Erica Muhl (born October 26, 1961) is an American composer and conductor currently serving as dean of the University of Southern California Roski School of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Muhl formerly served as associate dean and professor of composition at the Thornton School of Music. She received an Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999.
Erica Muhl grew up in Los Angeles, where her father Edward Muhl was the head of Universal Pictures from 1953 to 1973, and her mother, Barbara, an author and opera singer. She trained as both a composer and a conductor, with much completed in Europe. At sixteen she was invited for private composition study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
She returned from Europe in order to complete a Bachelor of Music, but upon completion she once again travelled while undergoing graduate studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. She studied conducting in Los Angeles with Fritz Zweig. This was followed by the completion of a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Southern California in 1991.
Muhl's elegy for string orchestra Disinherited Souls, in remembrance of the victims of the Shoah, was commissioned by the New Jewish Chamber Philharmonic Dresden. Its premiere concert was at the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, in November 2010.
Another commission, Burn the Box, also premiered in 2010, at a private gala in celebration of the inauguration of USC President C. L. Max Nikias. Further recent premieres have included the concert overture Smoke and Mirrors, for large orchestra, conducted in Los Angeles by the Memphis Symphony's music director, Mei-Ann Chen; and two new chamber works. 2009 saw the Dresden and Berlin premieres of her Trucco for String Orchestra. In 2005, the premiere of her chamber work, ...to a Thin Edge (commissioned and performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York City) was performed. Other recent appearances include the premiere of her symphonic work, Fleet, which she conducted at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's "Sounds About Town" series.
In 2015, two years into her tenure as Dean of the Roski School of Art & Design, the entire graduate class of 2016 withdrew from the school's MFA program, accusing Muhl's administration of "dismantling" the faculty, curriculum, program structure and strong support for graduate studies that had been hallmarks of the program. Curriculum changes in the program have been blamed for the departure of at least one tenured faculty member. Muhl issued a response in the school's website saying she was saddened by the students' decision to leave the program over issues the school considered to have been resolved. On July 16, 2015, the school's MFA class of 2015 published an open letter to the university president, provost, and board of trustees calling for the removal of Erica Muhl as Dean of the Roski School of Art & Design.
- Range of Light: Selected Chamber Works by Erica Muhl Cleveland Chamber Symphony conducted by Erica Muhl and Erik Forrester Albany TROY 667 08G092 (2004)
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- Dean's Statement Regarding First-Year MFA Students
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