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Prolific composer remembers UW-Eau Claire roots

| Julie Poquette

Sixteen years ago, composer and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumnus Mark McKenzie traveled to the university from his California home to hear his work, “Blizzard Christmas Suite,” premiered by the UW-Eau Claire Symphony Orchestra and Women’s Concert Chorale.

McKenzie, who was UW-Eau Claire’s first music composition graduate in 1979, had written the work as part of the soundtrack he composed for the 2003 film “Blizzard.” And he hasn't stopped composing since. In all, so far he’s composed or orchestrated the music for 125 films. “Dragonheart,” “My Family, Mi Familia,” “Mission: Impossible,” and the Academy Award-winning “Dances with Wolves” are among the movies for which McKenzie has composer or orchestrator credits.

Most recently, McKenzie had the experience of a lifetime while recording the soundtrack for the movie “Max and Me.” The film is set to be released in 2019, but the soundtrack, now available on the Sony Masterworks label, already is receiving rave reviews. What’s more, McKenzie recorded the work at Abbey Road Studios in London, where he had the opportunity to meet famed singer-songwriter and member of The Beatles Paul McCartney.

McKenzie, who also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in composition from the University of Southern California, has not forgotten the important role his professors and mentors at UW-Eau Claire played in his success. Since 2002, he has supported a fund through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation that enables music faculty to commission original compositions for performance by UW-Eau Claire music ensembles.

Read a recent story by Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reporter and UW-Eau Claire journalism alum Katy Macek about McKenzie’s latest successes.

Photo cutline: Mark McKenzie, UW-Eau Claire's first music composition graduate, met Paul McCartney when recording his latest movie soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios in London.