René grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of an American embassy official. He began piano lessons at age seven, first with an Armenian teacher and then with Russian pianist Mikhail Cheskinov. He began composing at age fourteen and initially studied counterpoint on his own, working through the Baroque counterpoint manual Gradus ad Parnassum (also used by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and other celebrated composers).
After the family returned to the U.S., René studied music at the University of Oregon under Homer Keller (composition), Hal Owen (theory, counterpoint), and Rumanian pianist Alexandru Hrisanides (piano), receiving baccalaureate degrees in Music and German. Subsequently, he studied with the late Polish pianist Adam Kapuscinski (student of A. Michalowski, himself a pupil of Liszt).
After graduation René became involved with electronic music and coordinated the Eugene Electronic Music Collective (EEMC), giving concerts on synthesizers and piano in his native state of Oregon. His ‘Voyager’ Concerto for piano and synthesizers is the first and only concerto ever written for that combination of keyboard instruments. One listener commented:
Rene’s cover article “Electronic Orchestration” appeared in Electronic Musician magazine. The article continues to be used in college music courses as a benchmark reference in the field.
As noted in Keyboard Magazine, René toured the Northwest performing the world premiere of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on synthesizers and in quadraphonic sound. He has also concertized performing original works on piano and synthesizers and founded the Alliance Recognizing Talent in Eugene (A.R.T.E.), a consortium of 40+ musicians/artists in his hometown.
Besides his roles as composer and performer of music, René has also worked as a Mental Health Associate, caring for severely mentally ill patients in various hospital settings. He strongly believes this work has added depth and character to his compositions and to his performing.
Ever the experimenter, René is exploring what he calls “episodic music”—a method of composing in which a musical work is broken into ‘episodes’ that are to be performed in whatever order the performer desires. In this way, the piece is ever fresh, while the performer also becomes partly the ‘composer.’
About his music, René says: “I want my music to sing. I would like it to be immediately intelligible to anyone, regardless of his or her musical background. I’d like people to see themselves through my music, and thus to acknowledge and affirm themselves on a deep and meaningful level.”