David Onderdonk began playing the guitar at the age of eight. Growing up in Evanston, IL, his early interests included folk, blues, and rock music. In 1974 he was accepted into the classical guitar program at the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL. In addition to his classical studies (classes with Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, and Eduardo Fernandez), he also played in the U of I Jazz Big Band under the direction of John Garvey.
In 1976, David started his career as a classical guitarist. From 1976-1978 he gave concerts in Europe, Central and South America, and throughout the United States as part of a duo called One Plus One with dancer Patricia Hruby Powell. He moved to Chicago in 1980 and began making connections in the jazz community working in various jazz clubs around the city including Andy’s, The Green Mill, and The Jazz Showcase.
Between 1984 and 1985 he released two albums on Quaver Records (Close Call and Lookout). This was followed by tours of the Midwest in support of those albums. In 1993 he and drummer Mark Walker released Loose Contact (an album of original music) on Southport Records. This CD received a four-star review in Downbeat Magazine. In 1996 he was a featured guitarist in JAZZIZ magazine for their Guitars on Fire issue. His studio recording work also includes CD’s, TV jingles, documentaries (A&E with Bill Kurtis), and a movie soundtrack (Off the Map). In 2005 he released Renaissance Guitar as an independent project.
He has played and/or recorded with Kurt Elling (three Grammy nominated albums), Michael Feinstein, The Lakeside Singers, Megon McDonough, Terry Callier, Grazyna Auguscik, Fareed Haque, Fred Simon, and Marlene Rosenberg. He has also appeared on recordings with Pharoah Sanders, Mavis Staples, Mike Stern, Howard Levy, Paul Wertico, and Paul McCandless among others. He was a member of the Chicago Jazz Composers Collective for eighteen years regularly showcasing new compositions at The Green Mill.
An instructor for over thirty years, David currently teaches privately in his own studio and at The Music Institute of Chicago. Past teaching credits include Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, Columbia College, Roosevelt University, and The Old Town School of Folk Music. He previously served as Interim Instructor of Guitar at Interlochen Arts Academy for the 2015-2016 school year.