Opera composer, librettist, composer, violinist, pedagogic, and activist Daniel Bernard Roumain was born on May 3, 1971 in Skokie, Illinois. He was reared, however, in Margate, Florida, His parents are Haitians, and he has one son, Zachary.
Roumain began playing the violin at the age of five. By the age of 11, he played electric guitar and synthesizer in his band, performing rock and hip-hop. He graduated from Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School for the Performing Arts in 1989 and was a leading musician in its jazz orchestra. After high school, Roumain enrolled at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, and received a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in composition and theory in 1993. Afterward, he continued his studies at the University of Michigan, earning a Master of Music degree in 1995.
While working on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan, Roumain left Ann Arbor in 1998 for New York City. There he immediately began freelancing as an accompanist and as a rehearsal pianist for dance at the Julliard School, Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and The Ailey School. In 2000 earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. Roumain also made his Carnegie Hall debut that year with “Harlem Essay for Orchestra,” and he’s composed pieces for the Boston Pops Orchestra, Dogs of Desire Ensemble, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, and the Stuttgart Symphony. Besides, he released compositions for the theater and concert hall for his label, DBR Music. His Hip-Hop Essay for Orchestra was performed by the Dallas Symphony and Memphis Symphony Orchestras. And in 2004, Roumain premiered a solo classical, rock, blues, jazz, and hip-hop show on electric violin, I, Composer in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic and Seattle Philharmonic Orchestras.
Roumain published 24 Bits: Hip-Hop Studies and Etudes, Book 1 & 2 in 2007 that was funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. In 2009, Roumain received the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Musical Composition for his collaboration with ESPN. He was also featured as keynote performer at technology conferences; and created large-scale, site-specific musical events for public spaces. Roumain’s “Dancers, Dreamers, and Presidents” won the 2010 Sphinx commissioning prize and was performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in 2011.
In 2021, Roumain’s operatic aria, “They Still Want to Kill Us,” reflecting on the Tulsa Massacre, was opposed by Tulsa Opera over the libretto’s climax line” “They want to kill us/They still want to kill us/God Bless America/God Damn America.” Roumain refused to have his work censored by Opera authorities and thus, the performance was canceled. However, the aria was performed by Opera Philadelphia. In addition, he scored the film Ailey that premiered at Sundance Film Festival and composed “Symphonic Band, Falling Black into The Sky” for Washington State University. In 2021, Roumain became the Resident Artistic Catalyst for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He will compose two commissions, perform with the NJSO as a soloist, advisor on the main stage, and chamber concert programming.