Alumni Profile: Cristóbal MarYán (NYUAD ’15)
June 15, 2022
Musician Cristóbal MarYán began writing music at the age of 12 and has grown to write music for world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, compositions for award winning films at the Sundance Film Festival, TV commercials, and for shows like “The Walking Dead.” Recently, he was commissioned to compose a piece for the Mexican government to be performed by the prestigious Orchestra of the Americas at Palacio de Bellas Artes.
“The exposure to diverse backgrounds and narratives made me particularly aware and interested in how history influences the creation, maintenance, and re-shaping of identity. Most of my concert music is an interaction of history, society, and music,” says MarYán (NYUAD ’15). Born in Mexico, MarYán already had tons of cultural influence growing up and he went on to earn a full scholarship to a youth college in Hong Kong. His affinity for travel, diverse backgrounds, and musical storytelling led him to apply to NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus for his degree. Since graduation, he has had his musical compositions played by orchestras, ensembles, and soloists all over the world.
MarYán values how society and history come together to shape the identity of locals all over the world, and has found that music often plays a pivotal role in that narrative. He aims to express the same in his compositions, using what he learned in his travels as a student to Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nepal, Portugal, Montenegro, the United States, Sri Lanka, Jordan, and more. MarYán also shared that he’s been named First Secretary at the Mexican Embassy in China, where he will be in charge of all cultural matters between China and Mexico, and will use music as a diplomatic vehicle. He will assume his post on July 23, 2022. Read on to learn more about his achievements and how his time at NYU shaped him:
Tell us about how your experience growing up in Mexico, time in Hong Kong, and studies in Abu Dhabi shaped your career as a composer. How do you feel your diverse background has influenced your music?
The exposure to diverse backgrounds and narratives made me particularly aware and interested in how history influences the creation, maintenance, and re-shaping of identity. Most of my concert music is an interaction of history, society, and music.
Your bio briefly discusses that you’ve written for films, TV shows, including the Walking Dead, and that you’ve composed pieces to be played by the Orchestra of the Americas at Palacio de Bellas Artes! Of your many accomplishments to date, which would you consider your top three?
My favorite music to write is concert music also called art music. Recently, however, I act as composer and director of visual components which accompany my own music. My first favorite project is Codex Mexica with Yo-Yo Ma, Johnny Gandelsman, and OAcademy—a musical retelling commemorating 500 years of the fall of the Ancient city of Tenochtitlan. Another one of my favorites is Tres Cuartos de Cien, with The Orchestra of the Americas. This project celebrates 75 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico. And lastly, one of my most recent favorite projects, “金瓷” or “Gold Porcelain,” is a new collaboration with OAcademy to be premiered on October 22, 2022. It celebrates 50 years of international relations between China and Mexico. This will also have a visual component I will direct.
How has your work changed in recent years, as a result of the pandemic? Have you seen music evolve, or how patrons interact with it change?
The pandemic strengthened the style and focus of my work. It consolidated the aesthetic interests I had been approaching in my previous pieces. It also opened the door to amazing distance collaborations like “Codex Mexica” and the soon to be premiered “金瓷 - Gold Porcelain.”
What’s one thing you haven’t tackled yet that’s still on your to-do list, short- or long-term?
I would love to write a piece for an orchestra in the United States, like the New York Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Would you please share your most memorable moment(s) from NYU?
The various projects I was involved in marked some of my most memorable moments. From the early scoring of plays by the theater program to the late composition recitals in my Junior and Senior years, these moments gave me invaluable experiences and know-hows that have stuck with me since.
The traveling I did as a student is also memorable for me. Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nepal, Portugal, Montenegro, the United States, Sri Lanka, Jordan…all of these places gave me perspective on the vastness of the world and my place in it.
Lastly, the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with students and faculty shaped me as a human being and fostered connections I keep till this day. The friends and mentors I made are extremely important to me.
The world looks much different for today’s college students than when you graduated. If you could give one piece of advice to NYU’s newest alumni, the Class of 2022, what would it be?
You are extremely young and there is still a lot of time. Be ambitious, hungry, and active as I know you are, but also allow yourself to be patient and wait for the fruits of your labor to come. Have fun!