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Meet Pierre Emmanuel Mariaca

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pierre Emmanuel Mariaca.

Pierre Emmanuel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and raised with my two brothers in several parts of this country among which are Geneva city, Basel city and Fribourg area. I come from a multicultural family of Swiss psychotherapist mother and Bolivian scientist and painter father cousin of international renowned plastician Carmen Perrin.

I started to study at an early age accordion, classical and jazz piano and later vocal at the Conservatory of Fribourg. In this city known for her vocal music and marching bands, I had a lot of opportunities to perform piano in all kinds of gigs, to sing in choir, and to teach piano and vocal in music schools. After having lived for several months in Argentina, where I learned Argentinian and Brazilian folk, pop and classical music, I went back to Switzerland to continue my studies in vocal and piano while doing a master’s in psychology. In took piano and harpsichord lessons with my friend Teresa Laredo, a Bolivian pianist, harpsichordist, composer and musicotherapist, who made me discover wonderful Bolivian composers and British composer Violet van der Helst. In 1997, I was incredibly lucky to know and start a friendship with Argentinian pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Miguel Angel Estrella, who spent several days at my family’s house the time he was performing a piano solo concert in Fribourg city. Estrella is the founder of international federation Music Espérance, a nongovernmental organization which vocation is build peace in the world and defend the artistic rights of the musicians. I learned so much from Estrella’s experience and I think I understood better how musicians can make the world better by building bridges between people and bringing peace in the world.

After my graduation in psychology, I had an important experience of work with an art therapist in a rehabilitation center for people with psychological diseases: together, we built a workshop of music therapy to help these people to express themselves better through music. This experience made me realize the incredible power of healing that a musician can bring to people. Very inspired after a music lesson on Beethoven and Chopin taught by Japanese pianist Hiroko Sakagami (piano faculty at the Lucerne University School of Music) who encouraged me strongly to continue my studies in piano, I realized the importance of music in my life and I decided to dedicate myself fully to this career. I moved to Montreal (Canada) and studied piano at University of Montreal (UDM) with Canadian pianists Jimmy Brière and Marc Durand who were both students of Leon Fleisher. The piano technique taught at UDM was coming mainly from Fleisher and was very different from the one I learned in Switzerland: I had to start from zero and learn this new piano technique but I felt then so well and relaxed while playing the piano. After I graduated from University of Montreal with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, I continued to live in Montreal, teaching piano in several music schools and at my music studio and performing and recording with my trio. Then I spent a wonderful summer studying and performing in gigs at the Berklee College of Music in Boston: I studied piano jazz with Jason Yeager and Josh Rosen, improvisation with Ned Rothenberg and Biff Smith, and composition with Greg Hopkins.

I started to be very interested to compose for chamber and orchestral musics and I took lessons with my friend the Canadian composer Alexandre David while studying piano with my friend the Canadian pianist Janelle Fung. I moved then to New Orleans to study at University of New Orleans (UNO, composition with Yotam Haber, jazz piano with Victor Atkins, improvisation with Edward Peterson and conducting with Charles Taylor. There, I had fantastic opportunities to compose several chamber music pieces for international renowned American ensembles that performed my compositions in New Orleans: the Mivos Quartet, the TAK Ensemble and the Ecce Ensemble. At UNO, I had wonderful opportunities to conduct several ensembles of chamber musicians from the Louisiana Philarmonic Orchestra that performed some of my compositions, and I had fantastic masterclasses of composer David Little, jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis and jazz saxophonist James Carter among others. After I graduated from University of New Orleans with a Master of Music in Composition, I moved to California to study at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) that was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my music language with wonderful composers, performers and teachers Karen Tanaka, Ulrich Krieger, Vinny Golia, Nicholas Deyoe, Tim Feeney, Eyvind Kang, Daniel Corral, Anne LeBaron, Alison Bjorkedal, Edward Carroll, Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick and Rachel Rudich. I also learned more about microtonality and just intonation with composer teacher Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and electronic percussion with performer and teacher Amy Knoles.

At CalArts, I learned to play new music instruments and discovered a lot of new music genres among others are African, Persian, Indian, Rock, Baroque, Japanese, Brazilian, Javanese, Balinese, and Electro-acoustic music. In 2019, the CalArts Ensemble of Nicholas Deyoe performed my composition Four Elements for Chamber Orchestra at the Wild Beast of CalArts and I performed the accordion part of it: it was magical for me and I learned so much as composer and performer from this experience. Another big moment at CalArts for me was The Piano Department Concert of piano teachers Vicky Ray and Ming Tsu who played with their students in December 2017 in ROD (Roy O Disney Concert Hall) beautiful music of minimalist composers: I performed with my students friends Glass Music in Similar Motion and Feldman’s Piece for four pianos. One of the best experience I had at CalArts was performing in different music ensembles like the Persian Ensemble of Houman Pourmehdi, the Sonic Boom Avant-Garde Rock Ensemble of Ulrich Krieger, the Sarah Reid’s Ankhrasmation Ensemble, the Indian Ensemble of Aashish Khan, the Japanese Ensemble of Rachel Rudich and the CalArts Brazilian Drumming Ensemble of Alex Shaw and Marcelo Bucater with which we played in 2018 at the CalArts World Music and Dance Festival, at the CalArts Latin Festival and also at the studio of the Santa Clarita Valley Television.

During my time at CalArts, I also studied classical/prepared piano with Vicky Ray, jazz piano with David Roistein and Vardan Ovsepian, harpsichord with Tisha Mabee-Goldstein, vocal with Jacqueline Bobak, Timur Bekbosunov and Carmina Escobar, accordion with Ben Richter, percussion with Tim Feeney, hand drums (tabla, riq, tala) with Randy Gloss, Persian instruments (daf, tanbur and tonbak) with Houman Pourmehdi, Indian instruments (sitar and harmonium) with Aashish Khan, African drums with Andrew Grueschow, Balinese gamelans with Nyoman Wenten, Latin percussion with Joe De Leon, and sakuhachi (Japanese flute) with Rachel Rudich. Another very important aspect that I developed at CalArts was the collaboration in interdisciplinary projects with dancers and musicians: during the class Choreographers and Composers taught by deans of music and dance David Rosenboom and Dimitri Chamblas, I created and performed with my team at the CalArts Sharon Disney Lund Theater, two pieces of music and dance based on the Zodiac Constellation of Stars: Capricorn Constellation (2018) and Pisces Constellation (2018) were performances for which I composed entirely the music.

At CalArts Music Department, I worked during the academic year of 2019-2020 as teacher assistant and tutor for the Skills B and Skills C classes that involved Music Theory, Ear Training (Solfege and Dictation), Harmony, Transcription and Arrangement. I had the great opportunity to work on a interdisciplinary projects with my old brother composer and a Japanese dancer. Azuki (2018) was a dance and music clip filmed in LA for which we composed the music, while the dancer did the choreography and the dance performance. During the summer of 2019, I had a collaboration with cellist Alex Bozman: with his string ensemble, he performed my composition Four Miniatures for String Quartet at The New Arts Space in Newhall, which was filmed by the SCVtv (Santa Clarita Valley Television). Thanks to the wonderful CalArts classes of Shadow Theater and Puppetry taught by multidisciplinary artist Janie Geiser, I had the opportunity to collaborate with students in character animation, experimental animation, costume design, light design and theater, allowing me to create a series of experimental animations (The Journey of a feather, 2019; The Little Prince, 2019) and of music installations combined with shadow theater (Shadow Theater and Prepared Piano, 2019; Shadow Theater and Prepared Harp, 2019).

In 2020, I created with my team of CalArts students The Net and the Self – the network society, which was an interactive installation in the dark that combined shadow theater with a performance of two dancers, one visual artist and one harpist (faculty Anne LeBaron) playing on an amplified harp prepared with fluorescent sounding fishing lines and dark lights. I received the CalArts interdisciplinary grant for this installation that was presented in February 2020 at the CalArts WaveCave and in May 2020 at the CalArts Expo. CalArts was a beautiful time in my life, where I built wonderful collaborations and friendships, and where I reconnected myself with very important arts that I loved since child: dance, circus arts, theater, pottery/ceramics, yoga and tai chi among others things. Also, it made me realized how beautiful and infinite are the possibilities to create arts with people, especially when we have the courage to go outside our comfort zone. I graduated in May 2020 from CalArts with a Master of Fine Arts in Music Composition and currently, I’m working as a freelance musician in LA.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has certainly not been a smooth road and there were many challenges I had to deal with: starting a music career at a late age (a lot of people tried to discourage me to continue my music career), coming from a family that is not in the music industry, moving from Europe to North America, leaving my family and my friends from Europe, adjusting to new cultures, learning a new language and dealing with the burnout. But at the same time, all of the challenges made me grow so much.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I am a freelance musician and multidisciplinary artist based in LA. I am a performer, composer and orchestrator for chamber music, orchestral music and for the film industry. I am also a music educator in piano, composition, orchestration and music theory (ear training-solfege/dictation, harmony and counterpoint). I teach in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German, and I can teach also remotely with skype, zoom, among other things. As a multidisciplinary artist, I build installations and collaborate in various projects with different kinds of artists (dancers, actors, animators and visual artists). Currently, I am working with my team on an installation that will be performed in LA in an art space as soon as it reopens.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
There are so many people I would like to thank for helping me to build the artist I am: my parents, my two brothers, my whole family, and all my teachers/mentors and friends/colleagues. I would like to thank especially for their exceptional support my friends and teachers Yotam Haber, Ulrich Krieger, Janie Geiser, Karen Tanaka, Tim Feeney, Anne LeBaron, Alison Bjorkedal, Alexandre David, Teresa Laredo, Janelle Fung and Warren Spaeth (who is one of the original founders of the Colburn Conservatory of Music).

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
California Institute of the Arts

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