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Tuesday, September 27, 2022 — Houston, TX

McMurtry master wins award for 15,000

By Cindy Dinh     3/10/11 6:00pm

The Thresher sat down with Composition and Theory Professor Karim Al- Zand, who was one of four composers to receive the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for $15,000 in music. These national awards are given annually to artists, writers, composers and architects. Al-Zand, a McMurtry College master, will apply half of his award toward a recording project for a

piece that he composed.Rice Thresher: Tell me how you heard about this award.

Karim Al-Zand: In December, I got a letter from the Academy saying I'd been nominated . You send in a portfolio where a committee reviews it. I tried to send in a good representative sample of what I do.

RT: Can you describe the type of music you do?

KA: I write concert music, or what some people say "classical" music. It's basically the music you listen to in a

concert hall or on stage. I write string

quartets, pieces for orchestra, chorale

pieces, some for voice and piano.

RT: How long have you composed music for?

KA: Since high school.

RT: How does this award differ from others you've received?

KA: It may be more prestigious than other awards I've received, since it's a national award. From my understanding, members of the academy, sort of luminaries of the field, nominate you. There aren't a lot of big monetary awards in music, so it's relatively sizeable.

RT: Does it carry monetary value?

KA: It's a monetary award and money for a recording project. That's kind of nice, since recording can be expensive (and hiring players, studio time, etc.) Recording the kind of music I do, [since it is] not commercial music, the return on investment is not that huge.

RT: Would you prefer performing or composing music?

KA: I definitely prefer composing. I mean, I can perform, but it's not my strength.

RT: When you're performing, what's your instrument of choice?

KA: My main instrument is piano. One of the challenges of a composer is that you write for a lot of instruments

you don't actually play.RT: So how do you write for an instrument that you don't play?

KA: You know a little bit about the instrument itself - its physical properties, its range, what it does well . listen to a lot of music written for that instrument . talk to people who play the instrument. Sometimes you can learn enough

to play the instrument, not very well, but enough to know what's possible.

RT: What does the award mean to you?

KA: It's encouragement. It's always nice to be recognized professionally. I spend a lot of time teaching, so when you get some measure of success as a composer . it's satisfying.

RT: Do your other roles on campus influence your composition writing? [i.e., as a McMurtry master]

KA: It may be too early to tell. I have written a piece for McMurtry, a fanfare for the McMurtry Dedication. Everything in life gets in there somehow.

Who knows? There may be a McMurtry symphony in me.

RT: Describe the music you compose in one or two words.

KA: Colorful. I hope it's entertaining, edifying, enjoyable.

RT: Favorite musical piece?

KA: Bach's Goldberg Variations.

RT: From where do you draw your inspiration to compose?

KA: A lot of my pieces are inspired by extra-musical things like art, dance and literary sources.

RT: Finish this sentence. When I'm not in the Shepherd School, I'm ___.

KA: I'm at McMurtry. Usually I compose in my office at the Shepherd School just because there's so much going on here.

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