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Oberlin Senior Named Marshall Scholar


Mary Larew

Composition major Mary E. Larew, a double-degree senior from Iowa City, Iowa, is a member of an elite group of students awarded one of the highest accolades a U.S. undergraduate can earn: Great Britain's Marshall Scholarship.

Won through a rigorous national competition, the scholarship supports American students who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential. Financed by the British government, the $60,000 award allows for two years of graduate study at a university in the United Kingdom and covers the costs of tuition, books, travel, and living expenses.

Larew, who hopes to pursue a master of arts degree in vocal studies with an emphasis in ensemble singing at England's University of York next fall, is the fourth Oberlin student to win a Marshall Scholarship since 1990. Christopher Macklin '04, last year's awardee, is at University College in London, where he is studying how experience changes the brain in memory at the cellular and behavioral level.

A National Merit Scholar since 2001, with majors in composition and anthropology, Larew has a passion for medieval and renaissance music.  She is the cofounder of Uncloistered, an a cappella, early-music quintet specializing in Renaissance polyphony, and she has sung with the Oberlin College Collegium Musicum, a chamber choir focused on the music of the 16th- and 17th centuries.

This year Larew is directing the Oberlin production of the 13th-century music drama Ludus Danielis, to be performed in Oberlin, Cleveland, and Boston in January. She directed last year's critically acclaimed production of Hildegarde Von Bingen's 12th-century music drama Ordo Virtutum, and wrote the instrumental interludes based on excised pieces from the vocal score. The production received national coverage in the magazine Early Music America.

Steven Plank, professor of musicology and director of the Oberlin College Collegium Musicum, served as Larew's advisor for Ordo Virtutum. He believes that she possesses significant characteristics that distinguished her in the eyes of the Marshall jurors. "Mary's range of experience is significant," he says, "and her spirit of adventure is made confident by the discipline of her work. There also seems to be a giftedness in her capacity to enjoy the work she undertakes."

Larew's plans for her English sojourn include earning an MA in the first year and directing one or more music dramas and/or concerts her second year. She hopes to establish herself as an independent performer and director of early music, music dramas, operas, and drama.

"Ultimately, I intend to move back to my hometown—where I am the fourth generation of my family to live on the same street—and establish a notable early music/drama scene in Iowa City," she says.

In the meantime, Larew says she looks forward to "intense study with as many amazing artists and scholars as possible," noting John Potter, the celebrated director of the vocal studies program at York, and the Tallis Scholars, leading exponents of renaissance sacred music. Larew studied with the Tallis Scholars at their summer school in Rutland, England, in 2003 and 2004.

She recorded Wär Ich Ein Falk with the 15th-century music ensemble Ciaramella on the Naxos label and also performed with them at the Bloomington Early Music Festival in Indiana last May, with a later broadcast on National Public Radio's Harmonia.

She has written a number of commissioned works, including In the Beginning Was the Word for choir and organ, which was performed at St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Medina, Ohio, in 2003, and Where Shadows Do for Bodies Stand for five viola da gambas and five voices, performed during her junior recital.

Also an accomplished violinist, Larew premiered a violin sonata by Conservatory junior Herman Whitfield III, and last summer she attended the Santa Fe Suzuki and the Stevens Point institutes to study Suzuki violin methods.

Larew has written several short stories, poems, and an opera libretto, and her play Introduction to Post-Modernism was performed as part of the Oberlin Shorts play festival her junior year.

"I fully appreciate the opportunities the Marshall will provide, especially the chance to be part of an outstanding professional, artistic, and political milieu," she says. "It is a privilege to receive such recognition for my work and accomplishments."

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