B.M., M.M., University of Southern California; M.F.A., Ph.D., Princeton University
Mario J. Pelusi, Professor Emeritus of Composition and Theory and former Director of the School of Music (1998 - 2018), is a composer, theorist, conductor, and pianist. He has composed numerous chamber and orchestral works, many of which were commissioned and performed by some of this country's most accomplished ensembles; e.g., the New York New Music Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, the Colorado Quartet, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Pro Arte Quartet, and the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus. His music has been performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Germany and has been recorded on the Crystal Records label. He is the recipient of numerous grants, prizes, and fellowships from a variety of sources; e.g., the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the American Music Center, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and he has been a guest composer at eight universities in the United States and at one in Italy
With respect to administrative work, Pelusi has served as a chair or as a director at four institutions (IWU, Reed College, the Governor’s School of the Arts at the College of New Jersey, and the Lawrenceville School) He has held leadership positions in a number of professional organizations including The Association of Illinois Music Schools, for which he served as Vice President and President; The College Music Society, for which he served on the Program Committee for the 2014 National Conference, for which he serves currently as a member of the Academic Leadership and Administration Committee, and for which he serves on the Editorial Board for The College Music Society’s Symposium; The National Association of Schools of Music, for which he served for two terms as Chair of Region 4 (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) and as a member of the Board of Directors, and for which he serves currently as a Visiting Evaluator; Phi Kappa Phi; and Pi Kappa Lambda, for which he served as the National President and for which he is currently a member of the Board of Regents. He also serves as an independent consultant to collegiate-level music programs. Additionally, he has served as a member of the Performance/Composition Specialist Review Committee for the Fulbright Scholar Program, and since 2007, he has served as an adjudicator for the Illinois Music Education Association's Composition Contest
Pelusi has held teaching positions at The Ohio State University, Reed College, the University of Southern California, the Lawrenceville School, and the Westminster Choir College and has taught courses on numerous subjects; e.g., analysis; composition; counterpoint; the creative process (as a Gateway Colloquium at IWU); electronic music; film music; jazz and popular piano styles; jazz harmony, arranging, and improvisation; jazz piano; keyboard harmony; music entrepreneurship; music history (from the baroque through the twentieth century); orchestration; theory and aural skills (all levels); twelve-tone and serial music; and twentieth-century and contemporary theory and analytical techniques. Pelusi also created and directed the annual IWU Summer Music Composition Institute (2006 – 2018), which was a unique program for high school students interested in composition.
In addition to his work in composition, Pelusi's research interests include music theory, music analysis, rhythm in music, music notation, the process of creativity, music and mathematics, music and linguistics, and music entrepreneurship With respect to the last subject, during the past fifteen years Pelusi has been involved in various music entrepreneurship activities and has attended a number of workshops and national meetings devoted to this topic. He has spoken at two national conferences about this subject (at an annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music and at the College Music Society’s Summit 2016: 21st Century Music School Design), he created and taught a course titled The Entrepreneurial Musician, he created and directed at IWU Summer Music Composition Institute, and he stays current with respect to progressive and innovative music curricula.
Earlier in his career, Pelusi was active in the commercial music industry in Hollywood, California as both a jazz musician and composer of film and television music; since that time, he has composed mainly concert music. Also a conductor, Pelusi has conducted professional and student ensembles in the premieres of his own works and of works by other contemporary composers, and from 1998 – 2018 he served as Conductor-in-Residence in support of IWU's new music activities
Pelusi holds the M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees in composition from Princeton University, where his principal composition teachers were Milton Babbitt and Edward T. Cone, and the B.M. and M.M. degrees in composition from the University of Southern California, where he studied composition with James Hopkins, Robert Lynn, David Raksin, and Humphrey Searle.
"I tend to think of myself as a "radical traditionalist"; in other words, I believe it is vitally important to preserve and put forth in the present the best accomplishments of our most creative musical predecessors, which I try to do in my music and in my work in the classroom, but at the same time, a composer must strive to be innovative if he or she wishes to develop a personal voice. Above all, I believe deeply that a young composer's most important objective should be the acquisition of an informed and facile technique. Also, I suppose I could be described as a "maximalist"; i.e., I find it fascinating to see to what extent I can explore and develop the various structural properties of an initial musical gesture."