‘A Very Rare and Un­usual Tal­ent’

Teen’s Mu­sic Strikes Emo­tional Chords Be­yond His Years

The Washington Post - - Front Page - By Kather­ine Shaver

Ev­ery Satur­day at 3:30 a.m., the Maican fam­ily pulls out of its Bethesda drive­way and heads to New York City. When they ar­rive at Lin­coln Cen­ter, Va­ler­ica and Mar­cel Maican feed the park­ing me­ters for 11 hours while their son takes private lessons and at­tends classes at the pres­ti­gious Juil­liard School. They re­turn home about mid­night, af­ter nearly 24 hours on the road and an ad­di­tional 490 miles on their Honda mini­van.

They have made the gru­el­ing trip for six years and have few com­plaints. For Tu­dor Dominik Maican and his par­ents, it is sim­ply the path to be­com­ing a great com­poser.

At 17, the Win­ston Churchill High School se­nior has writ­ten six sym­phonies, five cham­ber mu­sic pieces, nine pieces for stringed in­stru­ments, nine pi­ano com­po­si­tions, two works for brass en­sem­bles and four songs for chil­dren’s choirs. He has re­ceived com­mis­sions of $5,000 for his work.

A Mass he re­cently com­posed for an Ortho­dox Chris­tian church in Po­tomac is so com­plex that the church must bring in a big­ger choir. Dum­bar­ton Con­certs, a cham­ber mu­sic se­ries in Ge­orge­town, made him its youngest com­poser in res­i­dence. A Wash­ing­ton Post critic de­scribed a 15-minute pi­ano piece Maican wrote as hav­ing “a melan­cholic and lyri­cal sound that comes right out of Chopin and De­bussy.”

Al­though tal­ented child mu­si­cians are not un­usual, Maican’s teach­ers say only a few young com­posers are con­sid­ered truly gifted. A 14-year-old Con­necti­cut boy is also re­ceiv­ing na­tional at­ten­tion for his sym­phonies, in­clud­ing one re­cently recorded by the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra. In Juil­liard’s pre-col­lege di­vi­sion, where alumni in­clude Yo-Yo Ma and teach­ers see no short­age of ap­ti­tude, Maican’s mu­sic is turn­ing heads.

“Ev­ery few years one per­son stands out above the rest,” said Ira Taxin, Maican’s com­po­si­tion teacher, who has worked with Juil­liard stu­dents for 25 years. “Dominik is a very rare and un­usual tal­ent.”

“He’s prob­a­bly the most re­mark­able young man I’ve come across,” said Olegna Fuschi, a Juil­liard pi­ano teacher for 26 years.

Such com­ments make Maican want to change the sub­ject. He’s not one for wun­derkind talk. His high school friends know he com­poses, he said, but he doesn’t tell them about the more than 50 na­tional and in­ter­na­tional awards on his five-page cur­ricu­lum vi­tae.

“It’s too much at­ten­tion,” he said. “I just don’t like the, ‘Oh my God, he’s a com­poser, uh-oh.’ ”

His in­tense but aw-shucks de­meanor is prone to un­der­state­ment. He de­scribed his Ad­vanced Place­ment mu­sic the­ory class at Churchill as “a lit­tle slow.” So why take it? “I need my arts credit.”

As Con­nie Zim­mer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Dum­bar­ton Con­certs, said, “I don’t think he re­al­izes how tal­ented he is.”

To be sure, Maican’s teach­ers say, the teenager needs more ex­pe­ri­ence writ­ing for full orches­tras. He must fine-tune his own style, they say, and learn to main­tain a con­sis­tent one through­out his pieces — both chal­leng­ing for even vet­eran com­posers. As with any young tal­ent, there re­mains the ques­tion of whether he will con­tinue his me­te­oric rise or flame out.

Maican’s teach­ers and fans say he seems en­er­gized by his mu­sic with­out be­ing swal­lowed by his suc­cess. Most strik­ing, they say, is the emo­tional depth of his work that res­onates with au­di­ences and be­lies his age.

Af­ter three decades with Dum­bar­ton Con­certs, Zim­mer is used to hear­ing, “You have to hear this kid’s mu­sic.” When she popped in a CD a friend had given her of then-15-yearold Maican’s com­po­si­tions, she ex­pected the kind of tech­ni­cally sound but un­in­ter­est­ing mu­sic she usu­ally hears from young com­posers.

In­stead, she said, “I was blown away. I was so sur­prised by how ma­ture it was. It was beau­ti­fully struc­tured and dra­matic. It didn’t make sense to me that such beau­ti­ful mu­sic came from this kid.”

Zim­mer said that most young com­posers lack the life ex­pe­ri­ence to make in­ter­est­ing mu­sic but that Maican’s is “dra­matic” and “soul­ful.”

“Where does that soul­ful­ness come from?” Zim­mer said. “How does a kid who’s never had his heart bro­ken have that po­etry and soul to the mu­sic?”

Ask Maican and he says his com­po­si­tions sim­ply re­flect melodies in his head and a pas­sion for mu­sic. Any bro­ken­hearted in­spi­ra­tion? “Not yet,” he said.

Born on Beethoven’s birth­day, he be­gan pi­ano lessons with his mother when he was 3. He wrote his first songs — a col­lec­tion about ele­phants, mon­keys and other an­i­mals he’d seen at the Na­tional Zoo — in first grade. His par­ents said their only child soon be­came ob­sessed. He asked to leave birth­day par­ties and soc­cer games early. “I have to fin­ish my sym­phony,” he would say in a child­ish voice, us­ing “sym­phony” for any piece of mu­sic. He spent three to four hours a day com­pos­ing.

“I’d try to drag him out to do sports,” Mar­cel Maican said. “I thought: ‘He’s a boy. He should be out there. This is too long for him [at the pi­ano] at his age.’ ”

Dominik Maican grew up sur­rounded by mu­sic, in a home with four pi­anos. His mother, a prom­i­nent Ro­ma­nian com­poser, teaches pi­ano lessons. His fa­ther plays trom­bone and con­ducts orches­tras and jazz bands at three Wash­ing­ton-area schools.

Still, Va­ler­ica Maican said she re­minded her son fre­quently that suc­cess re­quires “1 per­cent tal­ent and 99 per­cent work.” His com­pet­i­tive na­ture took hold, she said. Even as a young boy, he tried to out­play her older stu­dents.

At the pi­ano, Dominik Maican seems to trans­form from a re­served teenager into an earnest ju­nior mu­sic pro­fes­sor. He ex­plained French com­poser Claude De­bussy’s in­flu­ence on him: “I just love his har­monies and ev­ery­thing he writes. They’re im­pres­sion­is­tic and ter­ri­bly French — very trans­par­ent har­monies, noth­ing re­ally con­crete, very scarce on ca­dences.”

He com­poses at the key­board, hum­ming a melody while one hand ex­per­i­ments with dif­fer­ent chords and the other holds a pen­cil with an over­size pink eraser. He pauses only to write new notes or erase oth­ers.

While writ­ing a “sketch” of a sym­phony re­cently, he ex­plained how he com­posed for dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments.

“At this point, I have a re­ally nice melody up here,” he said, be­fore hum­ming and play­ing a few notes.

“But I need a lit­tle jump com­ing off this note. Brass!” he ex­claimed as his fin­gers came down on a rich, full chord.

Melodies come to him in the mid­dle of the night, even on the school bus, he said. He spends at least six hours a day at the pi­ano.

Taxin at Juil­liard said the re­sult is mu­sic that “res­onates with hu­man emo­tion.”

“If you ask me why Beethoven is great, I’d give the same an­swer,” Taxin said. “I’m not com­par­ing Dominik to Beethoven, but the mu­sic trans­lates im­me­di­ately to the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. Dominik has the abil­ity to do that. It’s a gift.”

Com­pet­ing for Maican’s key­board time lately have been school work and col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions. He said he hopes to study mu­sic and science at Har­vard, Yale, Prince­ton, Stan­ford, lives in Alexan­dria, com­mis­sioned one of Maican’s pi­ano pieces when he was 15.

The teenager’s melodies and har­mony “reach your soul,” Ci­colani said.

He said he ex­pects that Maican’s mu­sic will only get more ex­pres­sive as he grows older and en­coun­ters the deep emo­tions and pain that have in­spired the best po­ets and artists.

“You sense that this lad is go­ing some­where with his mu­sic,” Ci­colani said. “He just needs to lose a few girl­friends.” Columbia, Brown or a hand­ful of other top univer­si­ties.

An­gelo Ci­colani, a con­sul­tant who


At 17, Tu­dor Dominik Maican has writ­ten more than 30 works, which he says re­flect his pas­sion for mu­sic.


Tu­dor Dominik Maican, who was born on Beethoven’s birth­day, be­gan pi­ano lessons at 3 and wrote his first songs, a col­lec­tion about an­i­mals at the Na­tional Zoo, in first grade.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.