David L. Kaplan was born on December 12, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois. He studied piano from an early age and began learning to play the clarinet in high school. During World War II, he served as an army bandsman and then attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1948. He subsequently obtained a master's degree in music from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1950, and a PhD from Indiana University in 1978. From 1950 to 1955, Dr. Kaplan served as Director of Music at the Reynolds Community School District in Illinois, and from 1955 to 1960 he was Assistant Professor of Woodwinds at West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas.
In 1960, he developed a music education program within the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan and later established an independent Department of Music, where he served as department head from 1964 to 1982. As department head, Dr. Kaplan introduced a number of new programs, including bachelors' degrees in music and music education, masters' degrees in education (music) and arts (music), and a special-case PhD.
David Kaplan served full-time at the University of Saskatchewan from 1960 to 1991, teaching music theory, music education, world music, and music history. He has also held teaching positions at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, the University of New Mexico, the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, and the World Youth Orchestra of Jeunesses Musicales in Spain. His articles have appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, the School Musician, the Canadian Music Education Journal, the Illinois Music Educator, and The Clarinet. He retired in 1991, but continues to serve as professor emeritus and as a sessional lecturer.
In addition to his academic career, Dr. Kaplan served as the Conductor and Music Director of the Saskatoon Symphony from 1962 to 1972; and in 1985 he established the Saskatoon Klezmer Band, for which he has written more than 200 arrangements and compositions. As a clarinetist, Dr. Kaplan has performed with the Cassenti Players of Vancouver, as well as the Amarillo (Texas) and Tri-City (Iowa) symphonies.
In November 2002, David Kaplan received the Order of Canada and the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal. In the summer of 2003, his extensive collection of instruments was put on display at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.