Cristobal MarYán

Almost Famous

Cristobal MarYán, Class of 2015, can hardly contain his excitement. He’s ready to talk publicly for the first time about “the most significant project of his music career” — an online collaboration with world famous artists that’s been two years in the making. It’s an NYUAD exclusive!

NYUAD: Nice to see you again, Cristobal.

Cristobal MarYán: Hello! 

NYUAD: We hear you’ve been working on something big.

I haven’t been able to talk about it for two years! It just so happens that NYUAD is my first interview. Not even my former teachers in Abu Dhabi know, they just know something big is coming. That’s all I’ve been able to say until now. 

NYUAD: What’s the project?

Well, an original piece that I composed for Orchestra of the Americas (OA) was supposed to premiere in 2020 but it got cancelled because of the pandemic. Since then, it has evolved into a collaborative, experimental, very brave online project, thanks to the leadership of OAcademy at OA. They’ve been supporting me all the way. 

Together, we decided to create a complete orchestra recording, fully remotely. I’m the composer and director. All the musicians in the orchestra recorded their parts at home.

NYUAD: Who are you collaborating with?

There are two soloists. The first one is cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Cristobal MarYán, Class of 2015

Major: Music

Current Role: Composer-in-residence, Orchestra of the Americas

Current Location, Mexico City, Mexico

Home Country: Mexico

NYUAD: That’s incredible, congratulations!

Yes, I know! This is the first time I’ve been allowed to speak about the collaboration publicly. I’ve been dying to tell everybody. And the second soloist is violinist Johnny Gandelsman from Brooklyn Rider

We also have Grammy-award winning mix and sound engineer Alex Venguer who has scored many blockbuster Hollywood films. In all, we have 59 fellows who recorded their parts fully remotely in countries across the Americas, from Alaska all the way to Chile, including my close friend and collaborator Juan Blanco who created a full animated film for the piece.


My latest work, “Codex Mexica: Passion”, is a human story of hope, will, ambition, betrayal, pain, and suffering. Being able to start difficult conversations about complex topics is something that I trained for at NYUAD

Cristobal MarYan, Class of 2015

NYUAD: What inspired you?

The project is about the fall of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, 500 years ago. That event has spurred many conversations about the fall of the city and the arrival of the Spanish into the Americas — probably the most important encounter of the time.

It’s a human story of hope, will, ambition, betrayal, pain, and suffering. The project has extremely sensitive fibers historically, culturally and politically. It’s exciting, it’s controversial. Being able to start difficult conversations about complex topics is something that I trained for at NYUAD.

NYUAD: How can we listen and learn more?

The title of the piece is Codex Mexica: Passion. It’s a 16-minute piece available online for free. I’d also really encourage the NYUAD artistic community to check out OAcademy at the Orchestra of the Americas. OAcademy provides elite orchestra training for those with fewer resources. This project would not have been possible without their support.

And I have to make sure that I mention some very important people who helped bring my vision to life:

Juan Blanco, CEO of Ihtoa Games, visuals and animation
Brisa Vega, watercolour
Oscar Zambrano, mastering
Alejandra Gómez Ordaz, mezzo soprano
Vanda Gaidamovič and Mark Gillespie, co-founders at OAcademy
Carlos Miguel Prieto, artistic director at OAcademy