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Phillips offers peek 'behind the music'
Founders Day lineup features Distinguished Professor Lecture  

Feb 13, 2008  
By Amy Wells  

As a college undergraduate, Mark Phillips bypassed the folk music genre popular in the 1960s to become a "serious musician." His interests gradually turned to composing, which provided a creative diversion from his performance studies.

Luckily for Ohio University -- to say nothing of performers and audiences around the world -- Phillips received such positive feedback to his arrangements that composing became a passion.

He'll share details of what fuels that passion during Friday's Distinguished Professor Lecture, part of this year's Founders Day celebration. Phillips, the 2007 recipient of Ohio University's Distinguished Professor Award, will present "Behind the Music: How and Why I Compose" at 7:30 p.m. in Walter Hall 135.  Phillips said he's worked to ensure the presentation, which will include a sampling of his compositions, appeals to a diverse audience.

Phillips' compositions reflect the wide array of musical styles he grew up hearing, studying and performing -- jazz, rock, folk, gospel, classical, experimental avant-garde, electronic and world music.

"By layering and mixing together in varying proportions these elements, I hope to create music that will have cultural resonance for today's listeners," Phillips said. "What I love about music is its capacity for direct but subjective communication, offering multiple simultaneous layers of meaning for different listeners.

"Coming from a performance background, I'm always writing for performers," he said. "I want to give them something that is challenging, but is also fun, engaging and allows them to show off their talents."

Among the many prestigious awards his work has earned him is the Barlow International Prize for Orchestral Music, which affords recipients a generous commission to create a major new work for string quartet. In 2006, he received the highly competitive Pi Kappa Lambda composer commission, leading to the debut of his composition "Bushwhacked!" at the society's national conference.

Phillips has collaborated with such artists as Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra; Richard Stoltzman, an esteemed classical clarinetist; and the world-renowned Lark Quartet, former artists in residence at Ohio University. For Ohio University's bicentennial celebration in 2004, the university commissioned him to compose the score for the "Turning Two Hundred" multimedia presentation.

Describing the Distinguished Professor Award as an immensely gratifying honor that he shares with the School of Music, Phillips said, "It is quite a thrill to be honored. I wouldn't be as successful as I am without the support of my colleagues from the School of Music and their performances and inspiration."

College of Fine Arts Dean Chuck McWeeny said Phillips is a tremendous asset to the college and the university community. A composer and intellect of his caliber enhances the experiences of all around him, he added.

"The arts play an important role in the educational, intellectual and social life of the university," he added. "Faculty and students' creative research adds an important dimension to scholarship and other research at the university. It expands everyone's understanding and offers unique perspectives of the human and social condition."

Asked why it is important for him to teach, Phillips pointed to the rewards of being exposed to his students' perspectives and guiding them through the challenges they face.

"It's incredibly enjoyable to give growth to students by helping to open doors, not only professionally, but also through knowledge," he said. "It's important to give back to the culture and society that has given me so much."

Phillips is on leave this quarter to complete a composition to be performed by the Ohio University Wind Ensemble at May's Washington D.C. Band and Orchestra Festival at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The piece -- tentatively titled "Color Code This!" -- is inspired by current political affairs and the Department of Homeland Security's terror threat color-coding system. It contains, he said, "elements of a bombastic military cacophony mixed with a cheerful groove."

Another activity during his quarter of leave, which Distinguished Professors receive to further their work, was a recent trip to Paris, where he attended the performance of his work "Ménage à trois" and toured a state-of-the-art music research center.

The Distinguished Professor Award, which recognizes faculty members' research and additional contributions to their fields, is made possible by an endowment created by the late Edwin and Ruth Kennedy. The endowment also funds the university's Kennedy Lecture Series and the Kennedy Museum of Art.

The university has named 47 Distinguished Professors since the award was first given in 1959. Nominations are reviewed each year by a group of Distinguished Professors, who make a final recommendation to the university president.

Ken Holroyd, chair of the Distinguished Professors for 2006-07, said it was a pleasure to recognize an Ohio University composer who has demonstrated such creativity in so many musical forms.
"His compositions are recognized by contemporary composers and scholars of contemporary music for their high level of craftsmanship, technical mastery and intellectual depth," Holroyd said when Phillips' award was announced last June. "They also are enjoyed by listeners ranging from the musical professional to relatively 'unmusical' listeners like myself as engaging, emotionally moving, frequently surprising and fun musical experiences."
Phillips, who grew up in Parkersburg, W.Va., joined the Ohio University faculty in 1984 and was a Presidential Research Scholar from 1999 through 2004. He earned a bachelor's degree in music from West Virginia University and master's and doctoral degrees in music from Indiana University.
Founders Day honors Ohio University's rich history, celebrates the contributions of today's outstanding students and faculty, and looks ahead to a vibrant future. The day's events, which also include a 10 a.m. convocation in Baker University Center Ballroom and 11 a.m. reception in the fourth-floor atrium, are free and open to all.



Related Links
Founders Day a cause for celebration http://www.ohio.edu/outlook/07-08/February/326.cfm 

Published: Feb 13, 2008 3:41 PM  

Mark Phillips in Paris
Distinguished Professor Mark Phillips shared a photo from a recent trip to Paris.  


Photo provided by Mark Phillips  

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