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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

University Bulletin Vol. 50, No. 16
Sixteenth Week
Fall Semester
Dec. 2, 2002
 Holiday concert to feature original composition by UW-Eau Claire alumnus Mark McKenzie
In 1979, Mark McKenzie was UW-Eau Claire's first music theory and composition graduate. Apparently, not even 17 years of success as a Hollywood composer and orchestrator have clouded his memories of where it all began.
     On Sunday, Dec. 8, those who attend UW-Eau Claire's 28th annual Holiday Concerts will hear the debut performance of "Blizzard Christmas Suite," which McKenzie derived from the score he has composed for the movie "Blizzard," to be released in November 2003. McKenzie, who lives in San Pedro, Calif., finished composing and recording the score just weeks ago. He created "Blizzard Christmas Suite" as a gift to the university.
     "My intention was to make a beautiful, warm, melodic celebration of life and Christmas," McKenzie said of the suite, which will be performed by the UW-Eau Claire Symphony Orchestra and Women's Concert Chorale.
     "The performance of ‘Blizzard Christmas Suite' at the 2002 Holiday Concert will be the premiere performance in a new and unique tradition of commissioned works for the music ensembles at UW-Eau Claire," said Gary Schwartzhoff, associate professor of music and theatre arts and Holiday Concert executive director.
     "Blizzard," a G-rated Christmas movie, is directed by Le Var Burton and includes Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Plummer and Kevin Pollak among its cast members. While the film's original release date of November 2002 has been pushed back a year, McKenzie suggests it will be worth the wait for moviegoers of all ages.
     "It is a beautiful and timeless family Christmas movie that one could take any child to with pride and confidence that they will both enjoy it and have their lives enhanced by the story," McKenzie said.
     In addition to his gift of "Blizzard Christmas Suite," McKenzie and his wife, Susan, a 1978 UW-Eau Claire music therapy graduate, have given a financial gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to establish the Baker, Cunningham and Lunde Music Composition Fund. The fund will be used by music faculty to commission original compositions for performance by UW-Eau Claire music ensembles.
     The McKenzies' gifts are contributions to UW-Eau Claire's Fulfilling the Promise of Excellence campaign, part of the university's effort to progress toward its long-term goals in spite of fiscal challenges resulting from the state budget crisis. The campaign seeks $35 million in private support by July 2005 for UW-Eau Claire's people and programs.
     "The generous gift presented to the Foundation by Mark and Susan McKenzie will serve to enrich the education of the music students at UW-Eau Claire for generations to come," Schwartzhoff said.
     McKenzie said he hopes the music composition fund will provide inspiration for young composers, "causing new music to be written and enjoyed that might not otherwise exist."
     The fund is named in honor of three UW-Eau Claire music and theatre arts professors, David Baker, Michael Cunningham and Ivar Lunde — all of whom taught music composition to McKenzie.
     "I feel grateful for many of my UW-Eau Claire professors and particularly for these three fine composers," McKenzie said. "I studied music composition with each of them, and each made valuable contributions into who I've grown to become as an orchestrator and composer."
     Over 17 years, McKenzie has had orchestration credits in more than 75 films and composition credits in 12 films. Last summer he achieved a personal record when he had credits in four films during one season. Those films, for which he had orchestration credits, included "Spider-Man," "The Sum of All Fears," "Lilo and Stitch" and "Stuart Little 2."
     Samples of McKenzie's music can be heard on his Web site,

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UW-Eau Claire's online Experts Directory has been updated for the current year and is available online at Check it out and decide if you'd like to participate.
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Updated: May 23, 2003