Corrections or additions?

This article by Elaine Strauss

was prepared for the March 6, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Music That’s Worth Hearing

Pianist and radio show host Marvin Rosen could solve

this problem: For the benefit of a piano pupil who needs a new piece

I have just played what I consider a particularly suitable short


piece. My student says, "I’m not playing that! My friends will

think that I’m just making a bunch of mistakes." Rosen would have

no difficulty finding an alternative piece. He is a compendium of

contemporary music that is tuneful and accessible.

Rosen turns this knowledge into a recital for the Steinway Society

at Jacobs Music in Lawrenceville, Sunday, March 10, at 4 p.m.


by telephone from his home in nearby Pennsylvania, Rosen says


a rather contemplative program. A good part of it has a spiritual

atmosphere. It takes place the day before the six-month anniversary

of 9/11."

Entitled "An American Mosaic," the program leans heavily on

the works of Alan Hovhaness, whose somewhat exotic compositions draw

on folk tunes from a swathe of countries to the east of the


and on ancient church hymns. Other composers whose works will be


are Richard Yardumian, Henry Cowell, Leonard Bernstein, Lou Harrison,

Philip Glass, John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Arnold Rosner.

Rosen is a devoted advocate of Hovhaness, characterizing

it as "accessible music that has been composed with the


and calling it "the most important music of my life." As host

of "Classical Discoveries," a radio show that airs on WPRB

(103.3 FM), Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 11 a.m., Rosen mirrors


musical view of the world by pairing new music with pre-baroque


A recent program included the work of Kassia, a ninth century



"When I listen to brand new music I realize that it’s not that

different from old music," Rosen says. "Back to back, you’d

be surprised at the similarity." Rosen harvests the music for

his radio show from every corner of the world. Often, contemporary

music from far off places incorporates into its newness ancient folk


Rosen’s outlook is cosmopolitan. "I travel the Internet,"

he says. "South Africa, New Zealand, Azerbaijan — composers

from these places may have studied in Paris. Some of the most exciting

music now is coming out of the Baltics. There’s wonderful choral music

being written in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and the United States.


wonderful music in Australia."

The quest for material is arduous. In addition to the Internet, Rosen

haunts used record stores. "There’s so much music that you can’t

get in the United States," he says. "It’s very difficult to

find and to buy. A lot of what I play is on small imported labels.

I travel the Internet, and I like to put links to music on my


he says. His website is

He sees the purpose of his radio program as broader than music.


is such an important gateway to peace in the world," he says.

"You don’t have to know the language. Music has so much


Rosen’s chief criterion for what to play on the show is simple. "I

listen and see if it gets me excited. The music has to say something

to me personally before I put it on the air. Everything I play is

accessible. I don’t include much avant-garde music. With music of

our time many fear that it will be unmelodious or unpleasant. I want

to show that this not true."

As an instructor at the Conservatory of Westminster Choir College

of Rider University, Rosen has a sunny approach. "I expose my

love of music for the benefit of the younger generation," he says.

"I want them to look forward to coming back the next week. I like

to teach them something new through something they’re already



Rosen was born in Englewood in 1953, moved to Princeton when he was

in sixth grade, and attended Princeton High School. "One of my

fondest memories of high school was studying double bass with Sylvan

Friedman," he says. He has been playing piano since he was eight.

An only child, Rosen’s father is an enthusiastic radio listener who

works as an office manager in the textile business. His mother plays

piano; as a young person she sang musical theater and also gave piano

lessons while Rosen was growing up.

Rosen’s parents took him to Leonard Bernstein’s young peoples’


and at first he was reluctant. "When I was nine, they were


me there," he says. But the parents persisted and now Rosen is

grateful. "Those concerts opened the door," he says. "When

it comes to education, Bernstein is the biggest inspiration I had.

He had the ability to talk to young people without talking down."

Rosen’s formal education beyond high school, which culminated in a

doctorate, took place at the New School for Music Study in Kingston,

Trenton State College, the Manhattan School of Music, and Teachers

College of Columbia University. For many years he was a buyer of CDs

and recorded music at the Princeton University Store.

As performer, radio host, and teacher, Rosen strives to transmit a

sense of the boundlessness of music. His musical appetite is


"There’s so much music that we don’t have the opportunity to


he says. "There’s so much music worth hearing."

— Elaine Strauss

Marvin Rosen, Steinway Society, Jacobs Music, 2540

Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, 609-434-0222. $10; $5 students under

25. Sunday, March 10, 4 p.m.

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