Why Maurice Duruflé?

As far as composers go, Maurice Duruflé is relatively obscure. So, why? Why did we choose to name our school in memory of this man? After all, it is the first thing people see when they see us.

We want to inspire intrigue. We want people to ask:

“Who is that?”

“What did he do?”

“How did he impact the music world?”

“Where can we find his work?”

Maurice Duruflé was, in our opinion, one of the greatest composers to ever live. He was an organist, and he primarily wrote for the organ. He transcended the essence of the pipe organ, therefore creating an entirely new genre. Duruflé wrote in a new musical language but conveyed ideas far more ancient and mystical. He shed light onto me as a child, and is the sole composer responsible for inspiring me to play the king of instruments.

Up until I was 14, although I was taking piano lessons, I had only marginal interest in classical music. I had no interest whatsoever in the pipe organ. However, I remember turning the corner to walk into the sanctuary of the church where my mom worked at the time. I always went in there to practice Chopin, or whatever my piano teacher had assigned me. This day, though, something changed.

When I turned the corner, I heard sounds I had never heard before. I have synesthesia, so I always see colors as a visual accompaniment to music, but the colors I was seeing this day were new to me. These sounds and colors were mystical, mysterious, ethereal, and otherworldly to me. Something about them seemed so original, yet so familiar, and frankly, so “me.”

I was so intrigued that I immediately asked the organist at the church what this was that I was hearing, and it was the ending of the Veni Creator variations from Duruflé’s opus 4. I asked him immediately, with no prior interest in the organ, if he would teach me this piece, and he said he would. The Duruflé opus 4 became my very first organ piece, and from then on it would shape my career immensely to where I am today.

Duruflé was a humble man, a quiet figure, but a huge spirit. He traversed the world in an ethereal manner, leaving behind wherever he went changed spirits and renewed hearts. Nobody had ever heard anyone play like him or compose like him. He was an individual, entirely unique and original. He had a special way of teaching that not only built musicality but built critical thinking and character.

Duruflé emphasized the spiritually profound in ways that have been all but forgotten by modern conservatories. He was in human form the essence of what this entire academy is about, so there was no other name appropriate than that of his. We consider it an honor to use his name, and strive to carry on his legacy in accordance with his core principles.

Written by Matthew Cates, Artistic Director and CEO

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