Erica Muhl : Biography

With sympathies and achievements that embrace academia, fine art, design, and classical music, Erica Muhl served as Dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design and Founding Director of the USC Iovine and Young Academy since 2013.

As a Professor of Composition at USC's Thornton School of Music since 1991, and a Professor of Fine Art and Composition at USC Roski since 2013, Muhl has served in numerous leadership roles at the university, including Administrative Vice-President of the Faculty, Chair of the University Committee on Academic Review, and a long-serving member of the Arts and Humanities Panel of the University Committee on Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure. At USC Thornton, she was also Associate Dean from 2009-2013, and chaired the Department of Composition from 2006-07. From her appointment at USC through fall, 2012, Dr. Muhl taught steadily in Thornton's top-ranked Composition program at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. With a sub-specialization in film, Muhl's course offerings often included analytical and theoretical explorations of sound in time-based art forms, and in particular of the work produced by seminal collaborations between composers and auteur directors, such as Prokofiev and Eisenstein, Takemitsu and Kurosawa, and Badalamenti and Lynch.

As a composer, Erica Muhl's works have been commissioned and performed by, among many, Minnesota Opera, the Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie Dresden, New World Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Orchestra of the RAI Rome, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Venezuela, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Arditti Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mexican National Television, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, and Radio-Televisione Italiana. Her music has highlighted countless festivals and competitions, and she has received many grants, awards, residencies and fellowships, all throughout the world and from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Muhl's recent concert overture Smoke and Mirrors is currently being recorded as part of the 100th anniversary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and will be released on the Naxos label in 2016; her 2002 work Consolation will be performed by Seattle's new Phänomen Ensemble during the 2016/17 season.

Erica Muhl was born and raised in Los Angeles, where her father, Edward Muhl, was head of production for Universal Pictures from 1953 to 1973, and her mother, Barbara, was an author and opera singer; they were important patrons in the superheated '50s-'60s L.A. arts world. Guests at their home, among many, included Aldous Huxley, Sidney Poitier, Dalton Trumbo, Douglas Sirk, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Kubrick and Horton Foote. Erica Muhl trained both as a composer and conductor, with much of that training completed in Europe, where she also acquired fluency in both Italian and French and a deep appreciation of art, literature and architecture. First, at age sixteen, she was invited to study with renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Paris. After returning to California to earn her Bachelor of Music, she traveled again to Europe for graduate studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, studying with Italian composer Franco Donatoni.

In 1991 she completed her D.M.A. at the University of Southern California. Along with Boulanger and Donatoni, her primary teachers in composition were Aurelio de la Vega and Daniel Kessner. In conducting, she worked with Walter Cataldi-Tassoni, long-time conductor and stage director for Rome Opera, and the legendary Fritz Zweig, a student of Humperdinck and Schoenberg, and a close friend and colleague of Leos Janacek, Alexander Zemlinsky and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Muhl has served as Assistant Conductor for Los Angeles Opera Theater, and for Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival's complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. She regularly conducts her own works, including the recording of Consolation with Cleveland Chamber Symphony contained on her CD "Range of Light." A noted speaker on contemporary music, Muhl has lectured for major arts organizations such as the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, Opera Pacific, LA Opera, and many others.

Erica Muhl lives outside Los Angeles with her family, and a wily rescue, named by her then-small son, "Silly Cat."