David Balakrishnan, is the Turtle Island Quartet’s founder and ‘resident composer,’ graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in music composition and violin. Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, he quickly established his reputation as a talented young improvising violinist, making guest appearances with the David Grisman Quartet and jazz violin legend Stephane Grappelli, and earning a Masters Degree in music composition at Antioch University West.
His compositional approach—based on the principle of multi-stylistic integration applied to bowed string instruments—established the TIQ template that, in addition to the group awards, has earned him two GRAMMY® nominations in the arranging category, and most recently a 2016 GRAMMY® nomination in the composition category for his piece “Confetti Man” on the latest TIQ recording of the same name.
He is the recipient of numerous grants, from private sources such as conductor Marin Alsop, who commissioned his piece for violin and orchestra, “Little Mouse Jumps,” as well as organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer.
In 2005 he received a MTC/ASOL “Music Alive” residency with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra (largest orchestral composing grant of the year) for which he composed six works. The NCO also commissioned Balakrishnan’s composition “Darkness Dreaming,” which premiered in April 2004 with guitarists Sharon Isbin and John Jorgenson.
His piece “Spider Dreams” (1992) has been widely performed and recorded throughout the world by a diverse array of musical organizations, including a live recording by Turtle Island with the Detroit Symphony conducted by Neeme Järvi on Chandos Records. A 2002 commission awarded by a consortium of presenters headed by the Lied Center of Kansas resulted in a string octet entitled “Mara’s Garden Of False Delights,” which is featured on Turtle Island’s Grammy winning Telarc release, “4+Four.”
Again commissioned by the Lied Center in 2008, Balakrishnan composed a full-length work involving theatre, dance, poetry, video, and TIQ with the KU wind ensemble that is an artistic response to the socio/political issues concerning the various theories of evolution, both scientific and cultural, entitled “The Tree Of Life.” In 2015 he received Chamber Music America’s prestigious Classical Commissioning Program grant, supporting a full-length work commemorating the quartet’s 30th anniversary season.