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Conservatory's Mark Barden Wins Watson Fellowship

by Marci Janas '91



Oberlin Portrait: Mark Barden

About Mark Barden

Lead Image: Mark Barden

What began as a dream for Mark Barden '03--a sojourn abroad to study Alfred Schnittke's music with several of the Russian-born composer's closest associates--will, in August, become a reality. Barden, a piano performance and composition major at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, is a 2003 recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship.

What does being awarded a Watson Fellowship mean to him?

"I have a year to pursue something I love deeply in an environment that is wholly unfamiliar," Barden says. "I'm still awestruck and, admittedly, intimidated by the volume of possibilities this represents. The next year of my life is a loosely structured question mark. It will be the most independent year of my life."

Watson Fellowships allow scholars to pursue independent research projects while traveling for a year outside the United States after graduation. And while the Watson Foundation expects nothing by way of a paper or presentation in return, Barden hopes to do a lot of his own composing and analysis of the structure and performance practice of Schnittke's music.

That music has the taken Cleveland native on an incredible ride this year--from competition laureate to live broadcast to this new departure point for further adventures. Barden won the Oberlin Concerto Competition last October with his performance of Schnittke's Concerto for Piano and Strings. Last November his interpretation of the piece, with Associate Professor of Conducting Steven Smith leading the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, was broadcast live on WCLV, Cleveland's classical music radio station.

Professor of Pianoforte Monique Duphil, with whom Barden studies at Oberlin, says that he is "inspired, generous, practical, and determined."

"Mark will explore the worlds and circumstances that prompted Schnittke to create his musical message. I wish him marvelous discoveries," Duphil says.

Oberlin has had at least one Watson Fellow in its graduating class since 1969, the year the foundation began granting fellowships. This year the Thomas J. Watson Foundation received more than 1,000 applications from college seniors at 50 selective private liberal arts colleges and universities, but awarded only 48 fellowships.

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