “Music as Christian Service.”
  • Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship-sponsored working group to explore listening to music as a community, 2006
  • Calvin Research Grant to complete research for Figuring Out Melody, a textbook on music composition and counterpoint. 1999
  • League of the International Society for Composers of Music (I.S.C.M.) Leo Snyder Prize in Composition, 1991
  • Wellesley Composers’ Conference, Fellowship Composer, 1990
  • Irving Fine Fellowship, 1985
  • M. Gordan Fellowship, 1983, 1984
  • Remis Fellowship, 1983
  • Laureate of the Lincoln Academy, 1981
  • Presser Scholar Award, 1980
  • Illinois Music Educators Association First Prize in Music Composition, 1977

Invited Lectures        

  • “Why Music Matters.” Bethel College, 2014
  • “Intrinsic Association: How Music Moves Us.” Potter’s House Christian High School, 2014.
  • “Do You Hear What I Hear? Deciphering a Universal Language.” North Central College, May 2013; Illinois State Music Teachers Association conference, November 2013; Calvin College, November, 2013.
  • “Why Filmmakers Need Composers: What Canned Music Can’t Do.” guest public lecture for the Communication Arts Department, Calvin College, 2012.
  • “Situating the Listener: How Music Draws Audience into the World of a Film.” guest lecture, Trinity Christian College, 2010.

Conference Presentations

  • “Composition as a Christian Vocation in the 21st Century.” Fellowship of Christian Art Music Composers National Conference, Biola University, 2014.
  • “How to Hear Music for More than Emotional Gratification.” Kuyers Institute Conference on Virtues, Vices, and Teaching, Calvin College, 2013.
  • “Using Melodic Figuration in Teaching Music Composition.” Fellowship of Christian Art Music Composers National Conference, Indiana Wesleyan University, 2011.
  • “Why Study Music in College?” Festival of Faith and Music, Calvin College, 2011.
  • “Writing About Musical Sounds.” presentation at the Festival of Faith and Writing, Calvin College, 2008.
  • “The Musician as a Follower of Jesus.” Annual Symposium on Worship, Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, Calvin College, 2007.
  • “The Musical Impulse and its Implications and Applications for Christian Scholarship.” Society for Christian Scholarship in Music National Convention, Covenant College, 2004.
  • “Composing Around Beats: What We All Do.” Society of Composers International National Conference, Indiana University, 1998.

Other Presentations

  • “George Crumb on his Eightieth Birthday” pre-concert talk, Ensemble Montage, 2009.
  • “Music as a Liberal Art” chair, panel discussion, Calvin College 2008.
  • “Elliott Carter and the Possible Public” pre-concert talk, Ensemble Montage, 2008.
  • “Schoenberg’s Post-Serial Tonal Music” lecture-demonstration with Calvin Band, 2008.
  • “Charles Ives and the Problem of Musical Quotation” pre-concert lecture demonstration, Calvin College, 2005.


  • Adjudicator, Illinois Music Educators Association annual composition contest, 2013-15.
  • Seminar participant and author, Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, 2014-15.
  • Seminar participant, Consultation for Pop-Rock Worship Music, Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, 2013.
  • Consultant for music and faith formation, Potter’s House schools, 2014-15

Professional Associations

  • Broadcast Music International (BMI)
  • Society of Composers, International
  • Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers
  • College Music Society