'A Very Rare and Unusual Talent'

At 17, Tudor Dominik Maican has written more than 30 works, which he says reflect his passion for music.
At 17, Tudor Dominik Maican has written more than 30 works, which he says reflect his passion for music. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Every Saturday at 3:30 a.m., the Maican family pulls out of its Bethesda driveway and heads to New York City. When they arrive at Lincoln Center, Valerica and Marcel Maican feed the parking meters for 11 hours while their son takes private lessons and attends classes at the prestigious Juilliard School. They return home about midnight, after nearly 24 hours on the road and an additional 490 miles on their Honda minivan.

They have made the grueling trip for six years and have few complaints. For Tudor Dominik Maican and his parents, it is simply the path to becoming a great composer.

At 17, the Winston Churchill High School senior has written six symphonies, five chamber music pieces, nine pieces for stringed instruments, nine piano compositions, two works for brass ensembles and four songs for children's choirs. He has received commissions of $5,000 for his work.

A Mass he recently composed for an Orthodox Christian church in Potomac is so complex that the church must bring in a bigger choir. Dumbarton Concerts, a chamber music series in Georgetown, made him its youngest composer in residence. A Washington Post critic described a 15-minute piano piece Maican wrote as having "a melancholic and lyrical sound that comes right out of Chopin and Debussy."

Although talented child musicians are not unusual, Maican's teachers say only a few young composers are considered truly gifted. A 14-year-old Connecticut boy is also receiving national attention for his symphonies, including one recently recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. In Juilliard's pre-college division, where alumni include Yo-Yo Ma and teachers see no shortage of aptitude, Maican's music is turning heads.

"Every few years one person stands out above the rest," said Ira Taxin, Maican's composition teacher, who has worked with Juilliard students for 25 years. "Dominik is a very rare and unusual talent."

"He's probably the most remarkable young man I've come across," said Olegna Fuschi, a Juilliard piano teacher for 26 years.

Such comments make Maican want to change the subject. He's not one for wunderkind talk. His high school friends know he composes, he said, but he doesn't tell them about the more than 50 national and international awards on his five-page curriculum vitae.

"It's too much attention," he said. "I just don't like the, 'Oh my God, he's a composer, uh-oh.' "

His intense but aw-shucks demeanor is prone to understatement. He described his Advanced Placement music theory class at Churchill as "a little slow." So why take it? "I need my arts credit."

As Connie Zimmer, executive director of Dumbarton Concerts, said, "I don't think he realizes how talented he is."

To be sure, Maican's teachers say, the teenager needs more experience writing for full orchestras. He must fine-tune his own style, they say, and learn to maintain a consistent one throughout his pieces -- both challenging for even veteran composers. As with any young talent, there remains the question of whether he will continue his meteoric rise or flame out.

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