Arts and Humanities

'A match made in music heaven'

Maria Schneider, a celebrated composer and trailblazing music advocate, has been appointed artistic director of the Frost School of Music’s Henry Mancini Institute.
Maria Schneider
Photo courtesy of Maria Schneider

The highly versatile and widely acclaimed composer Maria Schneider, one of just a few musicians to win Grammys in multiple genres, has been named artistic director of the Frost School of Music’s Henry Mancini Institute for aspiring musicians.

Schneider, who has won five Grammys for jazz and classical projects and was named a 2019 NEA Jazz Master, will be in a school-wide, genre-crossing and blending residency for a week both this spring and this fall, and again in spring of 2020.

“This is truly a match made in music heaven,” Frost School Dean Shelton G. “Shelly” Berg said in welcoming Schneider, who attended the Frost School in 1983, back to UM. “Not only is Maria a multi-Grammy winner, NEA Master, and one of the most  celebrated composers of our time, she is also a trailblazing advocatefor music industry rights and education. We look forward to the brilliance she will bring to our school and students.”

“What an extraordinary opportunity for our HMI fellows,” added Stephen James Guerra Jr., managing director of the Henry Mancini Institute (HMI), which offers emerging artists unique performance, composing, and arranging opportunities. “Her unparalleled understanding of music from many genres including jazz, Latin American, and contemporary classical, is a perfect fit for the mission and goals of HMI. Maria’s perspective on performance, composition, and career building will provide our students with extremely unique and enriching experiences that will better prepare them for their own professional endeavors.”

Calling the HMI, which encompasses a full orchestra, a big band, and multiple, smaller chamber ensembles, “a most powerful and rare opportunity” for young musicians, Schneider said she is thrilled at the chance to help “create fertile ground to inspire young writers and players to think boldly, to search for the most expressive and create possibilities they can find, and to use this tremendous opportunity to discover potential and gather skills that they can build on for a lifetime.”  

Schneider, whose genre-blurring music has been hailed by critics as “evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization,” became widely known after the 1994 release of The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra’s first recording, Evanescence. In it, Schneider began to develop her personal way of writing for what would become her 18-member collective, made up of many of the finest musicians in jazz today. She tailored her compositions to highlight the uniquely creative voices of the group, which has performed at festivals and concert halls worldwide.

A strong voice for music advocacy, Schneider testified before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property in 2014 about digital rights. Most recently, she and concerned colleagues in New York launched a widespread campaign on behalf of music-makers,  

In addition to 11 Grammy nominations, and five wins for Best Instrumental Composition, two Best Large Jazz Ensembles, Best Instrumental Composition,  Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals, Schneider has received numerous commissions and guest-conducting invitations, working with more than 85 groups from over 30 countries. Her long list of commissioners is quite varied, ranging from Jazz at Lincoln Center, to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, to a Grammy-winning collaboration with David Bowie.

Another of Schneider’s hallmarks is how she secures unique funding for her projects, through the trend-setting company, ArtistShare. Her album, Concert in the Garden (2004), was the first recording to win a Grammy with internet-only sales; even more significantly, it blazed the “crowd-funding” trail as ArtistShare’s first releases.

Over her career, Schneider has received numerous honors from the Jazz Journalists Association and Downbeat and Jazztimes Critics and Readers Polls. In 2014, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers awarded her its esteemed Concert Music Award. 

Founded as a Los Angeles-based summer music academy in 1996, the Henry Mancini Institute moved to the Frost School after Berg became dean in 2008 and, with the Frost faculty, began transforming the original concept into a broader musical training resource for graduate music students.

All HMI ensembles are comprised of student-musicianswho play a multitude of musical styles, including classical, jazz, Latin, world music, and others. The HMI Orchestra, the resident orchestra for the popular JazzRoots concert series at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, has been featured in many other notable projects, including live-to-picture concerts of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and music from the TV series House of Cards.

HMI ensembles also have been featured on numerous television specials for PBS, notably “Gloria Estefan: The Standards,” and audio CDs and DVDs “Jazz and the Philharmonic,” and “An Evening with Dave Grusin.” The HMI Big Band has appeared on major recordings, including George Benson’s “Inspiration (a Tribute to Nat Cole.)”