Fire & Soul
Marina Arsenijevic (pronounced arson-knee-vitch) is one of the most dazzling talents in the musical world. She was born in Yugoslavia and grew up in Belgrade. She was soon recognized as a gifted child with great energy to conquer the world around her. She excelled in school. Her father, who was a famous Yugoslav soccer star on the National Team, wanted his daughter to be a star athlete and she did very well as a basketball player. However, her mother, who was a senior government official, envisioned her daughter to be a star ballet dancer and Marina showed great promise in her dance recitals. Nevertheless, Marina was enamored with pianos and started to collect miniature pianos instead of dolls. After her collection grew to over 100, she finally convinced her parents to buy her a real piano. The piano immediately took charge of Marina's life and she was permanently captivated by the instrument. It soon became obvious that, more than just talented, Marina was a child piano prodigy, playing her first concert before an amazed audience of 2000 people at age nine. Her parents were able to have her study both in Yugoslavia and abroad with some of the world's great piano masters from Austria, Italy, Germany and Russia. Marina developed a powerful piano technique that captured the strength she generated from elevating her body off the piano bench and transferring it into her arms. This technique gave her fingers an advantage in both power and speed normally reserved for large handed male pianists enabling her to dominate the piano competitions in Yugoslavia for many years. Marina's legendary finger strength enabled her to make even concert grand pianos shake visibly. It was not uncommon for concert halls to have the deck latches of their venerable grand pianos reinforced to eliminate concerns that the supports for the piano deck may collapse during Marina's performances. Soon, as a classical pianist, she was playing concerts all over Eastern Europe. Marina's recordings of Mozart with the St. Petersburg Soloists and of Chopin Piano Waltzes became top-selling classical CDs in Central and Eastern Europe. As a result, she rapidly became a much sought-after soloist. In fact, she played as a soloist with every major orchestra in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, she completed her formal musical studies at the University of Arts in Belgrade, receiving both her bachelor and master degrees with honors before the age of 22. The death of Marshal Tito in May 1980 started the disintegration of Yugoslavia into civil war among it's diverse ethnic groups. The civil strife greatly affected Marina's outlook on life and her music. She craved peace and unity in the face of ethnic extremism. Although under great pressure from the many warring factions and the governments that supported them, she maintained her political neutrality, developing her hallmark: "Unity in the Face of Diversity". As an accomplished arranger and composer, she immediately applied her vision for unity to her music, creating a new genre - the Ethno Classical style. This Ethno Classical style embodied her concept of "Unity in the Face of Diversity" by combining diverse ethnic rhythms with traditional classical themes and techniques. The public quickly recognized the brilliance of this concept, and as a result Marina's popularity soared with sold-out concerts throughout Eastern and Central Europe. The bombing of Serbia brought another dramatic new chapter to Marina's life, outlook, and music. Because of her great popularity, the Yugoslav government enlisted her, through continuous National Television and personal appearances in shopping malls and theaters, to calm the people. She saw the suffering of ethnic strife firsthand. Inspired and ignoring numerous political pressures, Marina took the Serb National Symphony Orchestra to Kosovo to play both Christian and Muslim classical music receiving numerous standing ovations from an appreciative ethnically diverse standing room only audience of more than 7000. Subsequently, she went to the border of Serbia and Kosovo to play a concert for an eager and emotional audience within earshot of the bombings. As a result of these experiences, Marina was inspired to write the dramatic piece KOSOVO, which was a seamless blend of both Christian and Muslim melodies. On the last day of bombing, Marina introduced her composition KOSOVO with tears flowing from her eyes to an audience in Belgrade that began to weep along with Marina. The following morning, emotionally and creatively exhausted from her experiences, Marina fled Belgrade to Budapest. A week later, by special Congressional arrangement, Marina relocated to the United States, closing the European chapter of her life. Nevertheless, her European past remained influential in shaping both her character and music as she began her new life and career. She had been highly successful in Europe as she rose to super-star status, cultivating an immense popularity and following. She had completed an unprecedented 75-city tour with over 7,000 people in attendance at a performance. She toured with her transparent plexi-glass grand piano made especially for her by Herr Schimmel of the Schimmel Pianoworks in Germany. She had won numerous awards and competitions in Europe, including first prize in the Italian National Piano Competition and first prize five times in the Yugoslavian National Piano Competition. In 1996, she received the Yugoslavian Oscar for Most Popular Classical Artist, and the 1997 Yugoslavian Media Award for the Most Popular Media Personality. She had appeared on 40 European Magazine covers and her CD, "My Balkan Soul" had sold 500,000 copies, becoming the best selling classical-crossover CD in 11 European countries. Yugoslavia's popular magazine TV Guide explained Marina's acquisition of super-star status in Europe by the following: "God gave her the look of a model, the talent of an exquisite artist, and the flawless political skill of a chess master. She has an ability to communicate with diverse peoples and nations, which even great diplomats would envy. This is Marina." In America, Marina faced an exciting new world of challenges in using diversity to foster unity and peace. As a result, she further developed her Ethno Classical style by combining American pop music into the European Classical style along with her Ethno Classical rhythms. The result was a brilliant new musical style grounded in technical perfection and a deep emotional spirit, which brought her rave reviews from her American audiences. Marina brought down the house at her sold-out debut Carnegie Hall performance in January 2003 entitled 'Brave Music, Bold Soul'. Laura Bush and Cherie Blair (the British Prime Minister's Wife) along with 2000 other guests were equally dazzled when Marina played her original arrangement of AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL at the annual First Lady's Luncheon. She has received rave reviews for her debut performances at Telluride's historic Sheridan Opera House, Chicago Symphony Center, and the Toronto Center for the Arts. American critics have described Marina as a 'James Bond' beauty with a powerhouse technique that delivers an emotional punch like a "Balkan thunderbolt," while her compositions have been described as breathtakingly original. Marina continues to solidify her reputation as a brilliant new artist in the musical world as more and more American audiences are exposed to her talents as a pianist, composer, arranger and an ambassador of good will. In 2004, Marina was awarded a 3-year Artist-in-Residence Career Development Award by the International Sponsorship Foundation for the Performing Arts. She also had a multi-city concert tour in the United States and Canada to raise awareness and humanitarian funds for orphans and needy children throughout Eastern Europe by assisting various charities such as the Yugoslavian Lifeline Humanitarian Organization and the Russian Children's Welfare Society. More recently, Marina returned to Carnegie Hall for a second sold-out appearance and numerous standing ovations for her new program entitled 'Marina in America'. Marina also performed at the Colorado Festival of World Theatre in Colorado Springs making her fourth appearance with that organization. She also returned to Chicago receiving a standing ovation from an audience of 3000 at the Navy Pier Auditorium. Marina has been greatly moved by the ethnically diverse sights and sounds of America reflecting the rich multi-cultural heritage of it's people that is proudly celebrated in thousands of neighborhoods across the country. Marina sees in America a living monument to the strength of diversity and the rewards of freedom when there is "Unity in the Face of Diversity". Marina's debut American album of original compositions for piano, band and orchestra entitled "Fire & Soul" incorporates the sounds of American pop and jazz with various ethnic and cultural rhythms that represent America's diversity and merges them into a vibrant musical tribute to the "Nation of Immigrants".