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

  • “Meditations” recitatives and arias based on the book of Zephaniah, for tenor and piano
  • “Clouds, Radiance, Sweetness, Gold, and Fire” and antiphonal work for brass and percussion, in collaboration with sculptor Liviu Mocan for ArtPrize 2011
  • Incidental music for “Book of the Dunn Cow” by Walter Wangerin, adapted for stage by Stephanie Sandberg
  • Incidental music for “Backborn,” in collaboration with Hungarian playwright Andras Visky
  • “Brahms One: Historical Remix” for orchestra, co-written with student Evan Dice
  • Incidental music for “Hamlet” (with musical material drawn from characters’ names)
  • “Covenant Hymn” commissioned for the dedication of the Covenant Fine Arts Center
  • “Our Hands and Hearts we Offer” an anthem written for Calvin College celebrating scholarship and devotion
  • “Neo-Baroque ‘Cello Suite” for solo violincello
  • “Donning Armor” seven canons for alto saxophone, violin, and dancers based on
    Ephesians 6
  • “Four Lily Psalms” for chorus, tuba, harp, and soprano soloist, commissioned by the Calvin College Chapel series
  • “Matinee” for piano trio, commissioned by Ensemble Montage
  • “Noting Moments” for baritone, trumpet, and piano, on texts by Eamon Grennan
  • “Passacaglia on the Emmaus Road,” in collaboration with the poet Debra Rienstra, commissioned by the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship
  • “Resurrection Discourses” on texts by St. Paul for baritone, alto flute, and guitar
  •  “Eden’s Courtesy” for mezzo soprano and guitar, on texts by C.S. Lewis
  • “It Just Goes to Show” a piano fantasy
  • “String Quartet” written for the Lydian String Quartet
  •  “Inner Compass theme music” (a nationally-syndicated television interview program)

Books & Chapters

  • Figuring Out Melody (a.k.a. Sensible Counterpoint)
  • “The Best Thing in Life is Free” (a chapter on music and freedom) in It Was Good, making Music to the Glory of God, Square Halo Press, 2013

Honors & Awards

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

Presentations & Exhibitions

  • “Do You Hear What I Hear? Music as Research”
  • “How to Hear Music for More than Emotional Gratification”
  • “Listening to Music as a Community: Problems and Possibilities”
  • “Why Filmmakers Need Composers: What Canned Music Can’t Do.”
  • “Situating the Listener: How Music Draws Audience into the World of a Film”
  • "Using Melodic Figuration in Teaching Music Composition"
  • “Composing with Beats: What We All Do”
  • “Music as a Liberal Art”
  • “Elliott Carter and the Possible Public”
  • “Charles Ives and the Problem of Musical Quotation”
  • “George Crumb on his Eightieth Birthday”
  • “Schoenberg’s Post-Serial Tonal Music”
  • “Musician as a Follower of Jesus.”
  • “The Musical Impulse and its Implications and Applications for Christian Scholarship”
  • “Writing About Musical Sounds”
  • “What Makes Music Spiritual?”
  • “Dramatic Strategy in Sessions’ ‘Concerto for Orchestra’” (dissertation)

Professional Associations

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