Soloist Spotlight: Mira Magrill

When Mira Magrill was in the fifth grade, she found a wooden fife in a small box in her bedroom closet. Although all of the people in her family were musicians, no one knew its origin and none could produce a sound on the instrument. Mira not only was able to play the fife, she showcased her burgeoning talent in that year's school talent show, performing "My Heart Will Go On."

In the state of Oklahoma, there is a test that acts as a "sorting hat" for students entering the band program. Those hoping to play the perennially popular flute or drums had to score in the 90th percentile in order to qualify - as a result of Mira's musical background (piano since the age of five and the auspicious fife, undoubtedly), she was sorted into the instrument of her choice and thus began her flute career.

She earned degrees at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan, a performance certificate at the University of Southern California, and recently completed her doctorate of musical arts at SUNY Stony Brook last May. As a graduation present, her father, Dr. Samuel Magrill, wrote her a piece called Concerto fantastique, which Dr. Mira Magrill will be premiering with The Chelsea Symphony Friday, April 21, at 8:30pm.

Sam is a "rather contrapuntal" person, one with many strands (mostly related to music). While growing up in California, he started on piano and took to it quickly and with vigor. At the encouragement of his piano teacher, he began writing music and arranged the Beethoven "Pathetique" Sonata for his eighth grade orchestra. Sam enlisted the help of his family to create the handwritten parts and remembers fondly, "it was wonderful to hear them play." He went to Oberlin to study music and chemistry and then received his postgraduate degrees (MM, DMA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A passion for contemporary music combined with a doctoral field of study in vocal accompanying led him to seek out people with whom he could play Schöenberg. A woman named Pamela Richman agreed to work on Das Buch der hängenden Gärten with him and from this musical beginning, they later married and had two daughters, Talia and Mira.

Mira remembers music as a constant in her childhood: green rooms at chamber music recitals, performing in her father's operas with her sister, running around backstage, at people's houses during her parents' rehearsals, or falling asleep to the sound of her father's piano playing. Sam began teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma in 1988 and has grown the program as both professor of composition and theory and graduate coordinator. As a performer with a foundation in collaborative piano, over time he became very familiar with the body of existing repertoire. As a composer, he realized he could write pieces that retained a collaborative aspect but allowed for opportunities to play new works - fresh sounds with the added benefit of then being able to hear music written from his own voice.

The seeds of Concerto fantastique were planted when Sam heard Mira perform Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at Tanglewood last summer. Mira had been asking him to write her a piece but when the idea of Mira's TCS concerto was introduced, he knew it was an opportune moment. "You have to be really very good with counterpoint to make time for writing," he noted of composing with his busy schedule. The piece is steeped in the French style as an homage, paying respect to an existing body of music while doing something different. What started as an expressive melody became the second movement; harmonies inspired by the Stravinsky completed the tonal landscape. The third movement evokes Brahms, specifically the third movement of the Second Symphony, with a jazz influence. But the piece as a whole is an extraordinary musical gift from a father to his daughter. "When you know you have a soloist who can do anything, you can experiment with more complex things," Sam noted, "it's 'Magrill unbound.'"

TCS is thrilled to present the two Drs. Magrill, unbound, in this exciting world premiere of Concerto fantastique - don't miss this one-night only performance on Friday, April 21, at 8:30pm!