David R. Anavitarte
David Anavitarte, a conductor, singer, and pianist, taught in Seventh-day Adventist schools at the secondary and college level for nearly 25 years. A dynamic and charismatic person, he inspires those who play or sing under him to achieve at a high level. In all the schools at which he taught he developed a flourishing choral program presenting an eclectic mix of both serious traditional and contemporary sacred choral music. A singer who accompanies himself with an improvisational style, he, along with his wife, Katherine (Baker), also a singer, tours nationally.
David was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and raised in Vineland, New Jersey.† He began piano study at age seven and became involved in music ministry at twelve. His mother, who had taken voice lessons from a member of the Philadelphia Opera chorus, loved music and would often take her son when he was seven and eight to dress rehearsals of the opera at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.
He attended Blue Mountain Academy in his junior and senior years, studying voice with and singing in the school's choirs under Larry Karpenko. While there he roomed with noted choral conductor Paul Hill's son, Roger. Through this relationship he became acquainted with the Hill family and during academy breaks would travel with Roger to Washington, D.C., where they would sing under Hillís direction, an experience Anavitarte remembers as totally inspiring.
He attended Columbia Union College in Washington, now Washington Adventist University, where he continued voice study with Larry Otto, Jon Gilbertson, and Robert Young. He also studied piano with Neil Tilkens and lived with the Tilkens family for three of his five years at CUC. Following graduation from CUC with a B.S. in music education in 1982, Anavitarte accepted a position at Adelphian Academy in Michigan, where he taught until 1986.
He continued study at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, completing a master's degree in choral conducting in 1989. That fall he began teaching at San Diego Academy in California, a position he held until he became director of the choral program at Southwestern Adventist College, now University, from 1991 to 2009. In his time at SWAU he completed all classwork for a doctorate in music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Six years after he arrived at SWAC, Anavitarte formed the University Singers, a select group of twenty to thirty students, and Asaph, a male chorus of sixteen, to complement the larger 100-member traditional choir, Mizpah Choraliers. In both of the mixed choirs he presented masterpieces in choral literature such as the Elijah, the Mozart and Rutter Requiems, and others.
From 2001 to 2009 Anavitarte also served as chair of the music department.†† In his eight years of leadership he helped the department weather difficulties arising from university leadership that failed to see the value of supporting a music degree program. Beginning in 2006, however, with the appointment of a totally supportive president, Anavitarte was able to rebuild a department that offered a comprehensive music education program with depth and qualified specialists as teachers.
In addition to his primary identity as chair and conductor while at SWAU, he was founder, music director, and conductor of the Brazos Chamber Orchestra, an independent professional ensemble of 45 to 50 that, in addition to accompanying choirs in giving major choral works, gave two to three concerts annually featuring a wide variety of music, from symphonic literature to Broadway musicals.
He presently conducts the BCO and the Healing Heart vocal ensemble, a fifty-member choral group that ministers to the community; maintains a private voice and piano studio in the Keene, Texas, area; serves as Director of Music and Worship at the First United Methodist church in Burleson, Texas; and is choral director for the Arlington Adventist church.
Anavitarte has studied conducting with Jon Robertson, Ray Robinson, Daryl One, and Paul Salamunovich. He has worked with Salamunovich for several years and regards him as the teacher who has had the greatest influence on his career.
The Anavitartes have two children, Donielle, who is an emergency room nurse and married to William Halvorsen, and Devin, who is working on his M.Div. at Andrews University.
Sources: Interview with David Anavitarte, 27 September 2010; Brazos Chamber Orchestra website biography, May 2010; Charlotte Henderson, "Great Talents Combine," Southwestern Spirit, SWAU alumni magazine, Fall 2002, 4, 5; Biography at Burleson, Texas, First United Methodist church website, 2013; MyLife.com; Personal Knowledge.