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2009 George Rieveschl Jr. Award for Creative and/or Scholarly Works: Miguel Roig-Francoli

In a combination that is increasingly rare today, Miguel Roig-Francoli has earned distinction on three musical fronts: as a scholar, as a composer and as a pedagogue.

Date: 5/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Curt Whitacre
Phone: (513) 556-2683
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

UC ingot   By Lewis Rowell’s estimation, Miguel Roig-Francolí, Ph.D., represents an increasingly rare breed: the “compleat” musician. Rowell, Professor Emeritus of Music Theory, Ethnomusicology and India Studies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, explains: “In an age of increasingly narrow scholarship, it is refreshing to see a musician who reminds us of the time when music theory and composition were not separate enterprises but complementary ways of demonstrating musical knowledge.”

This holistic approach to his field is but one of Roig-Francolí’s noteworthy attributes. A renaissance man of sorts, Roig-Francolí has earned international acclaim for his efforts on three separate but complementary fronts: as a scholar, a composer and a pedagogue. It is for his numerous achievements in these areas that Roig-Francolí has been named the recipient of the 2009 George Rieveschl Jr. Award for Creative and/or Scholarly Works.
Miguel Roig-Francoli
Miguel Roig-Francoli

A professor of music theory at the College-Conservatory of music since 2000, Roig-Francolí was born in Ibiza, Spain. He studied in Madrid under the tutelage of composer Miguel A. Coria from 1976 though 1981 and went on to receive the Título Profesional de Piano (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree) from the Professional Conservatory of the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Spain, 1982), an M.M. in Composition from Indiana University (1985), studying under Juan Orrego-Salas, and the Título de Profesor Superior de Armonía, Contrapunto, Composición e Instrumentación (the highest conservatory diploma issued in Spain) from the Madrid Royal Superior Conservatory (1988).

Roig-Francolí first rose to prominence as an accomplished and award-winning composer. In the early 1980s his music was performed by virtually all of the major symphony orchestras in Spain, as well as in concerts in Berlin, London, Mexico and the U.S., and was broadcast in twenty-four countries. Major recognitions included First Prize in the National Composition Competition of the Spanish Jeunesses Musicales (1981) and Second Prize at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers (Paris, 1982).

In the late 1980s, Roig-Francolí began to shift his professional focus. After receiving a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Indiana University (1990), he quickly made a name for himself as a music theorist and musicologist. With a focus on Renaissance compositional theory, analysis of Renaissance music and various 20th century topics, including the music of Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, he published numerous scholarly articles in major refereed journals in the US, England, Spain and Italy.

Joel Lester, Past-President of the Society for Music Theory and Dean of Mannes College of Music, is quick to point out how remarkable these accomplishments are. “It is quite unusual for a scholar to have published work on such a wide range of topics in such a roster of journals and reference works beginning very shortly after completion of the doctoral degree,” he explains. “It is even more unusual for a serious and active scholar to also be so actively engaged in music composition. These are signs of the depth of his knowledge and artistic creativity, the breadth of his expertise, the vitality of his interests and the attention already accorded to his work.”

Perhaps nothing speaks stronger of Roig-Francolí’s pedagogical expertise than his two McGraw-Hill published textbooks, Harmony in Context (2003) and Understanding Post-Tonal Music (2007), both of which are widely used at colleges and universities throughout the US and Canada. “That tens of thousands of music students owe their understanding of music theory to these books speaks of their significance,” suggests Frank Weinstock, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Piano at CCM. This significance is further evidenced by the fact that a translated edition of Understanding Post-Tonal Music will be published in China in 2010.

Roig-Francolí has also reignited his career as a composer in recent years, deftly displaying his ability to put theory into practice. “He is enjoying a period of renewed compositional activity and acclaim,” explains Robert Zierolf, Professor of Music Theory and Analysis and Associate University Dean of the UC Graduate School. “In the last five years, his seven most recent compositions have received premieres in the United States and Europe.”

This work has been far more than just an answer to the muse’s call, though. Roig-Francolí views his recent compositions as a moral obligation. He explains, “I believe artists have the option to be active witnesses of the world they live in. This is an option that I’ve felt compelled to exercise in recent years.”

Roig-Francolí’s recent compositions, including Dona eis requiem (In Memory of the Innocent Victims of War and Terror), Antiphon and Psalms for the Victims of Genocide, Canticles for a Sacred Earth and Missa pro pace, represent his responses to the war in Iraq, the acts of genocide in Darfur, Ruanda, Bosnia and Kosovo, and the progressive destruction of the planet at the hands of modern industrialized societies. “In this way,” he explains, “a cycle of choral and orchestral compositions came about, all with strong spiritual content, both musically and textually.”

In 2004, Roig-Francolí’s career as a composer was lauded by the Superior Conservatory of Music of the Balearic Islands, the highest educational musical institution in his home region. He was named the third recipient of the conservatory’s Medal of Honor.

The multi-faceted nature of his career has ultimately only further energized Roig-Francolí. Speaking on his creative and scholarly efforts, he explains, “I find both pursuits creative and rewarding, and they inform and support each other. Both reflect and contribute to who I am. Yes, the approach to each is different, but they both require extreme attention to detail, perseverance and dedication.”

In addition to his work as a scholar, a composer and a pedagogue, Roig-Francolí is also a master at bringing music theory to life for young musicians. With a teaching career that has spanned nearly 25 years, Roig-Francolí has taught at Ithaca College, Northern Illinois University, Indiana University and Eastman School of Music before coming to CCM in 2000. A “compleat” musician in every sense of the word, Roig-Francolí’s many achievements as an educator were recognized in 2007 when he was named the recipient of UC’s A.B. “Dolly” Cohen Award for Excellence in Teaching.