January 27, 2003 Vol. VII, No. 8

Music Faculty Member Receives Coveted Commission

Liviu Marinescu Awarded $10,000 Grant to Compose New Orchestral Work for Performance

Cal State Northridge music faculty member Liviu Marinescu has been awarded a coveted $10,000 commission by the prestigious Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University to compose a new orchestral work to be performed in the next three years.

Marinescu was one of only a dozen composers in the United States awarded grants by the foundation in late 2002 from among 150 composers who applied. Among the recipients, four were from California including Marinescu, composers Edmund Campion and Keeril Makan from UC Berkeley and Richard Festinger from San Francisco State.

"I would say that without a doubt this is probably the highlight of my entire career," said Marinescu, 32, who joined Northridge's music faculty in fall 2002. "On the other hand, I've been told that if this is where my career starts, then I may go a lot further. I hope those people are right."

William Toutant, dean of CSUN's College of Arts, Media, and Communication and an internationally recognized composer in his own right, said that for a composer, receiving a Fromm commission is comparable to a journalist winning a Pulitzer Prize.

"To receive a commission from the Fromm Foundation is quite an honor for a composer. It's very, very prestigious," Toutant said. "To have this honor won by one of our junior faculty is as much a feather in our cap as it is his."

Founded by the late Paul Fromm, the Fromm Music Foundation has commissioned more than 300 new compositions and their performances, and has sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series, among them Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music.

The foundation seeks to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary music closer to the public by awarding composers a commission and then subsidizing premiere performances of the commissioned works. The foundation supports younger, less-known composers as well as more established one.

In addition to Marinescu's $10,000 commission, the foundation also offers up to a $3,000 subsidy to the group that ultimately premieres his work.

Marinescu described his music as written from personal convictions, rather than based on the demands of the commercial market.

"It's definitely not the kind of music you listen to, remember the theme and then whistle it in the car on the way home," he said with a laugh, adding, "New sounds and new ideas don't exactly draw a lot of interest from the general public. But I like to take risks with my music, and I guess the reason I enjoy challenging my audiences is because with greater risks, there are usually greater spiritual rewards."

Marinescu grew up in Romania and attended one of that nation's leading music schools in Bucharest. In 1992, he had an opportunity to see a performance by acclaimed composer/ conductor Edwin London, founder of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.

Emboldened by his love of the music and his ability to speak English, Marinescu went back stage to meet London. He showed London some of his scores and within three weeks he was in Cleveland, studying with London on scholarship.

Marinescu returned to Romania briefly in 1993 and 1994, but London convinced him to return to the United States "because this is where the future is." Marinescu received his doctorate from the University of Maryland.

He taught briefly in Pennsylvania and Minnesota before accepting a position to teach at Cal State Northridge last semester.

"The past five months have been the happiest, greatest time in my life," Marinescu said. "I find this place exciting and challenging. I love it here."

@csun | January 27, 2003 issue
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