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David Halen Lives Dream with St. Louis Symphony

At the top of his game in the world of symphonic music, David Halen still remembers how the musical performances he heard at University of Central Missouri touched his life when he was a young boy.

"My dream came from visits the St. Louis Symphony made to campus," he said. "I heard that orchestra and felt that it was my goal to be a part of it."

David Halen '79 is concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony.

Through hard work and persistence, Halen's dream came true in a big way. In 1995, in an unprecedented decision, he was appointed concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony. It was an opportunity that came without audition, due to overwhelming support from his fellow musicians, the symphony's Board of Trustees and the music directors. He also serves as the symphony's violinist first chair.

"The job of the concertmaster is really multi-faceted and difficult to pinpoint in a general sense," he said. "I act as intermediary between the director and the musicians, the board and the public at large.


Receives Honorary Degree


Halen's dedication to his craft has brought him critical acclaim in performances across the world. One of his most recent honors took place as part of UCM's 2005 winter commencement, when he was conferred an honorary degree, the Doctor of Humane Letters.

Part of a musical family with strong roots at UCM, Halen spent much of his youth in Warrensburg and attended the university's Laboratory School. He was able to begin his college education at the age of 16, and within three years completed his bachelor's degree in music from UCM in 1979. Additional educational pursuits took him to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a master's degree in music.


Family of Talented Musicians


Halen's strong aspirations for becoming a professional violinist were nurtured by parents who understood the educational and professional sides of the business. His father, the late professor emeritus, Walter Halen, was also a violinist. He conducted the UCM Orchestra and taught in the university's Department of Music for 22 years. His mother, Thalia R. Halen, played for the Kansas City Philharmonic as well as the Kansas City Symphony. His brother, Eric, is the acting concertmaster for the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

David, the youngest member of the family, began playing for the university's orchestra when he was in the fifth grade. He still remembers how his passion for music grew after discovering the power of music as a way to reach people.

"To me, it's the most important form of communication we as human beings have," Halen said. "That's my ultimate goal, to be a conduit to help people be more in touch with themselves."


Youngest Fulbright Scholarship Recipient


The same year he graduated from UCM, Halen was named national strings winner in the Collegiate Artist Competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association. He also became the youngest Fulbright Scholarship recipient ever, giving him an opportunity to study and play violin in Germany.

After working briefly with a string quartet, the talented violinist joined the Houston Symphony in 1983, and was promoted "chair by chair" over the next several years. He eventually became assistant concertmaster.


Joined Symphony in 1991


In 1987, Halen purchased a 250-year-old Guadagnini violin made in Italy and decided the best way to make use of it was to follow his dream to St. Louis. His career blossomed after joining the symphony in 1991. During the group's 1994 European tour, he earned praise for his solo performances in Frankfurt, Vienna and London, while also gaining admiration from colleagues who supported his appointment as concertmaster the following year.

In addition to the symphony, he continues to advance his profession as concertmaster at the Aspen Music Festival and as artistic director of the Innsbrook Institute, an intensive program that provides outstanding young students with classical music instruction and performance opportunities.

Halen's rise up the professional ladder emphasizes his belief that people can achieve anything with the right motivation. "Anyone who has a dream is unstoppable," he said. "They can find the means to do anything if they truly believe in themselves."

By Michael Bradshaw ’05 and Jeff Murphy ’76 hs, ’80, ’95