By Stephanie Terrell
Whether it’s competing in international piano competitions, teaching as an adjunct assistant professor in TWU’s Department of Music or holding private piano lessons for students, Dr. Alex McDonald demonstrates a dedication to his own musical talents as well as the talents of his students.
“When I was 11, I soloed with the Southern Methodist University Meadows Symphony. I couldn’t have been more excited,” McDonald explained in an email. “My piece for the evening was the first movement of Mozart’s piano concerto in D-minor, K 466. I’ll never forget how the low strings resonated through Cartuh Auditorium, for playing within orchestral sonorities, taking turns carrying the melodies and motives. It felt like flying.”
This dedication is apparent through McDonald’s personal achievements of performing solos for renowned orchestras, performing internationally and obtaining his Doctor of Musical Art from The Julliard School. According to the TWU Department of Music website, McDonald has performed solos with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de Mexico, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Utah Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic, and several other professional orchestras.
“Playing with an orchestra gave me a new appreciation for music and what it can do,” McDonald explained. “Now, I see that in music, I have an opportunity and responsibility to share both art and beauty (not the same thing) with anyone who will listen. Piano is a great instrument for this, because it is the most ‘soloistic’ of all instruments given its ability to easily produce counterpoint, harmony and melody. It is also nice because there are always opportunities to collaborate with other instruments as orchestra parts are frequently reduced for a piano accompanist.”
Along with McDonald’s orchestral involvement, he has placed second at the 2007 New Orleans International Piano Competition, second in the 2001 Gina Bachauer International Young Piano Competition, Grand Prize at the Music Teachers National Association Yamaha Competition, and has appeared on PBS, WRR, NPR, and WQXR as a special guest.
According to McDonald’s personal website, he has taken master classes from fellow professional pianists such as Philippe Bianconi, Wha Kyung Byun, Fabio Bidini, Luiz de Moura Castro, Marc Durand, among several others. McDonald has earned a Doctor of Musical Art and Master of Music in piano from The Julliard School as well as a Bachelor of Music in piano from the New England Conservatory.
McDonald’s successes are not limited to his personal achievements, and have aided his piano students in their own successful endeavors. According to the TWU Department of Music website, McDonald’s private piano students have also gained admittance to prestigious music programs such as The Julliard School, music conservatory the Eastman School of Music and the pre-college division of the Manhattan School of Music.
“My main goal in teaching is to help the depending artists have the necessary skills to say whatever they want to say,” McDonald explained. “I also want to make sure they are healthy individuals, since music making can be quite a demanding task. Music has within it a sort of fundamental dichotomy. On the one hand, it requires all of a person to make sincere musical art; the music must be a true expression of the person. On the other, the music must be about life; life cannot be about music. I find that understanding this is as foundational as it is elusive.”
McDonald will be performing in three upcoming events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area throughout the months of January and February. The first performance will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday in Dallas’ Steinway Hall, followed by an open audition at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Texas Christian University’s Ed Landreth Auditorium and a solo recital at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at TWU’s Denton campus.