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David Whetstone is one of the most active sitarists in the United States, a shagird (disciple) of the legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan. He has collaborated and toured extensively with poets Robert Bly and Coleman Barks since 1974, appearing with them in numerous recordings and films. In 1992 David co-founded Ragamala Music and Dance Theater and created the repertoire for this group until 1997, with original text, stories and music. The music utilized both Indian instrumentation, as well as Western orchestration with soloists and chorus, for critically acclaimed full evening programs such as Ragamala, The Puppet Master, Canticle of Mary, and Ashoka, Beloved of the Gods. In 1996 David opened with a sitar solo for Ali Akbar Khan at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. In March of 1999 the Rochester Symphony and Chorus premiered excerpts from his opera, White Nights (Dostoevsky). An American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Research Fellow in 1988, David also has had training in Western classical music, having studied privately with Philip Meyers, solo hornist of the New York Philharmonic, for five years. David’s fundamental first sitar training was with Professor Brian Silver. David lives in Minneapolis, and teaches at Carleton College. 

"I love to read Rumi with David Whetstone playing. He is amazingly sensitive to the imagery and to the soulgrowth truths coming through." - poet Coleman Barks 

"I have an infinite trust in David Whetstone's music. I've never met anyone more sensitive to poetry and more able to go ahead of it into realms of delight and depth. He's a master sitarist and one of the best artists of his generation. " - poet Robert Bly 

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david's reviews and articles

David Whetstone, Sitar at the Gandhi Center in Washington, DC

“Whetstone’s one-man duet on the sitar. He proved entirely capable of playing duets all by himself... the interplay was far richer than would have been expected from a single instrument.” 

—Washington Post, 11/21/01

White Nights (Opera, Rochester Symphony & Chorus, live on MN Public Radio)

“Opera concert definitely first class... his harmonies and orchestration were expressive and most beautiful. The music might be thoroughly modern but the poetic and emotional impact on the audience was remarkable. ” 

—Rochester Post-Bulletin, 3/15/99

Ashoka, Beloved of the Gods (as dance opera) 

“Ancient meets modern in spectacular Ashoka. Populist and emotionally charged... uses a variety of vocal techniques to produce a conservative but unusually effective, often stirring result. (Whetstone’s libretto) tells the story with unfathomable depths of emotion and and vision under the narrative. The entire production is first rate.” 

—Mpls. Star Tribune, 5/4/96Feature Article (about Ragamala Music & Dance Theater) 

“Under Whetstone’s direction Ragamala’s productions integrate components of Western and Indian art, symbolism, mythology, music, dance, and poetry in ways that preserve the traditional Indian art forms while creatively expanding their communicative powers. Whetstone's rhythmic patterns and emotional depths in his music are strong and clear. The work is unfailingly innovative, intelligent, and rapturously poetic.” 

—The World & I, 10th Anniversary Issue, 1/96

Canticle of Mary Oratorio (as dance opera)

“Canticle of Mary is a gorgeous, sumptuous sensual experience. Whetstone’s libretto is well chosen for its musicality and the theatrical power... Its highly dramatic music aiming for passion and emotion, and its theatrically effective. Everything first rate...” 

—Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3/15/95

Artist of the Year

"Whetstone has a tremendous knack for taking ancient musical traditions and tossing them into the most unusual of artistic environments. "

—Minneapolis Skyway News, 9/13/94