Maurita Murphy Marx ‘76E

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Maurita Murphy Marx ‘76E

De Witt, IA

A Scholarship with Heart

One of the leading clarinetists in the world, Maurita Murphy Marx ‘76E, recently created a George Eastman Circle Scholarship to support a student at the Eastman School of Music. Marx is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Iowa, but also spends a lot of her time in Brazil. We caught up with Maurita, and learned more about her inspiring story.

What did you study at Eastman, and how did that affect your future career?

Maurita Murphy Marx: I went to the Eastman School of Music to study the clarinet with D. Stanley Hasty. It was my dream. I lived for my lessons with him. Mr. Hasty was so inspiring, full of common sense knowledge about the instrument, and a consummate musician. With all of his experience in playing with many professional orchestras, his musicianship was amazingly special and of the highest sophisticated artistry. Although I pursued a music education degree, my dream was to be a solo clarinetist.  Coupled with Mr. Hasty’s high standards and my driven attitude, the Eastman experience created the foundation and passion for my music career.

We really enjoyed seeing your family farm. You also spend a lot of time in Brazil, too. Tell us about your travels there.

MMM: Around 1995, I was ready to explore some jazz styles of music, with great fear I might add. I decided to ask a Brazilian Doctoral of Musical Arts candidate in piano and jazz, Rafael Dos Santos, to do some kind of recital with me, and he said yes. What I thought would be a combination of romantic style and maybe some light jazz-style music, turned out to be an all jazz-style concert complete with a rhythm section combo.

Two weeks before the recital, Rafael told me that I had the “choro” style in my playing, and would I like to try it? Thinking that I was already out of the plane without a parachute, I said what the heck! I became completely hooked, and my passion for the Brazilian “choro” continues strongly to this day.

During the summer of 1996, Rafael and I recorded our first CD, titled “Over the Fence”. In addition to doing a Brazilian national tour promoting our first CD, I returned in subsequent years to study with the great clarinet performers Nailor Proveta and Paulo Sergio Santos, among others. To Rafael’s great credit, he never used any music. He grew up with this music, and played it by ear. I am so, so grateful for Rafael Dos Santos, as he influenced my life greatly.

As part of a sabbatical leave to teach, perform and study at a music festival in Curitiba, Brazil, Rafael and I recorded our second CD, titled “Red Hot & Brazilian”.  In 2015, my third CD titled “Te Amo Brazil”, was released with virtuosic guitarist, Michele Ramo.

In researching more about the “choro’s” history, I have traveled internationally to give lecture-recitals on the “choro”, mostly performing with guitarists in residence.  This summer, my travels will take me to Sydney, Australia, for a lecture-recital with Australian guitarist Stanley Valacos, as part of the College Music Society International conference on aboriginal music.

You have your own Wikipedia page. That’s impressive!

MMM: Honestly, I don’t know who wrote my Wikipedia page! I guess I need to check it out!

George Eastman grew up on a farm. He loved playing the piano, and obviously was the major force in the creation of the Eastman School and its Theatre. You have generously created a scholarship for the program that carries his name. How important is his legacy?

MMM: Wow. I now feel even more compelled to read the biography about him that you give all new members!  My impression of George Eastman now was his extraordinary dream to provide a very high-level conservatory for virtuosos to pursue and focus solely on their art. I hope it exceeded his expectations, as so many amazing artists and teachers at the Eastman School have been incredible inspirations to many young people. Now it is up to us to share those high standards, dreams and ideals throughout our lives. Knowing also about his vision for Eastman Kodak, one can never come to grips of understanding the vision, creativity, imagination, very high standards and dreaming that he conceived and achieved.

What inspired you to support a George Eastman Circle scholar?

MMM: After learning more about George Eastman Circle Scholarships, it became clear to me that it was my turn to give back.  As I thought more, I remembered my own experience back on our farm outside of Middleton, Wisconsin, on a cold February night in 1972, when the phone rang.  Our family was in the kitchen, and the phone call was for me.  On the other end was Edward Easley (the then-Admissions Director), calling to tell me that I was awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Eastman School.

Earlier on, my dad had told me that I could not attend Eastman School unless I had a full scholarship, and I told him that I understood.  Knowing that I was one of seven Murphy kids, we all understood.

Following the phone call, we ended up crying in the kitchen and feeling so, so grateful for this life-changing opportunity.  It was a dream come true!  In the past 10 years, it has come to pass that part of our Murphy family farm sold, so now I feel able to give to someone like me, who needs the money too. I thought to myself that someone did it for me, so now I can do it for someone.

I’m so gratified to know that my donation does go to an incoming freshman clarinetist upon the recommendation of Clarinet Professor Kenneth Grant (who was a colleague of mine at the Eastman School of Music). It just seems like the right thing to do! I’m so happy to be on Facebook with my scholar, and was able to meet her at my Brazilian “choro” workshop last October at the Eastman School.  It was a complete delight to meet her.  Now, she is living her dream, and we’ll watch where it takes her.