The American composer Jon Deak has become equally prominent as a double bassist, composer, and educator. Many of his educational efforts have been concerned with children.
Deak was born in Hammond, Indiana, on April 27, 1943. Deak took up the piano as a child, and his teacher encouraged his experimentation with composing as well. When Deak was 12, his family moved to the Illinois suburbs of Chicago. "My second teacher was much more focused on traditional technique and didn't encourage creativity and composition," he told the International Society of Bassists journal. Out of those experiences came a lifelong commitment to the education of young musicians. After studies at the Juilliard School, the University of Illinois, and the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he taught on a Fulbright scholarship, Deak joined the New York Philharmonic in 1969, performing and recording under conductor Leonard Bernstein. Deak became associate principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic in 1973, and remained in that position until 2009. He was also active as a composer, earning a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his Concerto for double bass and orchestra ("Jack and the Beanstalk") in 1990, and serving as composer-in-residence at the Colorado Symphony from 1994 to 1997. This position entailed activities involving the Colorado Children's Chorale and students in the Denver Public Schools. Deak created various new programs in Denver, including the new music series "Source Project" featuring music by Colorado composers, and the "Very Young Composers Program." The latter was later transferred to the New York Philharmonic. In 2009 Deak retired from playing to concentrate on composition. His works have been performed by many major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, DC. Deak's music has appeared on releases on the Centaur, CRI, Innova, and Naxos labels. In 2019, Symphonic Tales, featuring four Deak works performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra under conductor Marin Alsop, appeared on Naxos.