David de Hilster

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David de Hilster
David de Hilster leading the SambaLá drum corp at the Brazilian Beat Festival in Boca Raton Florida 2016
Born (1959-11-13) November 13, 1959 (age 64)
Ann Arbor Michigan
Nationality United States
Occupation Natural Language Processing, Super Computer Researcher
Years active 32
Known for Large Event Productions, SambaLá Samba School, worldsamba.org, Brazilian Street Carnaval, Unidos do Mundo, Brazilian Day Los Angeles, Puxador
Home town Boca Raton, Florida
Spouse(s) Doris de Hilster
Children Luanda de Hilster

David de Hilster is founder and president of SambaLá Samba School, event producer, scientist and samba singer and percussionist from the United States. He is best known for being founder of SambaLá Samba School, Unidos do Mundo 2000 and 2001, the Brazilian Street Carnaval of Long Beach, producing two years of the Brazilian Day in Los Angeles, and for being the first non-portuguese samba singer to sing in Rio's famed Sambadrome. David is married to Brazilian clothes and costume designer Doris de Hilster. De Hilster is considered one of the leading experts in Brazilian samba in the United States.

Music Beginnings

David started taking piano lessons at 8 years old and was playing Mozart by age ten. He also took up trumpet at age 9, playing in the marching band in high school, pit orchestra, and excelled at music theory where he was the only student without perfect pitch to get all dictations correct during an entire year of theory. David continued to play trumpet at his church and piano as a hobby.


In 1979, David's family was a backup family for a foreign exchange student from Brazil and ended up traveling to Brazil the same year where David fell in love with the culture and music of Brazil. After visiting one more time in 1984, David returned to the United States to finish his masters degree in Linguistics and computers, finished a research project, sold everything, and moved to Rio de Janeiro. There he found a job at an artificial intelligence company where he met his wife at a alpine climbing club. David married Doris de Hilster in 1989 and they moved to the United States in 1990 where David found a job in California.

During his almost 3 years in Brazil, David never went to a samba school or played music.


Live portrait of Doris de Hilster by David de Hilster, pencil, private collection
In 1992, David and his wife moved to Long Beach California into an artist studio where David painted at night, working in computer research during the day. His wife Doris started Samba Collection, starting her own line of clothing and selling it in her store. David has his first art show with much of his art being computer and Brazilian themed and had his first radio interview on the Brazilian show Sounds of Brazil with Sergio Mielniczenko.

In 1993, the couple went to see the annual gay and lesbian parade which gave David the idea to start a samba school in Long Beach given Long Beach allowed such a "raucous" or wild parade. In March of 1994, in his wife store on Pine Avenue in Long Beach, a document was signed to start SambaLá Samba School. The name was chosen by one of the participants as being easy to say in English and still have meaning to Brazilians. The ending "La" means there in Portuguese translating "samba there" and "La" also could be said in English as "Samba LA" for Samba in Los Angeles.

At this time, David neither sang or played samba. Since there were no samba singers in the school at the time, David, who could carry a tune, was the only one who could sing with a cavaquinho (small stringed instrument) and so thus, he became the first "puxador" or samba singer for the group. David also learned to play the surdo, the big base drum. The story goes that David hired a Rio native to teach samba to his school and after 5 minutes of playing, the teacher grabbed David's mallet and said there was no hope for him. That only made David try harder and he learned to play 3rd or solo surdo and even plays some cavaquinho today.

David singing in the world-famous Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro with Neguinho da Beija-Flor in the year 2000
In the year 2000, David became the first and only non-Portuguese singer to sing in the famed sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro where he sang with Neguinho da Beija-Flor in David's project Unidos do Mundo where David also sang in rehearsal with Bethe Carvalho.

In the early days David also has also learned to dance samba from the numerous samba instructors through the years.

Music Director

With David's music background, he has been the music director of SambaLa Samba School through the years. Knowing how to read music and having studied with some of the best percussion teachers in the United States and in Brazil, David has learned the intricacies of a samba drum corps and routinely directs the SambaLá bateria during parades and shows. David also has been played with some professional groups and musicians including Beck (2012), Monobloco (from Brazil- 2013), Richard Elfman (Oinga-Boinga), Pancho Sanchez (2000), and sang with Neguinho da Beija-Flor and Beth Carvalho, to name a few.

Event Producer

David de Hilster with his wife Doris de Hilster during the 2012 Brazilian Day in Los Angeles where they produced and directed the event for two years in conjunction with the Brazilian Consulate of Los Angeles
David de Hilster has produced many samba projects locally, and internationally. Besides being the founder of SambaLá Samba School, David has been producing outdoor events for over 20 years including the Brazilian Street Carnaval of Long Beach and the Brazilian Day in Los Angeles. He also was the founder and producer of the world-wide samba home pages and Unidos do Mundo 2000 and 2001 which he produced along with Alessandra Pirotelli that took place in the Sambadrome and Lapa in Rio de Janeiro.

Professional Life

As with most "sambistas", David does not make a living at samba. David is an accomplished scientist and artist. David received a bachelor's degree in Mathematics with a minor in Architecture and his masters in Linguistics and a minor in Artificial Intelligence from the Ohio State University. David has been in research most of his life working with getting computers to understand written text. He is the co-author of the only computer language for human language called NLP++ and currently works in the supercomputing research and development group at LexisNexis in Boca Raton Florida.

David is also active in physics and has a YouTube channel Dissident Science, is president of the world-wide science group the John Chappell Natural Philosophy Society, and is current co-authoring the book "Principia Mathematica 2 - Universe Hack 3.0 - A Complete Toolkit for Hacking the Universe" with his father Bob de Hilster.

In 1990, David became a supported visual artist in the young artist's gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has been a collected artist all his life. David has chosen to keep his art personal although is looking to paint and exhibit again in Florida.

Personal Life

David currently resides in Boca Raton Florida and is married to clothes designer and carnaval artist Brazilian and Rio native Doris de Hilster (1989), with whom he has one daughter Luanda de Hilster (2005).

External Links