Glee Club history: David Davis

Today’s Virginia Glee Club history update looks at a Glee Club director who was head of the U.Va. music department before he chucked it all for a career in Hollywood scoring films such as … H.O.T.S.?!

David Davis, to the extent that he is remembered today, is best known for his arrangements and compositions for the Glee Club (“Summer Songs,” “Broken Glass”), but he had a long career in music of both a more serious and lucrative kind … though not at the same time. Originally from New Orleans, he came to the University with degrees from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University and Harvard. He made his name as a serialist composer, and got the sort of reception that serialists usually got (a 1964 New York Times review of a concert of his works noted of his Sonata for Trumpet that the piece “showed more manipulative ability than imagination” and that his Three Canzone for violin, clarinet, saxophone, and piano “went on too long with too few strong ideas to maintain its flow”).

In Glee Club history he is noted as a co-conductor of the Glee Club alongside Donald MacInnis, but that may be simply due to unclear chronology and poor record keeping. Certainly he was the sole conductor of the group in 1961, as attested in Corks and Curls of that year. Whatever the case, as a University professor he rose through the ranks fairly quickly. By 1964 he had been promoted to Chairman of the Department, having made associate professor in 1962, four years after arriving at the university. (This might explain Donald Loach‘s transition to Club director in that year.)

Then in 1966, with one year left to go on his chairmanship, he resigned from the University “for personal reasons” and headed out West, to Hollywood. While subsequent student newspaper articles that discussed Davis (in the context of his compositions for Club) generally breathlessly reported that he was “now a Hollywood theme writer,” the extent of his career there is unknown. IMDB records only four credits for him, including one TV series (“Thrill Seekers”) and three films; the aforementioned H.O.T.S., a T&A film, was his last credit in 1979.

How does one follow a career in music and years in Hollywood? Why, by becoming director of a sanitary district in Oregon, of course! Davis retired there and was elected director of the Roads End Sanitary District in Lincoln County, Oregon, in 1994, a position he still held as of 2005.

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