November 5th: The Forerunner

5 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Eric Funk

Instrument: Composer, Conductor, piano

Student of Tomas Svoboda

B.A.Music, B.A. Arts and Letters-1972  M.A.1978 Portland State University

Putting Music Forward

Eric Funk was born in Deer Lodge. Montana.  He has composed 118 major works, including nine symphonies, four operas, sixteen concerti, five string quartets, numerous large and small choral works and chamber works.  He has received the 2002 Governor’s Award for the Arts, the  2010 Innovation in the Arts Award, and the 2011 Humanities Hero Award. Before the Lincoln Hall era,  before the music department even offered a Bachelor of Music degree, much less the 13 different undergraduate and graduate degrees it currently boasts – back when it was just  a handful of faculty and a small group of students, Eric Funk learned his craft at Portland State University.

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Putting Skills to Work

Eric Funk is currently on the faculty at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where he was awarded the 2007 President’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and the 2009 Distinguished Service Award/University Honors Program. He teaches for the University Honors College, College of Letters and Science, and for the music department [composition, orchestration]. From 1994-2002, he was music director and conductor of the Helena Symphony Orchestra in Helena, Montana. From 1994-1999, he was co-founder and conductor of the Gallatin Chamber Orchestra in Bozeman, Montana. He currently serves as music/artistic director for the Big Sky Classical Music Festival.

Eric Funk’s  music has been recorded by the Warsaw Philharmonic, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Moyzes String Quartet; and, Elizabeth Croy, soprano, with the Meritage String Quartet.   His music has been performed twice at Carnegie Hall and he has been featured on NPR [Performance Today, Morning Edition], CBS-TV [Sunday Mor.ning – Charles Osgood, resulting from a front page feature story in the Arts & Leisure Section of the New York Times.

His pentalogy “BEYOND TIME” involves his “Symphony No 6, Op 88 “Apocalypse-Phoenix Rising” [2000], “The Sojourner’s Eye, Op 102” [2002], Symphony No 7, Op. 105 “Time” [2006], Symphony No 8, Op 108 “And Humankind Departed”, and Symphony No 9, Op 111 “Time Bridge to Beyond Time”. These five works share the central theme: ‘human life on earth’.   Recent works include his composition written for and dedicated to Hungarian violin virtuoso, Vilmos Olah,: “Vili: Concerto for the Violin Alone, Op 109” and The Old Masters, a triple string quartet featuring New York’s Cassatt String Quartet.

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Adding Something Unique

What does a prolific composer do when he is not creating modern masterworks?  He moonlights playing jazz piano of course.  You might catch Eric performing at the Jazz Montana Festival, or leading his self-described “poly-stylistic jazz quartet” Backburner.  He also serves as artistic director and host for Montana PBS-TV “11th & Grant with Eric Funk”, an Emmy Award winning showcase for Montana musicians of all genres, now in its 6th season.

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What Did PSU Music Mean to You?

“My training at PSU was phenomenal due to the incredible faculty and visiting artists with whom I worked while I was a student there.  The School of Music has always been forward looking, evidenced in the opportunities made available to us in the classroom, the performance ensembles, and seminars.  From 1967-1972 and, during my graduate work in 1977-78, composers Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Morton Feldman,  Sandor Veress [with whom I studied privately] and Aaron Copland all were made available to us.  Dr William P. Stalnaker, then music department chair, facilitated many phenomenal events, partially in connection with his co-founding Chamber Music Northwest with famed violinist Sergiu Luca.  In addition, many touring performing artists and ensembles performed in Lincoln Hall through his having facilitated their being available to us as young aspiring musicians including the Harbison String Quartet, Robert Guralnik, Ruth Laredo, and a host of others I can’t now recall. It was Bill Stalnaker who counseled me to approach Krzysztof Penderecki for private study after I completed my undergraduate degree, resulting in my seeking him out and working with him in New Haven at the Yale University
campus in 1973.  My private study with Tomas Svoboda afforded me a truly powerful foundation in composition and orchestration, our resulting friendship leading to numerous collaborations including The Contemporary Music Ensemble, The Composers’ Ensemble, two co-composed works, performances, master classes and tours throughout the Northwest. Later, Tomas and I shared an office at PSU when I was first working as a teaching assistant during my grad study and continuing when I was hired as an adjunct faculty member to teach music theory and other courses.”


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