Marc Mellits





Composer Marc Mellits is one of the leading American composers of his generation, enjoying hundreds of performances throughout the world every year, making him one of the most performed living composers in the United States. From Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, to prestigious music festivals in Europe and the US, Mellits’ music is a constant mainstay on programs throughout the world. His unique musical style is an eclectic combination of driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, and colorful orchestrations that all combine to communicate directly with the listener. Mellits' music is often described as being visceral, making a deep connection with the audience. “This was music as sensual as it was intelligent; I saw audience members swaying, nodding, making little motions with their hands” (New York Press). He started composing very early, and was writing piano music long before he started formal piano lessons at age 6. He went on to study at the Eastman School of Music, Yale School of Music, Cornell University, and Tanglewood. Mellits often is a miniaturist, composing works that are comprised of short, contrasting movements or sections. His music is eclectic, all-encompassing, colourful, and always has a sense of forward motion.

Mellits' music has been played by major ensembles across the globe and he has been commissioned by groups such as the Kronos Quartet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Holland), Duo Assad, Bang On A Can All-Stars, Eliot Fisk, Canadian Brass, Nexus Percussion, Debussy Quartet, Real Quiet, New Music Detroit, Four-In-Correspondence (National Symphony Orchestra), Musique En Roue Libre (France), Fiarì Ensemble (Italy), Percussions Claviers de Lyon (France), Third Coast Percussion, Talujon, the Society for New Music, Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and the Albany Symphony's Dog's Of Desire. Additionally, Mellits’ music has been performed, toured, and/or recorded by members of the Detroit Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Minneapolis Symhony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New Millenium Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, and the American Modern Ensemble, among many others.

On film, Mellits has composed numerous scores, including the PBS mini-series “Beyond The Light Switch” which won a 2012 Dupont-Columbia award, the most prestigious award in documentaries. Mellits also directs and plays keyboards in his own unique ensemble, the Mellits Consort. He was awarded the prestigious 2004 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award. On CD, there are over 50 recorded works of Mellits' music that can be found on Black Box, Endeavour Classics, Cantaloupe, CRI/Emergency Music, Santa Fe New Music, Innova, & Dacia Music. Marc Mellits is an Assistant Professor of music at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters, and spends significant time in Romania.



What does music mean to you personally?

It is everything to me, and an essential requirement for human life, along with oxygen & blood.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

If by fantasy we mean imagination, then yes, I believe that music, as well as all the arts, are a type of realization of the imagination. Having said that, I also believe strongly that the arts are as integral and necessary to human life as breathing. But unlike breathing, writing good music is hard. Writing great music is near impossible.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I have no idea. I never choose to be a musician, I think music is something that chooses us. But if I had the opportunity to choose the talent for something else, then I would have liked it to be painting or cooking. Making art with paint or with food.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

I mostly worry about orchestral music, as this is the area where I see audiences getting older as well as dwindling. I hear less and less new music being written for the orchestra, and this scares me. Chamber music, however, seems to be thriving. Since I primarily write chamber music, I am not worried about my future.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I don’t think the role of classical music, or any music for that matter, will be “transformed” in the future. It can’t. Its purpose is integral to human life and has always remained the same.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

I immediate question what exactly is classical music. I am not sure I know.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Creativity is at the heart of everything I do. Everything. It permeates how I see the world and live my life. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I will never see the world for as it really is. Truth is an illusion, creativity is what is real to me.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

Yes!!! We must! Most importantly for me, is to break down some of the barriers that have come to place that further distance audiences from what we call “classical” music. It is surprising to realize how many people are afraid of classical music, they don’t know what to wear, when to applaud, what to listen for, etc. The truth is, all we need to do is to get to their ears, and if they are uncomfortable in coming into our spaces, then we must go to theirs. I have performed my music in traditional classical concerts halls, then the following evening in art rock clubs. The exact same music, completely different audience, and it works in both spaces. In the end, our mission needs to be to bring art music to the people and let them decide. We may be surprised! What I have noticed is once people hear what is going on in contemporary classical music, they come back for more. Once reason I am fond of whimsical and humorous titles is to help break down austerity and be more inviting to audiences. I cannot possibly change the music I write, but I am able to choose my titles.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you)? How did you start working on it?

I have no idea how to write music. I put pencil to paper, and music happens. I wish I knew what I was doing. As far as a favorite piece, that is a hard question. I like what I write right up to the moment I finish it, then I hate it. After time, I can learn to appreciate it again. If I had to choose, I hate my “Third String Quartet: Tapas” less than I hate other music I have tried to write.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Yes, I could not agree more, I LOVE the combination of different artistic disciplines. For me, choreography and music is mind blowing, and my favorite.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Be open and honest. Do not try to figure music out, let music try and figure you out. In other words, listen and let the music come to you. She will, if you give her a chance.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

I think it is exactly the same as it always has been, no different. Music has always, and always will be, a type of business, and there is nothing wrong with being paid for your art. There is something wrong, however, with expecting art to be free, and therefore music to be free (sheet music, recorded music, performances, composition, all of it).

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

To be capable of hearing, that is all. And if you can’t hear, then you can see and feel.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

As a working composer, I always have upcoming projects, and am full with commissions for the next several years. How this happens still amazes me. As far as experimentation, every composer experiments in every piece, otherwise we are not actually doing anything. --