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December 16, 2020

Alumni Spotlights

As part of our ongoing commitment to connect our alumni community we are launching this Alumni Spotlight column.

In every quarterly issue of this new Alumni Newsletter I will select three MSM alums and ask them to share with us their journeys and insights.

In this issue:


Dr. Justin Bischof, Chair
Alumni Council

A Q&A with Alexandre Moutouzkine

Alexandre Moutouzkine has won top prizes in more than 20 international competitions, including the Naumburg, Cleveland, Montreal, New Orleans, Shanghai, Iturbi (Valencia), Maria Canals (Barcelona) and Arthur Rubinstein (Tel Aviv). In recognition of his early participation in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Competition, where he won the Special Award for Artistic Potential at age 19, the Dallas Morning News stated that Mr. Moutouzkine “played Brahms’ Op. 117 Intermezzi more beautifully, more movingly, than I’ve ever heard them. At once sad, tender and noble, this was playing of heart-stopping intimacy and elegance.” Since then he has appeared as soloist with Berliner Philharmoniker, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra of the Czech Republic, Israel Philharmonic, Natonal Orchestras of Cuba, Panama, Colombia, Montreal and Cleveland Symphony Orchestras, Radiotelevision Orchestra of Spain, among many other orchestras around the world. He performed at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center in Washington and Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Tel-Aviv’s Mann Auditorium, London’s Wigmore Hall and Royal Hall, Great Hall of Berlin Philharmonic, Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, National Centers of Toronto and Montreal, Japanese Yokohoma Minato Mirai Hall, Shanghai, Beijing, Saint-Petersburg, and Moscow. Most recently Mr. Moutouzkine received an Artist of the Season Award from Chamber Music International in Dallas, his “Steinway & Sons” recording was included in top 10 classical music recordings of 2017 by WRTI, another CD received the Cubadisco 2017 award for the best classical music recording in Cuba. He also received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Manhattan School of Music, where he was appointed its faculty member in September 2013.

Alex, please share with us a treasured MSM memory.

There have been so many treasured memories throughout all my years at Manhattan School of Music and, frankly, I feel quite lost trying to navigate through them. One of my most special moments was certainly my first day at MSM, my audition day. Having arrived at JFK just the night before, I was heading all the way from Brighton Beach to Upper West Side on a beautiful morning. At the end of a one-hour subway ride, I learned that I had taken the wrong train (2 instead of 1) and found myself in Harlem. Asking for directions in broken English and following the hand gestures of friendly passers-by, I had to sprint my way out of Harlem with nothing short of a personal jogging record as I was already quite late to the pre-audition lesson with my teacher to be. The grandness of Neidorff-Karpati auditorium was just breathtaking. Even being on the stage of Stern Auditorium a few years later did not make as much of an impression as I had that day. One of the fondest memories of that day is definitely the voice and unbelievably welcoming friendliness of the gentleman who greeted me on stage as I was approaching the piano. Later I learned it was Marc Silverman. His few words were so full of support and encouragement that it literally turned my world upside down and all the stage fright converted into radiance.

What advice do you have for your fellow alums during these challenging times?

To my fellow Alumni I would like to send my most heartfelt words of encouragement. As we approach almost a year of the new order, live performances are rare and all of us are often busier adapting rather than focusing on our art. Some of the greatest creations and ideas were born in times of challenge and a peripheral vision might bring us more inspiration and joy rather than a premeditated focus.

A Q&A with Charlene Huang

Charlene Huang
Born and raised in Colorado, Charlene Huang received her violin degree from Manhattan School of Music and moved to LA in 2004 to work in music production for world-renowned film composer Hans Zimmer. She considers herself to be a hybrid of studio musician and music executive in the entertainment business. During her tenure as Director of Music at DreamWorks Animation, she worked on 19 films, including popular film franchises such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and How To Train Your Dragon. Currently, she oversees music production on animated features and series at Netflix, with the latest feature, Over the Moon, launching this past October. As a violinist, she has played in over 300 shows spanning all genres, toured and performed at major venues across the U.S., and performed and recorded on film and television scores and with notable artists such as Dr. Dre, Adele, Pharrell, Guster, Fun., WuTang Clan, and The Used. Over the years, mentoring has also been an important part of Charlene’s journey, sharing knowledge and insights from her various music industry experience with the next generation of emerging talent.

Charlene, please share with us a treasured MSM memory.

It’s hard to single out one treasured memory I have of MSM so I’d like to pay homage to my teacher Burton Kaplan and our studio class, TACTUS, playing under the baton of guest conductor JoAnn Falletta, Dr. Noon’s Stravinsky class, sight singing with Justin Bischof, theory with Reiko Füting, humanities with John Pagano, orchestral rep with Enrico DiCecco, jazz orch with Justin DiCioccio, doing homework in the library, chats with Monica at the security desk, time spent at Toast, Soundz, and going to Zs shows, living through 9/11 during the first few weeks of school and witnessing the resilience of NYC in the months & years after, and of course, the lifelong friends and bonds I made at MSM.

What advice do you have for your fellow alums during these challenging times?

Advice I would give to fellow alums during these challenging times: Give yourself a pass. Acknowledge yourself for doing the very best you know how during quite possibly the most challenging time of our lives. Set your intentions for how you would like to pivot. Make new goals. Remember WHY you love music and let the essence and energy of what the answer is be your North Star, trusting and allowing the light to guide you out of the dark.

A Q&A with Maxine Thevenot

Maxine Thevenot
Maxine Thevenot (MM 2001, DMA 2006) completed her DMA thesis after moving to the ‘Land of Enchantment’, and now calls New Mexico home. Her career as a concert organist has taken her across North America, the UK, and Europe, performing on some of the world’s most cherished and beloved pipe organs. As Director of Cathedral Music & Organist at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico, she oversees a community outreach concert series, now in its 26th season, and a well-respected choral program with over 60 singers. Under her direction, the Cathedral Choirs have toured nationally and internationally, and had singing residencies at venues including Westminster Abbey, Washington National Cathedral, and Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue.

Dr. Thevenot is an adjunct faculty member at the University of New Mexico. There, she teaches pipe organ to all interested students and previously served for 15 years as the director of the University Women’s Choir-Las Cantantes. With her entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit, she is Founding and Artistic Director of New Mexico’s first resident professional vocal ensemble, Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico, now in its 14th season.

In demand as a chorus master, Maxine Thevenot has prepared choruses for the New Mexico Philharmonic, the Santa Fe Concert Association (now Performance Santa Fe), Santa Fe Pro Musica, and Chatter Contemporary Ensemble in major works by Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Cherubini, and Bach, and has conducted the New Mexico Symphony in Bach’s St. John’s Passion. As conductor and organist, she has given many first performances and commissioned several prominent living composers including Philip Moore, Andrew Carter, Stephen Paulus, Cecilia McDowall, Aaron David Miller (MSM Alum), Jenny Olivia Johnson (MSM alum), and Tarik O’Regan.

Since moving from New York City, Maxine has made 16 commercially-released recordings for the Raven CD label. These include solo recitals on organs in Canada and the USA and choral recordings with all of her ensembles.

Maxine, please share with us a treasured MSM memory.

If I hadn’t had the opportunity to study at MSM as a scholarship student with my principal teacher, McNeil Robinson, I suspect my life would look quite different now. My life continues to be enriched by the colleagues – fellow students, professors, and working musicians in NYC – whom I met during my years at MSM. Attending MSM permitted me opportunities I could never have anticipated, such as the chance to perform on the same stage as the inimitable Renée Fleming and Dmitry Sitkovetsky. I am truly grateful for those 6 years of study with great mentors and teachers in one of the greatest cultural cities in the world.

What advice do you have for your fellow alums during these challenging times?

This COVID time enforces a period of self-evaluation about what one’s true passions are and what truly offers you comfort and solace. Live in those moments. Draw from your positive childhood experiences and your inner joy and love of music to comfort, heal, and find grace. May that grace lead you, and those you inspire, to find and hold on to hope.

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