Skip to content

Genius behind the curtain

David Arkenstone’s music has been the backdrop for more than you know
New age instrumental composer David Arkenstone performs May 21 at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria. (image supplied)

It is almost certain that you’ve heard and enjoyed David Arkenstone’s music. It’s equally possible that Arkenstone’s name doesn’t ring any immediate bells.

It should.

After all, Arkenstone has earned five Emmy nominations (in 2021, 2019, 2004, 2000, and 1992) and has composed music for television (The History Channel, Discovery Channel, NBC Sports) and has a host of credits for trailers and film soundtracks.

His music is an integral part of the magical feeling you might have experienced if you’ve visited Disney World. His song Papillon is the background music at EPCOT and another composition The Palace has been used in Tomorrowland in California and Tokyo.

Gamers have heard Arkenstone’s soundtracks on games including World of Warcraft, Lands of Lore, Earth & Beyond, Emperor: Battle for Dune and Space Siege.

“I’m in the background of everyone’s life,” Arkenstone said in a recent interview with Monday Magazine. “And I’m fortunate to be able to create music and grateful to my fans, however they get the music.”

And Arkenstone does have a strong following.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island MusicFest lands international superstar Sarah McLachlan

He has released more than 60 albums throughout his career and has more than 100 million Spotify streams to his name. And the number keeps growing as more and more people discover his music. That music has it’s roots in a love of fantasy with strong inspirations of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

“I released my first album in 1987 and we’re still going,” Arkenstone said. “It’s remarkable, really, especially with all the changes in the recording industry and the impact of streaming services.”

“There’s a magic in music. I wake up in the morning and can’t wait to see what I discover that day. I find new experiences every day. Like I say, it’s magical.”

Primarily a composer and instrumentalist, Arkenstone describes himself as a musical storyteller, taking his audience on a journey of imagination.

“I envision a place I’d like to go, or an adventure I would like to take, and I let the music take me there,” said Arkenstone. “And I get messages all the time from people who respond to that music and take those journeys with me.”

Beyond the magical, sometimes mystical, nature of Arkenstone’s music, he credits the popularity of his compositions to the broad range of instruments available to composers today.

Arkenstone plays a variety of instruments himself, including the bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, harp, cello, flute, electronic keyboards, piano, Turkish saz, and pennywhistle, and will be joined on stage during his Pacific Northwest Tour by virtuoso musicians Terre Lee (violin), Carlyn Kessler (cello), Kimberly Zaleski (flute), and Josh Gilgoff (percussion).

“The band is great, and the music grows every time we play. It evolves, and by the end of the tour we’ll have changed some things, just a bit, to make it even better,” Arkenstone said.

“Great” doesn’t begin to describe the talented musicians who will accompany Arkenstone.

Terre Lee began her musical career at the age of five and is now a student at UC Santa Cruz where she’s led a team that was nominated for the $1 million Hult Prize for creating early education music programs for underserved communities. Carlyn Kessler has played concert halls around the world and is a recording artist in her own right. She’s recently performed with a variety of artists, including Michael Buble and Josh Groban.

Kimberly Zaleski has dedicated her life to performing, composing, and teaching music. She is the cofounder of IN2ATIVE and is the performing artist on the roster of the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning Agency.

Finally, there’s Josh Gilgoff. A NYC drummer, special educator, and instrument maker, Gilgoff founded the group Glow in the Drum. This ensemble was developed around a novel technique that combines African and American traditions.

“It’s a very eclectic and hugely talented group,” Arkenstone said.

“This is my third tour with them, and these are musicians who just love to play.”

“They are all amazing artists and, for all of us, performing music is more than just playing the notes. It’s more like creating a painting. A visual artist might want a little more blue in one area, or some more detail in another. Music is like that, and this group makes that artistry – that magic - possible.”

But the real magic happens when Arkenstone & Friends step in front of an audience.

“It’s not until you step on stage that you make that connection. You can record forever but you never really connect. You don’t know who’s listening. But an audience gives you that. They join you on an emotional journey. They respond to you, and we respond to them. It really can’t be explained. It just is.”

Arkenstone & Friends will be finishing their Pacific Northwest Tour with a performance on May 21 at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria.

Tickets and concert information is available at

On the Pacific Northwest Tour, Arkenstone will be accompanied by virtuoso musicians Terre Lee (violin), Carlyn Kessler (cello), Kimberly Zaleski (flute), and Josh Gilgoff (percussion). (event banner)