Meet the Dean

Muhl-Erica_crop-180x240.jpg Major critics have praised Erica Muhl's music, describing it as "strong and poetic," "ravishingly beautiful," "haunting," even "fearless." Paul Hertelendy, one of America's most esteemed writers on music, wrote, "Muhl has a fine ear and an iridescent palette...[Her work] is a contemporary foray into impressionism, mysticism, veiled allure and the shimmering colors of a concert orchestra." Muhl's works have been commissioned, performed, and broadcast by such organizations as Minnesota Opera, New World Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Italy's Orchestra della RAI, Venezuela's National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Arditti Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mexican National Television, Middle German Radio, and Radio-Televisione Italiana. Her music has been featured at national and international festivals and competitions, including the Aspen Festival, the Ernest Bloch Festival, the International Festival of New Music in Caracas, the International Forum of New Music in Mexico City, the Festivale Nuovi Spazi in Rome, and the International Percussion Competition in Luxembourg. She has received grants and awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts and Opera America, and was the recipient of the prestigious Whitaker Commissioning Prize. She has been awarded residencies and fellowships from -- among others -- Italy's Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Charles Ives Center for American Music, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, the Cultural Ministry of Venezuela, and the State of Saxony, Germany.

Recent premieres have included the concert opener for large orchestra, Smoke and Mirrors, conducted in Los Angeles by Memphis Symphony's new Music Director, Mei-Ann Chen; the celebration fanfare, Burn the Box, commissioned by the University of Southern California to commemorate the inauguration of President C.L. Max Nikias; and the introspective Elegie für Streicher (Elegy for Strings), commissioned in conjunction with the state of Saxony, Germany, and the cities of Berlin and Dresden to commemorate the anniversary of Kristallnacht. 2011 brought the European premiere of her duo for flute and piano, An American Suite, and 2012 the world premiere of the wind symphony version of Smoke and Mirrors, conducted by the legendary H. Robert Reynolds. In 2013, a commissioned orchestration of Wagner's musical love letter to Mathilde Wesendonck, the Piano Sonata in A-flat (Eine Sonate für das Album von Frau M.W.), will accompany the gala opening of a new wing of the Wagner Museum in Dresden, Germany.

Muhl was born and raised in Los Angeles, where her father, Edward, was head of production for Universal Pictures and her mother, Barbara, an author and opera singer. Muhl was trained both as a composer and conductor, with much of that training completed in Europe. At age sixteen she was invited to study with renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Paris. After returning to California to earn her Bachelor of Music, she traveled again to Europe for graduate studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, studying with prominent Italian composer Franco Donatoni. In 1991 she completed her D.M.A. at the University of Southern California. Along with Boulanger and Donatoni, her primary teachers in composition were Aurelio de la Vega and Daniel Kessner. She also credits as primary mentors composers Joan Tower, Bernard Rands, and Chinary Ung. In conducting, she worked with Walter Cataldi-Tassoni, long-time conductor and stage director for Rome Opera and himself a student of Mascagni, and the legendary Fritz Zweig, a student of Humperdinck and a close colleague of Richard Strauss and Otto Klemperer.

Muhl has served as Assistant Conductor for Los Angeles Opera Theater, Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival's complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. She has regularly conducted her own works, including the recording of Consolation with Cleveland Chamber Symphony contained on her CD Range of Light (Albany Records, 2004). She is also a noted speaker on classical and contemporary classical music, having regularly presented talks for such organizations as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, and the New York Philharmonic, as well as colleges, universities, and concert series throughout the U.S.

Erica Muhl is Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.

Erica Muhl USC Service