A Catholic Composer to Watch…

Deal W. Hudson
May 23, 2008

Eric Genuis is a composer, performer, and conductor on a mission to save the culture from the destructive effects of bad music. Like the philosophers of ancient Greece, Genius believes music shapes our character and worries that “young people are damaged by popular music before they become adults.” His solution is to make good music and to get people into concert halls to hear him perform it live.

Genius, now 41, was raised in Toronto, but his parents are from Malta, having immigrated to Canada after World War II. He studied music, along with physics and math, at the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto, where in addition to composing and music history, he paid particular attention to the effect of music on modern culture.

He relocated to the United States in 1997, met his wife Leslie, and for ten years wrote the background music for an Ohio TV station. His move to Denver, where he presently resides, was spurred in part by the birth of his Down Syndrome child. (Denver offers a good climate and excellent health care.)

When I asked Eric how many children he has, he answered, “Well, five were lost through miscarriages, and we now have three children at home. One is being adopted.” Much of Genuis’s music, such as the album “Never Alone,” is inspired by his family’s experience with their children.

Genius is becoming well-known as a Catholic composer, but he would not call his composing and performing an apostolate:

I am simply a musician seeking to give people an experience of the kind of music that may lead them to God. I can perform before an audience of complete unbelievers and know that my music has stirred them deeply.

The more I talked to Genius, the more I admired his old-world, almost mythic, confidence in the power of music to move the soul upward. Hearing him speak about music made me hearken back to the myth of Orpheus whose music could calm wild beasts and Plato who considered the right music necessary for moral development.

Although Genius has recorded much of his music (it’s found on iTunes), part of his mission is to get people into concert halls to hear it performed live. “I believe that music should be live. To hear the violin, you have to see the violinist play. When I am conducting, I can feel the stage shake – it reverberates my whole body. The same thing happens to the audience, and it can’t happen while listening to a recording.”

In recent years, he has been giving concerts of his music with twelve-string orchestras. Many of his venues, thus far, have been pro-life and Catholic organizations (he often plays for Catholic fundraisers). The basic cost of booking one of his concerts is between $7,000 and $10,000. After hearing three CDs of his music, I predict that within a year his fees will be going up. It was at the concert sponsored by Arizona Right to Life that he met one of his biggest fans, former president of the organization, John Jakubczyk.

Jakubczyk told me,

Eric’s music reflects an appreciation of the good, the true, and the beautiful. His composition and style enthrall the listener as he captures something special about the human spirit. Knowing both the joy and pain that Eric and his wife have lived with over the years provides the listener with an even greater appreciation for the gift with which God has entrusted him. Eric wants to share the love that God has for all His creation through his music.

Genius does not consider himself a Catholic musician in the sense that he’s trying to send a “message” to his audience. The beauty of well-crafted and inspired music is all that Genius cares about. He composes, he explains, in the tradition of Mozart and Beethoven, but in a manner that will “appeal to today’s concertgoers.”

When I heard his music for the first time, I thought much of it had the quality of good film music, of the kind that a large and diverse audience might enjoy. I consider this a compliment since I believe film composers were some of the best of the last 50 years (Korngold, Morricone, Hermann, Rozsa). Genius, in fact, has made some first steps in finding work scoring films. “It’s a very crowded and competitive field,” he told me. Genius possesses the one quality missing from most contemporary composers – he’s not afraid to write a good tune.

When it comes to sacred music, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t care for popular music in the liturgy. “A sung Mass should reflect God and not sound like a beer jingle. The Mass is about an eternal matter and to set those words to low music is almost sacrilegious. It’s kind of like wearing jeans and a junky tee shirt on your wedding day.” I asked him if he has been accused of being a musical snob, and he replied, “Being a snob has nothing to do with it – you don’t take the Eucharist and put it in a Tupperware container.”

Who is Eric Genuis? Maybe the best way to describe him is a musician who is trying to reverse what the late professor Allan Bloom called The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom’s 1987 best-seller identified the steady diet of rock music consumed by teenagers and young adults as a key factor in the dulling of their intelligence and capacity for education. Bloom was castigated publicly, but his thesis continues to be discussed with appreciation.

Genuis takes Bloom’s critique as a rallying cry for his work, which he promotes with all the zeal of an evangelist. He has no public relations firm, no marketing department. He runs his business out of his home, hoping that the demand for his live concerts will increase. I have no doubt they will as his music, and the composer himself, become better known.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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