For URI’s Theodore Mook, it’s the strings that sing

Wood River Junction resident teaches, performs, inspires

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Theodore Mook
Theodore Mook, URI music instrument instructor and performer, takes time out from rehearsing in the URI Concert Hall. URI Photo by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 22, 2018 – University of Rhode Island music instrument instructor and cellist Theodore Mook is comfortable performing avant-garde, classical, historical, and commercial cello styles.

And since 1980, he’s also been a strong supporter of new music, particularly microtonal music. After almost 30 years in New York City, he is now an active member of the URI music faculty and dedicated performer who counts inspiring students among his most important jobs.

Mook said while the University has had a historic commitment to educating students in the agricultural, scientific and mechanical arts, it has not ignored the arts and classical studies. That’s one of the main reasons he appreciates working at URI.

“I have wonderful colleagues and students here at URI who are fabulous, world-class performers,” Mook said. “It’s a thrill to work with them, and I feel immense gratification holding the doors open for URI students to experience the grandeur and emotional connections provided by a deeper familiarity with music. Music is not merely a soundtrack to our day-to-day life, it’s a nourishing connection to our deepest selves. When students light up, we all share their brilliance.

Mook performed recently with the URI Contemporary Music Ensemble, one of several events presented by the University Artist Series. Mook coordinated the concert, which showcased the artistry of URI faculty members Susan Thomas, Kyle Fortshoff, Kirsten Volness, Gayane Darakyan, Gary Buttery and Mook himself. They performed works by faculty composers Volness and Eliane Aberdam, as well as Joan Tower’s Hommage to Olivier Messiaen, Tres Lent, George Crumb’s Voice of the Whale, and a work composed by the late microtonal composer Ezra Sims based on the readings of Gertrude Stein, If I Told Him.

“The concert was terrific, performers were sensational,” Mook said. The music spoke on a direct level with sounds and colors, vividly describing environments and the passage of time, which the audience enjoyed. Another highlight for me was that while performing the Ezra Sims piece, guest artist Katherine Growdon’s shoes perfectly matched the color of my cello, in addition to her spectacular performance.”

Mook has played at the Library of Congress, the American Academy in Rome, the Monday Evening Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is a veteran performer at the Bang on a Can Festival, and has appeared in MusikProtokoll im Steirischen Herbst in Graz, Austria, the International Festival Musique Actuelle in Canada, the New England Bach Festival in Marlboro, Vermont, the Bethlehem Music Festival, the USArts Festival in Berlin and the Synthesis International Festival for Contemporary Music in Skopje, Macedonia.

He has recorded more than100 works, including a recent release on New World records, featuring the music of Annea Lockwood, Ezra Sims and Lois V Vierk.

While music is now Mook’s sole focus, Mook had developed a parallel career in computer technology in the 1990s, and has worked in information technology, application programming for corporate clients, designing fonts for microtonal compositions, developing websites and working as a music copyist and arranger.

“My career in IT started out with a musical connection – I programmed alternative tunings and sound patches for synthesizers while working with Newband. I learned the technical aspect of programming of synthesizers and enjoyed it, and eventually the skills helped me find my way into the corporate IT world. There is definitely a connection between technical and musical fields – one of my colleagues is a fantastic composer who also happened to be a founding father of virtual reality (Jaron Lanier)” Mook said.

Even though he is busy with his commitments at URI he also teaches at the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School, and maintains an active studio at his home in Wood River Junction. He lives in a converted 19th century church, where, in addition to teaching, he presents concerts. He helps to organize concerts and string workshops at Narragansett’s historic Towers, and has presented visiting artists like Eugene Friesen, Gideon Freudmann, the Berklee World Strings, Schola Cantorum of Boston, the Bohemian Quartet and GUTS! (two baroque celli with harpsichord).

With his accomplishments, Mook’s schedule tends to fill up quickly.

“I don’t always successfully accomplish every single thing I need to, but I accept the fact that it is not realistic to take on too much and succeed in everything. I always prioritize and try my best to get everything done. With the application of practice and luck, everything always seems to fall into place and manages itself without too much disruption” Mook said.

Alexa Stewart, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and Public Relations and Communication Studies Major, wrote this press release.