Larry Markiewicz, one of the newest ducks on campus, is the new Stevens orchestra conductor. He began taking trumpet lessons from, a young age and later became a trombonist. Larry’s early love of music propelled him towards earning a degree in Music Education at The College of New Jersey, which got him interested in conducting and performing. He taught in public schools for 21 years while also continuing his career as a conductor. Larry recently finished his Master’s degree at Montclair State University, and he is currently pursuing a doctorate at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in Orchestral Conducting.
“I think I knew right from the beginning,” Larry says of knowing that music was what he wanted to pursue professionally. Within his first year of taking music lessons, he was sure music was the career path for him.
When discussing his approach to conducting and choosing music for a group of musicians, Larry says that “every group is different” and that he “pick[s] up on needs of orchestra.” He adds that the “common denominator is that it [orchestra] has to be fun,” regardless of if he is working with kids or with professionals. He plans to have each of the orchestra concerts to have a certain theme—the fall concert theme is opera music. Moreover, he plans to feature student soloists, as well as any composers on campus.
Music, no matter your major, is still a hobby one can pursue despite other life goals and career aspirations. College students are in the in-between area—they are not children, and oftentimes are not professional musicians. “I enjoy working with that type of musician more than any other,” Larry says. “College students, especially those who are not music majors, have the passion for what they do. They want to be here. I think there is a fresh energy to the group.” Though rehearsals occur at night, playing music is not only a way of expressing oneself, but it is also a huge stress-reliever. The way in which one approaches a core class in comparison to a fun extracurricular is quite different. Playing with a talented group of musicians is fun—there are no tests, and there is a concert to celebrate a semester’s worth of beautiful music.
Larry is happy being a conductor at Stevens and hopes to keep the Stevens Orchestra growing. When asked if he has a favorite piece to play, he admits that it changes, but when it comes to composers, his number one is Gustav Mahler. Mahler’s “way of expressing himself and creating emotions you cannot put into words,” Larry explains. “When you play or conduct Mahler’s music, there is nothing else going on except for that. There is no distraction. It is so intense that you have to give it your full being, and you almost forget time and space. That’s why I love the intensity [of Mahler’s music].”
Even at a tech school, there can be a place for musicians to practice their craft. Academics are important, but it is also important to remember the other skills at which one can excel. Larry adds, “In today’s world, [employers] are looking for people to have more than just an academic background. I think the arts are a great way to express yourself.” It is also no coincidence that some of the greatest musicians and composers have been math and technology minded. Modest Mussorgsky, a Russian composer, was also tech-minded. He was a scientist, as well as an accomplished musician. Music, which is quite numerically-based—think fractions when comparing a quarter note to a thirty-second note, utilizes some of the same brain functions as when doing math. Music and STEM and that kind of logic and creativity mixing together make the two go hand-in-hand.