Dana Cunningham is a pianist and composer who has produced six critically acclaimed recordings of original and interpretive work, and performs in solo concerts and musical ensembles nationwide. Originally from Texas, she lives and works in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She studied piano at Blair School of Music while completing a Bachelor of Science in Communication at Vanderbilt University. Her work at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, an advanced seminary degree in biblical studies and a sabbatical at a Benedictine monastery have also influenced her artistic voice, whose unique attributes are regularly applauded by leading music critics:
Will Ackerman, Windham Hill Records founder, Grammy winner:
“The Color of Light is simply the most impressive work of composition and performance I have heard from a pianist in twenty years. That the music connects on such a deep emotional level and is so accessible only makes it much more remarkable.”
Steve Ryals, Music Reviewer, Fresh Tracks:
“Cunningham has the hands of a master; with them, she creates music of luminous beauty. She is aware of the profound value of silence between notes, and never dazzles simply to show off. Instead, she gently tickles listeners with her music of love and peace. One of the finest debuts of this or any year, her album Dancing at the Gate is not to be missed.”
About her work and performances, Dana has said, “May the simple light move in and through us, and may music help open the door.’ This commitment manifests in a radiant melodic line, an unexpected but heart-opening resolution of chords, and in her powerful command of the piano’s full capabilities. Whether she is coaxing a dark, rich sound from the mellow depths of the bass, or making a lyrical flight into the crystalline upper keys, her touch is both precise and reverent, delicate and strong. She is also a gifted performer with other musicians, and weaves the sounds of the cello, saxophone and other instruments in and around her music with a finesse that delights both audiences and her collaborators.
Deeply moving, soul-freeing, centering, transcendent - these words describe the music of pianist Dana Cunningham. If you are lucky enough to be walking by her home on a warm autumn day, hearing her could feel like a gentle breeze coming off the White Mountains that frame her world in the hills of New Hampshire.
Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill records, finds Dana Cunningham to be a “brilliant player whose music speaks substantive volumes. Whatever she plays is invested with emotion. Her music communicates." There is a profound awareness of the space between the notes -- perhaps this is why many people say they can listen to her music over and over again, even in the same sitting.
Dana is most interested in sharing her music in intimate settings such as retreats, house concerts, and small venues where, in addition to her music, she often recites the poetry of Rumi, Rilke, Mary Oliver and David Whyte. It is her hope that in such contexts she offers people an experience that touches a deeper part of themselves than they anticipated.
Quoting the Dali Lama, Cunningham states that 'the only possibility for peace in the world is through individual transformation.' She believes that nurturing our deeper, more hidden ways of knowing and being, opens us to our common ground with one another. It is Dana’s hope that her music contributes to the possibility of peace, one small sphere of influence at a time.
Influenced early on by her mother's love for the romantic and impressionist composers such as Chopin, Ravel, Debussy and Satie, Cunningham's compositions have a lyrical, flowing quality, like "the reflection of water shimmering on a wall." But they also have a grounded earthiness revealing her life long love of the elements. Having spent her childhood years in the canyons of the Texas panhandle and the Colorado Rockies, and now living among the mountains and waters of New England, Dana feels fed on a cellular level by the soulfulness of the world, of the earth, listening to water in all its forms, watching the light bring everything to life.
Dana also believes that she would not be the composer she is today without having grown up singing the old southern hymns - cultural treasures full of meaning for so many people. This influence has infused her playing with an ineffable sense of spirit.
It is with this sensitivity that she seeks to bring both freshness and integrity to her original work, as well as to her interpretations of carols and hymns. The familiar melodies, often elongated and embedded in her own arrangements, come from her own quiet listening to how they might want to be played, again, as if for the first time.