Submitted by Lynn L. Remly for Music from the Western Reserve
“Music is communication, pure and simple,” according to Alexandre Marr, newly appointed executive artistic director at Music from the Western Reserve in Hudson. “Just like spoken and written language, musical language conveys ideas and emotions.”
Marr’s task going forward is, as he sees it, to communicate great works of art to the broadest possible audience through the sound of music.
When the organization’s past director decided to leave, MWR’s Board of Trustees’ search committee drew up their wish list to guide in selecting a replacement.
“We wanted someone who could wear a number of hats,” said Marilyn Orr, incoming board president. “We were looking for someone innovative, someone familiar with technology, especially the newer forms of social media. We also needed a person who could work with our board and was well-connected to the local music scene, since most of our performers are drawn from this area.”
Above all, they wanted someone who was himself a musician.
They found all that and more when they interviewed Marr.
Born in Poland, Ohio, Marr’s first musical influence was his father. “He had no formal training, but he was the most musical person in my life,” Marr said. Under his father’s guidance, Marr started piano lessons at age 10, and after three or four years, “I got into it seriously.”
Studies followed at Case Western Reserve University through the joint program with the Cleveland Institute of Music, then at Kent State University where he earned a Master of Music in Piano Performance. He has performed in various master classes and has won many awards for his work. Marr now serves on the collaborative piano faculty at Kent’s Hugh A. Glauser School of Music and continues to perform in chamber and solo settings.
Marr also displayed a talent for organization and innovation and a network of musical contacts that enables him to select musicians and groups whose talents he can showcase. In 2020, he created the monthly concert series at Church of the Western Reserve in Pepper Pike, which he believes has brought a great deal of attention to the church within the classical music community.
Marr had been friends for years with Zsolt Bognar, former director of MWR, and saw the posting when Bognar decided to move on.
“I was already doing something similar at Church of the Western Reserve, so the position seemed like a good fit,” he said.
His performance track record, creative thinking and marketing and communication skills got the MWR trustees on board. The search committee found a few pleasant surprises as well.
“He was the first candidate to ask to see our budget,” Orr said. “Someone who understands financial concerns is a big plus.”
In the same vein, he shared that he had no experience in grant writing, something critical for a small group like MWR, Orr said.
“Then he immediately put us in touch with a colleague who was expert in grant writing, and we took her on,” she said. “That’s the kind of interplay we need between board and director.”
Marr is planning several areas of focus. One of his efforts will be to broaden the base of support for MWR. Marr especially plans to reach out to a younger audience, well aware that the next generation will soon be defining the local music scene.
“We have a free student ticket policy, for example, and I’ve reached out to school band directors to make them aware of our programs,” Marr said. “They should learn to enjoy music as a visual stimulus. Music should be seen as well as heard.”
As owner of the new (as of November) Akron Music Institute – which will offer piano, violin, cello, guitar and voice lessons in downtown Akron – Marr will enjoy hands-on experience with up-and-coming performers and audiences to the benefit of MWR’s base, he said. In addition, he plans to provide a platform every season for young artists, such as the piano trio from Cleveland Institute of Music Advanced Piano Trio Program in April.
“I’d like to see pre-college performers on our stage as well,” Marr said, noting that relationships with several members of the Cleveland Orchestra mean that MWR can feature professional soloists as well.
“Folks in Hudson can enjoy soloists without having to drive to University Circle and Severance. They can appreciate the best in an intimate setting,” he said.
Marr plans to broaden the range of musical periods and the styles, too. His new website for MWR is aimed at promoting both variety and depth, as well as spotlighting the beautiful Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson, where concerts are held on Sundays at 5 p.m.
Marr is also music director at Fairmount Temple of Beachwood, at Porthouse Theatre and for Randy Rainbow, a comedian/musician who is about to embark on a national tour.
“We were delighted with Alexandre’s range of interests and abilities,” Orr said.
For more information on Marr’s career and interests, visit alexandermarr.com. The website musicwr.com gives an overview of the organization and a schedule of this season’s concerts. ∞
Photo: Alexander Marr is the new artistic director at Music from the Western Reserve, which performs at Christ Church Episcopal Hudson.