MSU provost lecture, Oct. 9 features Eric Funk in words and music
BOZEMAN – There are at least five themes in the symphony that has been Eric Funk’s life, and the Montana State University music instructor will discuss them at MSU’s next installment of the Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series lecture set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Reynolds Recital Hall.
Funk works in five areas of music: He is an award-winning composer, conductor, performer, producer and teacher in the School of Music in MSU’s College of Arts and Architecture. He will talk about his work and inspiration at the lecture, which will be held in Reynolds Recital Hall to allow him to perform during his multimedia lecture, which he has titled “My Life is Music.”
“I have been performing since I’ve been 2, so that is 67 years of music,” said Funk.
The host and artistic director of the popular MontanaPBS program about Montana music, “11th and Grant with Eric Funk,” which has won many regional Emmys for excellence in its 13 seasons. Funk is also the composer of 149 major works including nine symphonies. He is a noted jazz pianist and an award-winning teacher who has taught some of the largest and most popular courses at MSU – “American Popular Music” and “Masterworks of Music.”
A Montana native who has made a conscious effort to live and work in the Big Sky state, Funk is the son of two musicians – a choral teacher and a piano teacher. Funk said he remembered singing at age 2 in the Funk Family Singers.
“We were like the Von Trapp Family Singers of Montana,” he said, with each of the family’s children also playing at least three instruments. The family’s moves took them from Deer Lodge to Lewistown and Havre as well as locations in Minnesota and Portland, Oregon. All four Funk children found careers in music.
Eric studied piano and composing at Portland State University under Tomas Svoboda, a Czech-American pianist and composer. He also studied under the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki at Yale and Swiss-Hungarian composer Sandor Veress, a colleague of Bartok.
Funk’s works now include nine symphonies, six ballets, four operas, 19 concertos and five string quartets, as well as large and small choral works and chamber works, and more. There are six recordings of his music available on CD, including performances by the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. His music has been performed twice at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall, and he has been featured on NPR and on the CBS program “Sunday Morning.” He was also the subject of a feature story in The New York Times. He recently received an American Prize special judges’ citation for the Best Concerto/Concerted Work of the Year in the professional orchestra division for his “Variations on a Theme by Jan Hanus, Op. 127.”
Recently, Funk has been recognized for his composition “The Violin Alone,” which Funk wrote for Hungarian violin virtuoso Vilmos Olah, who plays all of the parts normally played by an orchestra on one violin. The MontanaPBS special produced by Scott Sterling about Funk’s journey to Budapest, Hungary, to work with Olah recently received two regional Emmys, including best documentary and best musical composition.
Funk is also recognized for his teaching and research: He has received several MSU research and creativity grants, a Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, a Montana Arts Council Humanities Hero Award and Innovation in the Arts Award. His MSU awards include a James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, a President’s Excellence in Teaching Award and a Distinguished Service Award from University Honors.
And Funk continues to be an active performer and mentor to local musicians. This summer he reunited with his old jazz group, “Backburner,” and he frequently plays piano at local gigs.
Funk said he finds energy from the creation of new music. He likens his musical imagination to an iPod that just has to be turned on to play music. And that imagination is now turned on to a new project, a children’s symphony based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of “The Nightingale.”
“And I’m waiting for another major piece – probably a symphony -- that wants to be written to rush in,” said Funk. “I’m interested myself to see what the next thing will be.”
That Funk has accomplished so much while living and working in Montana is something of an anomaly. He said many of his colleagues ask him why he works in relative isolation of Montana rather than moving to a musical center like New York.
“I tell them that I make sense here,” Funk said. He adds that Europeans who hear his music often comment about how “big” it is.
“It’s big because this is my home, and my music reflects this place.”
Reynolds Recital Hall is located in Howard Hall across from the MSU Duck Pond. The lecture will be followed by a reception at 8 p.m.
The Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, which is free and open to the public, recognizes faculty distinguished at MSU for their scholarship and creativity. Faculty presenting during the series will reflect on the inspirations for their work in lectures suited for professionals and lay people alike. For more information, contact the MSU Office of the Provost at 406-994-4371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.