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November 4, 2010

Biography chronicles life and music of Canadian-Romanian composer
By Paula Roy

Dr. Maya Badian says her love of music composition began
when she was a young girl in Romania

Her life and work is chronicled in the authorized biography,
The Life and The Music of Maya Badian: A Privilege to Soar
Biography by Fred Popovici
Maya Badian
Photo by Paula Roy (2010)

While few people embark on their life's work before they even begin elementary school, Westboro's Dr. Maya Badian is a 'notable' exception.

The accomplished musician - who will celebrate the official launch of her biography, The Life and The Music of Maya Badian: A Privilege to Soar, this weekend - says that her love of music composition first found its voice when she was very young girl in Romania.

Today, her eyes sparkle and her fingers dance lithely across the piano keys to demonstrate the first piece she ever composed. It's a lovely, lilting melody she initially heard in her head as a todler; the same one that drove her to beg her parents for piano lessons at the age of five so she could express the music she felt inside. Badian maintains that composing was truly her destiny, not a matter of choice.

"From my earliest recollections I was possessed by sounds, by an inner music," Badian reminisces.

From daily life to major concerns, everything transforms into music

"I was three when I discovered the piano in our home; the instrument had an unusual attraction on me, fascinating me so that it completely replaced the usual toys and activities that one would associate with a girl of that age. Since then, I always absorb life experiences and send them back into my music. Everything - from daily life to the major concerns of our times - transforms into music."

Badian's artistic mother, a recognized master in the study of corporal and stage movement, supported her daughter unequivocally in her musical quest.

"I was composing music naturally before I knew the word 'composition' or its meaning," says Badian. "I was certain that everybody heard music inside themselves all the time, as I did, and I thought that everybody composed."

Now recognized internationally, Badian has published over 100 musical compositions, as well as numerous works on musicology and pedagogy which are held in prestigious libraries around the globe.
One book, 100 Canadian Composers from Atlantic to Pacific, has become a primary reference used worldwide; her orchestral works are regularly performed by Canadian, American and European orchestras. Her compositions, praised for their musicality and balance, are well structured and very contemporary without being avant-garde.

Despite a thriving career in Romania, Badian, her husband and son fled the communist country in 1987 to escape the oppressive Ceausescu regime. They initially settled in Montreal to join family there, relocating to Ottawa in 1995. Happily settled in Westboro, Badian appreciated the area for its many amenities as well as what she describes as, "a fluorishing musical community."

Her apartment is intriguing; her life story told through carefully-preserved family photographs from several generations alongside a display of recordings of her compositions. The walls are lined with artworks, including portraits of Badian by her late uncle, renowned painter T.K. Thomas.

Now a Canadian citizen, Badian is as fiercely proud of her adoptive home as she is of the land of her birth.

"As a newcomer to Canada, I was impressed by the variety of peoples and cultures living in peace in this huge and wonderful country," she says. Being a multi-linguist herself, she recalls being amazed and delighted to hear so many languages and dialects being spoken all around her upon her arrival in Canada.
The multiculturalism that made an early impact has proven to be a huge influence in her compositions, as has our country's varied and beautiful landscape. The titles of many of her works reflect her love of Canada, including Reflets laurentiens (Concerto for Clarinet and Saxophone), Canadian Wilderness and Stillness (Symphonic Evocation on the Group of Seven) and Mirrored Reflections in the Ottawa Valley.

One of the works of which she is most proud is a symphony called Holocaust - In Memoriam which had its world premiere in Germany in 1995. Described by Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor as "evocative and melancholy", the work serves as a shining example of Badian's versatility as a composer and her brilliance as an orchestrator.

Badian is a steadfast advocate for arts education who can speak at length about how essential music is to children's development, both intellectually and emotionally. It is easy to imagine her enthusiasm as a teacher - despite jetlag thanks to having just returned from Germany where she was invited to present at the International Alliance for Women in Music colloquium, Badian literally bubbles with excitement as she discusses all things musical.

While genuinely humble, she seems honoured to share her journey with an even wider audience, thanks to her recent publication of an authorized biography written by her Romanian compatriot, fellow musician and longtime friend Fred Popovici.

The University of Ottawa is hosting a free public event to celebrate the publication of The Life and The Music of Maya Badian: A Privilege to Soar
on Friday, November 5 at 7:30 P.M. at the Perez Building.