Spring 2012


I was back visiting my father in Oklahoma City in October. He was about to turn 92 and a car battery fire had incinerated much of the garage. Fortunately my father, and even his cars survived, but I had the task of cleaning through some of the debris that had collected in the aftermath. Positioned in the corner of the garage was an old trunk. You know, the kind that people used to use as they traveled either by train or ship and it was easily capable of storing personal items that one might need for an extended stay in one place or another. Not knowing what I would find, I gingerly opened it in the late Indian summer light that had begun to settle over my childhood home.

My father’s parents had come from Ireland on his mother’s side and South Dakota on his father’s side to settle in the Indian Territory in the late 1800s, prior to Oklahoma statehood. In fact, my great grand father had made one of the land runs, where a few hearty souls would stake claims in this land that could be harsh in the winter and boiling in the summer. Nevertheless, there was a promise of better days in the territorial towns that would crop up throughout the west.

My father’s mother came from a hearty stock that lived in dugouts nestled in the red clay country that some thirty years later would be ravaged by over toiling of the land depicted in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. As I prepared to look inside this trunk, I reflected on Kennedy’s words in October ‘63. It was one of his final speeches and was given as a commencement address at my alma mater, Amherst College to a graduating class, a decade before my arrival. He spoke of the entitlement that small private colleges were prone to foster. He encouraged those graduating students to utilize the education they had acquired to better the lives of those less privileged. I thought about how my father had risen from humble beginnings to a master of the courtroom in the heartland and how I had done little to earn the luxury of attending a school so steeped in Yankee tradition and privilege. It caused me to reflect on what things I might have achieved in the years that had passed since my departure from college to make the world a better place for my children and those that will come afterwards.

As I opened the trunk, I dusted off ash that somehow seeped into the interior fabric of the piece and what I found were simple things. The collection of day to day activity, accumulated over the lives of my grandparents, and yet they were part of their legacy that they had wanted passed down to my father and his children’s children. Here was a photo of a boating party, with men in their straw hats and women in their Victorian dresses, much like those Impressionistic paintings from the same era by Monet and Renoir. Though the photo was aged and curled at the edges, it clearly spoke to the magic of that particular day of relaxation from the labors of the week. It was my grandfather as a young man, so different from the weathered face that I remember from trips to see him in my own youth. His visage held the innocence of youth, emboldened by aspirations of a life ahead of him, which belied the world wars that were just around the corner.

There was also book of penmanship. You see, he was a teacher and he had hoped, from what my dad said, that this book would be embraced by the public school system and it would be in every classroom across the country. Although this never was to come to pass, I was in possession of this delicate treatise with my father’s name spelled out in beautiful cursive and elegant penmanship in a multitude of styles and shadings. There was even a picture of my father sitting at a school desk, demonstrating the proper posture to achieve the desired result.

Then there were the schoolbooks that had obviously been used in his class room curriculum. They had C.R. Foliart, Ocala, Florida, inscribed, where he had traveled with his family for a few years of teaching and administrating, before returning to Oklahoma. There were books of elementary history, English, science, as well as collected works of Victor Hugo and an early collection on the History of Civilization, as it was perceived in the late 19th century. Then there were more photos. Photos of friends, colleagues and relatives, most with no designation, which left me to wonder who these people were and what place they served in my life. There was a plague honoring my grandmother on her service in the local community. There were Christmas cards, graduation notices accumulated through the years, and stylized books from 1910 with selected photos that were given to family members and friends as a gift for the new year to come.

After a few hours of meticulously cleaning and looking at these items, it gave me pause. What will I leave for generations to come? What will be my place within my time? I then realized that it would mostly be my music. That is what we, as composers and lyricists, will leave future generations. I know that what we do at times seems an act of servitude depending on the conditions of employment. But in the larger sense, our craft and the magic that we bring to our profession is steeped in the joy of creating wonderful music and song. That is one aspect that makes me adamantly opposed to replacing a colleague’s work with my own, as has sometimes been the case in our profession, to either make an older work more contemporary or as a cost saving measure when it goes from one medium to another. So as you sit down to write today, know that what we do is gift that will be passed on. Write it the best you can and think that some rendering of it may be enjoyed by generations to come, found in some half hidden trunk down the road, or airing on some yet to be conceived transmission in the distant future, somewhere in time.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVII, Number One, Spring 2012]


Winter 2011


As I recently reported at our annual membership meeting, I am pleased to say that as we move into the fourth decade of the Society of Composers & Lyricists that the spirit of community is alive and well. As I meet new members, I realize what a diverse and varied membership we are. Talent comes in many permutations, from the classically trained composer studying at one of our leading universities around the world to those highly skilled in the latest technologies. There is a place for everyone in our ever-evolving profession. Bringing your own unique voice to our industry will continue to make it the most creative of crafts working in the field of media.

Jim di Pasquale and a group of hardworking colleagues formed what we now know as the SCL back in the early 80s. They valiantly appeared before the Labor Relations Board in an attempt for certification regarding collective bargaining. Although that certification was denied, the organization has grown from a few individuals to the leading organization for media composers in the world. I am happy to serve with an elected board of directors that is comprised of working composers and lyricists with immense talents that make my job more than rewarding.

Our membership continues to grow every day, and we have you to thank for letting your colleagues know about our organization. Since 1945, with the creation of the Screen Composers Association, through the ensuing decades under the banner of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, our membership has always included the most talented lyricists and composers working in the field.

Even in this tight economy, the value of an SCL membership is an investment that is well worth the cost. As you are aware, the number of informative seminars on both coasts, as well as collegial gatherings, screenings, composer-to-composer events, and the celebrated Score magazine are just a few of our numerous benefits. In an at times solitary business, the SCL provides a forum to meet others traveling our path and learn from the most successful in our industry.

As we move farther into the digital age, these are historically unsettling times. We continue to be faced with obstacles in the courts. Recently, the US Supreme Court declined to grant review of ASCAP’s cert petition on the question of whether there is a public performance right in download transmissions of music files. For those in our sector, this is particularly troubling, as our monies from mechanical royalties are minimal and we look to the performance right as sacrosanct. Our community continues to face adversity from service providers such as Yahoo, Mobi TV, and DMX in the form of unfavorable rulings in the rate court. As a result, we may look to legislative solutions in the future that could be a viable alternative to legal rulings. Know that we have faced adversity before and the strength that becomes even more important in these times of challenge is a strong community of composers and songwriters, which is vital to making our impact on a national level. As I have reported to you, I have visited the “Hill” on numerous occasions and my colleagues and I continue to express the significance of your work, not only here in the US, but around the world. To that end we continue to join with fellow creators around the globe to look for answers to challenges that we have in common. Within our own borders, your performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC continue to be our champions as they devote countless hours and resources to the protection of copyright. Our adversaries continue to be well funded and organized, but advocacy through the PROs on our profession’s behalf, levels the playing field in the arena of intellectual property.

Despite the difficulties we face, many of our events during recent months exemplify what is great about our profession. As we join with our colleagues who have shared aspirations, we have had evenings which celebrate our craft, such as our annual membership meeting, which showcased two of the world’s legendary songwriters, Carole Bayer-Sager and Randy Newman, joined by another legendary songwriter, SCL Vice-President, Arthur Hamilton and a celebrated executive in our profession, Steven Vincent to explore the wonders of their creativity. Since my last writing, SCL New York has joined with SESAC to stage another great songwriter event and Gary Maurer and Adam Guettel have been featured in two informative evenings on the east coast. In three well-attended events Blake Neely, Richard Bellis and a panel lead by Adam Levenson have explored interesting aspects of our profession on the west coast.

For the moment, we are faced with uncertain times; uncertain times in our domestic finances, uncertain stabilities of global economies and a tightening of budgets in all aspects of our profession. It is my belief that your creativity matters more in these times of unrest than in times of plenty. Know that the joy that you bring with your music and song can be more than entertainment, it can be the heart of what gives our society the confidence to grow and prosper. We hope that the SCL can continue to be a port in the storm and a proud partner to help you attain your goals and aspirations.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Four, Winter 2011]


Fall 2011


There’s been a lot going on in our business over the last several months. I am pleased to welcome four new board members, Ramon Balcazar, Shawn Clement, Denis Hannigan, and Michael Silversher. Each brings his unique talent to our exceptional board. We regrettably say farewell to Sharon Farber, Lynn Kowal and Stu Phillips, though I am optimistic that they will join our ranks again.

The performing rights organizations, which have steadfastly led the crusade for copyright protection on our behalf, took some time over the summer to recognize their members who have continued to help make them what they are. The Society of Composers & Lyricists was front and center as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC celebrated those who have played a significant role in making their films, television shows and games the most successful in their respective industries.

Our organization continues to present informative programs on both coasts as the SCL New York continues to grow with the help of a devoted and energetic steering committee combined with the satisfying partnership it has nurtured with the performing rights organizations there. You can read more about their activities within the body of this month’s issue. Here in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to moderate a panel put together by Ray Costa comprised of some of our most talented composers as we delved into the world of scoring for dramatic television at AFI in June. This event was followed a few weeks later in an evening featuring Michael Giacchino, who brought his talented team to a sold out gathering to explore their working relationship.

In May, I was once again privileged to go to Washington with ASCAP to “Walk the Halls” and spread our message with legislative members and aids. Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle were updated as to some of our ongoing challenges in the courts, as we lay groundwork that could in fact be a precursor to legislation that could play a role in preserving our royalty stream. My colleagues and I covered such basic points as differentiating our contributions from the artists that make their livelihood on the touring circuit, to the complexities of working under a consent decree that enables a music user to receive a license to use our music by merely asking for. We stressed the point that arriving at a reasonable price can be held up in courts for years as we await an outcome to the resolutions. We reiterated that musical performances have been grossly devalued in online and new media. Since our sector in the television and film world is rarely entitled to mechanical rights, the performance right becomes even that more of a concern.

Our trip to the hill was preceded by a concert at the Library of Congress. Congressional leaders introduced performers from their home states and from what we have heard, the evening entitled, We Write the Songs, has become one of the most anticipated events of the year for those in Congress. The night was filled with a number of stellar performances, including former SCL president, Bruce Broughton at the piano with his lovely and talented wife, violinist Belinda, who did an inspired suite from Silverado. Dean Kay, a great friend to our community, did a rousing version of That’s Life and Hal David brought down the house as he performed Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. In an encore performance, ASCAP president, Paul Williams was in fine form as he sang and acted as the master of ceremonies.

Even those not clearly connected to our industry understand that it is a time of change. Every facet of the entertainment business has experienced its own challenges, and the music for media profession continues to grapple with the growing pains of traditional terrestrial broadcast migrating to the Internet. In June, I was in New York to hear oral arguments in ASCAP’s and BMI’s separate appeals of unfavorable rulings in each of their rate setting cases with DMX, a background music service provider. The company was successful in being granted a much lower fee basis than the PROS were requesting in their District Court proceedings. The case on appeal was heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and over seen by three appellate judges. The outcome is pending, and as in all of these types of cases, an unfavorable ruling runs the risk of setting dangerous precedents in decisions down the line.

The positive news is that although we are experiencing a time of challenge, our contributions and importance to the whole have never been more pronounced and undeniable. As new outlets for programming continue to present themselves, the need for music and song becomes more consequential. Making sure that we are compensated fairly has never been easy, and in the digital age it has become even more of a slippery slope. We continually stress that we, as the ultimate small businessperson, have a right to be treated with integrity in the market place. We will continue to make our voices heard. We will continue to advocate for fairness, and certainly we will continue to spread the message that without our wonderful music and song, ours would be a society less enriched and less fulfilled.

Published in The SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Three, Fall 2011]


Summer 2011


Serving in my capacity as president of the SCL, I have had spent much time around friends and colleagues over the last few years; those of you beginning your careers and those, like myself, who have been at it for a while. It has given me pause to reflect on whether those engaged in their first few jobs could look forward to a certain kind of longevity, and if there were any common denominators, other than good old-fashioned luck, that might facilitate this. In that spirit, I thought that I might share with you some thoughts and observations that I have made over the years of how one goes about sustaining a career in a fickle and unpredictable profession. Staying power is at times a capricious thing, but there may be steps that you can make that may enhance your ability for musical sustainability.

Even if you are blessed with the musical gift of Henry Mancini or John Williams, finding a champion is imperative; not only in getting your career off the ground, but in sustaining it through the years. Although these luminaries transcended one specific advocate, Blake Edwards and Steven Spielberg did a lot for helping these gentlemen along the way to huge success. An avid supporter can break through the layers of bureaucracy that have run rampant in our business over the past decade and stand behind you if other agendas start coming into play.

In my own career, I’ve had a number of strong supporters from the studio side that kept my ship afloat for many years. Their confidence and unfailing support was something that in looking back was critical in furthering my journey. Coupled with a handful of champions from the creative side, their collective influence and belief has proven indispensable in sustaining my career. Among our own colleagues, I’ve heard Robert Zemeckis discuss his admiration and allegiance to Alan Silvestri, feeling comfortable in bringing Alan into any project, regardless of the genre. Michael Giacchino, not only has gained the respect of JJ Abrams, but I’ve heard other director and producers affirm that no project would be done without him.

So what fosters this kind of loyalty? Being able to communicate about a topic that for many is oblique and turn that into something tangible that enhances a creator’s vision is a unique talent, and it is also an attribute that I feel is crucial to our mission as composers. Other ingredients that lead to confidence in you are more universal. I was having lunch with my childhood team mate from Oklahoma, Joe Simpson, who went on to play for the Dodgers, and he pointed out that reliability, delivery and follow-thru were ingredients that were not only important in professional athletics, but these qualities are integral to creating confidence and dedication in music as well. Furthermore, you also need to be the kind of person that people enjoy and feel comfortable being around, and ultimately your goal is to make music one aspect of the film making process that does not have to be worried about. All of these things will help bring these people back to you the next time that they need music. All of this being said, you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. I remember having a conversation with Jerry Immel and one of his tenets was to diversify your contacts, because if you only have one true believer and that person isn’t working then you won’t be either. I have been fortunate to have several champions in different camps throughout most of my career and I believe Jerry’s words are sound advice.

The next ingredient that I have found that is critical to your success is to create a successful team around you. In my own career, it has been essential to have a great circle of musicians that were able to execute my vision. Many of my core team of players have worked with me for almost thirty years and I wouldn’t think of replacing them. They understand my sensibilities and beyond that, they have helped create my sound and have been critical to my longevity. Having a team that also includes wonderful support personal such as programmers, orchestrators, engineers, music editors and copyists, is also a key ingredient. Agents, managers and attorneys can also be instrumental in shaping your career path. Having an individual that truly understands your unique voice can be an important element to perpetuating your career, and in negotiations, they can say things about you that you wouldn’t necessarily say yourself.

Being willing to embrace change is also important. Change in your style, change in your work process, change in direction all together can be important to moving through your career. I remember hearing Jan Hammer’s music for Miami Vice and telling my partner, Howard Pearl, that unless we were able to move in a new direction, we would go the way of the dinosaurs. Jan brought a true freshness to television music at the time and I think that being able to sense that sea change was a good thing.

Keeping that in mind, I have the utmost respect for my good friend, Mark Snow. His well-crafted orchestral scores for series such as Heart to Heart have been supplemented in recent years by an electronic palette that has continued his long-running career that includes the scores and themes to such hits as Ghost Whisperer and the X-Files. I also commend our SCL board member, Garry Schyman, who lately has seen tremendous success in the Video Game world, after beginning in episodic television, and composing the music to such long running shows as Magnum PI. Even Elmer Bernstein was able to shift gears and jump into Animal House, which revitalized his already legendary career.

There are less tangible tenets that I think that have sustained me since my first professional job in college, leading to today, as I start the fourth season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. You’ve got to enjoy it. I remember many years ago scoring one of the final episodes of Happy Days. I will never forget my disappointment as I watched a man that I had truly admired in the next studio at Wally Heider finishing a session. He was burnt out, yelling at the musicians and all in all, not enjoying it. I unabashedly must say that I am having as good a time now as I did when I got my first network show in November of 1978. Although I have certainly experienced some trials and tribulations along the way, as Johnny Mercer eloquently put into song, I try to accentuate the positive, and try to make my working relationship with those around me, not only rewarding, but fun and fulfilling as well.

I am a firm believer that the magic that we can bring as creative artists to a project through custom crafted music will be part of what makes the director or producer’s film a box office success or a long running series and foster the loyalty that you are looking for. Finally, if you’re just starting out, I am confident that you will have the opportunity to have a long and rewarding career. We are faced with challenges from different spectrums that must be addressed, but there are certain aspects of your life that you have absolute control over. Continue to create, continue to learn and by all means continue to grow and thirty years down the road, no doubt, you will still be creating and being compensated for music and song; and one more thing, keep the inspiration coming.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Two, Summer 2011]


Spring 2011


At this writing, I am trying to make some sense out of the recent tragedies in Tucson. My son, Matt graduated from the University of Arizona, and his commencement ceremony was held in the very hall that President Obama made his eloquent eulogy. My wife, Cheryl and I spent many joyful weekends visiting Matt in that beautiful city and for such a senseless crime to have been committed there seems inconceivable. Though having grown up in Oklahoma City and as of late having been a frequent visitor to New York City as the SCL has continue to flourish there, it seems all of us are faced with the reality of bad things happening to people and places that are dear to us.

In addressing the SCL board recently, I reflected on the fact that at times like this we must assess in our own lives how we are spending each precious moment. Perhaps as we move into the New Year, it is a time to reevaluate our goals and give some close scrutiny to the way we are living day to day. I can tell you that nothing has made me more proud than having the opportunity to serve as your president. The joy of meeting new faces and nourishing relationships with those I have so long admired has yielded untold rewards for me.

At a recent function, a writer who is now having huge success pulled me aside and shared with me his story of how he had been ghost writing for sometime and then found himself at an SCL function where I was discussing my own frustration of doing the same thing early in my career. It was a seminar that demonstrated the value of performing rights and how a work you do today will very well be playing thirty years from now and helping you prepare for your retirement. This writer said the day after our seminar, he quit his servitude and has been reaping the rewards of performing rights ever since.

My hope is that our organization will not only enlighten you, offer valuable career building tools, lead to revelations that will enhance your productivity and profitability, but when all is said and done, will also be time well spent in the greater picture. Time is too fleeting to waste in endeavors that are not worthwhile, and all of us in the SCL strive to make this experience one that will enrich your lives. Whether it is joining with your colleagues at functions such as the Sean Callery evening where he created cues in real time to”24”, attending our membership meetings at the historic American Legion Hall and hearing the ever eloquent Shirley Walker talk about her brilliant career or joining as we celebrate icons in our profession at our annual holiday dinner, these hopefully are hallmarks that you’ll remember through the years. Too much of our business is relegated to our own limited spaces. Frustrations that I have recently had in my own workplace has further pointed out the value of spending time with my colleagues and friends and I hope that the SCL has offered those opportunities for you as well.

One of the goals during my tenure as president has been to instill a collegiality among all of us working in this, at times frustrating, at times elating profession. One colleague said that our organization personifies what good things can happen when people have respect for his fellow composer or songwriter. He indicated that at one point, earlier in our history, composer gatherings were as much shouting matches as they were anything else. A few years ago, Dave Grusin told me that the SCL was what community was all about. I want to strive to do everything in my power to continue to foster this feeling. Certainly ours is a profession with much passion, and the right to disagree should be part of a healthy community and respect for differing viewpoints should always be welcome in an organization such as ours. We are all on this journey together and the time we spend, whether it is composing music or writing a song, should be balanced with sharing time with our families and time with our community of friends. The richness we reap will enhance our lives and our music.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number One, Spring 2011]


Winter 2010


Lately I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of you at SCL functions such as the Emmy reception and our annual membership meeting. In continuing to keep the quality high, I am pleased to see that our community is being fed by some really terrific programs across the country from Ron Sadoff’s at NYU, Dan Carlin’s at Berklee, Andy Hill’s Chicago Columbia Program and many more.

As I meet fresh faces embarking on a career in our business, I think about how dramatically the landscape has changed over the last thirty years. When I first began, there were less than one hundred of us working in the area of film composition. There were essentially three broadcast networks, so the main outlets as a film composer were network television and feature films. Cable television was in its infancy and it was well before the internet and certainly before mobisodes.

Although arguably there are twenty or thirty times more of us working in the industry today, there is also far more opportunity than there was thirty years ago. The advent of the Game industry has opened the door for excellent work in that genre and there are many hundreds of stations in all formats that need programming and your contributions. Of course with new opportunities come new challenges. As you know, digital services are trying to avoid paying us fairly, while using our creativity to build their businesses and enhance the experience of their websites; essentially expecting us to act as venture capitalists for their experimental business models. As the performing rights organizations continue to litigate for fair payment on our behalf, we are also taking our message to Washington. In September, inspired by what we do with the SCL, through the efforts of ASCAP and Disney we held an advanced screening of the film Secretariat with the composer Nick Glennie-Smith. In attendance, along with key players in the Washington community, were numerous members of Congress. Our purpose was to educate Washington on the dramatic difference that music can make in the film making process. Nick and I held a question and answer session and showed a scene with and without music. It was certainly eye opening for the members of the audience, many of whom had never thought about the aspect of music and the part it plays in the greater art of cinema. We also were able to show an example of the film composer and his role as the textbook small business owner. Nick elaborated on the many people involved with the production of a motion picture score. He articulated the function of orchestrators, arrangers, musicians, editors, copyists, programmers, engineers, studio personnel, contractors, agents and the vital role they all play in the delivery of the final product. I think that it was a good step in putting a face to what we do and those involved in the creative process.

The next day, along with several other colleagues, I met with some of the most conservative and some of the most liberal members of Congress at breakfast and lunch fundraisers as well as “walking the halls.” Members such as Jim deMint, Randy Forbes, Phil Gringley, Sam Graves, Bruce Braley and Chris Van Hollen probably agree on very few things, but we emphasized the non-political aspect of our ask: that if new media litigation fails to protect our interests in the digital realm, we will be back asking Congress for support in reaffirming and clarifying our property rights. I am pleased to report that on both sides of the aisle, we have found sympathetic ears to our predicament; both from the intellectual property point of view, as well as the role we play as a small business owner.

Every day I am also reminded of the importance of staying forever vigilant as our adversaries continue to mount large campaigns as they distort the facts and minimize the importance that your work has on our society. For all of the years that I have been active in this business, our performing rights organizations have played a significant role in spreading our message. You can also be assured that the SCL will be there as well, as we have clearly established ourselves around the world as the preeminent organization for media composers and lyricists. From 1982 when Arthur Hamilton, Jim di Pasquale and a handful of others started this group to the present, we continue to welcome new and bright talents into our community. We follow in the footsteps of two great organizations. The Screen Composers Association was begun in 1945 through the efforts of David Raksin and George Duning among others. Their progress was followed by the establishment of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, which included such icons as Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein, as well as our Oscar host and Advisory member, John Cacavas. I am proud that today the Society of Composers & Lyricists counts over a thousand members.

Through the years since those composers first gathered, the range of entertainment that needs great music and song has grown exponentially. Although the means of delivery has changed and will continue to evolve through the coming years, what doesn’t change is the importance and undisputable impact that your music and lyrics has on our profession. I am optimistic that we will be able to find solutions to the new challenges that we are faced with. The ability to create something new and unique is a special gift and we will continue to celebrate that fact, as well as to continue to foster greatness within this community.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXV, Number Four, Winter 2010]


Fall 2010


Music truly makes the world go around. I just heard from my friend, Bernard Grimaldi, a talented composer and my counterpart in France. He was on the way to Ubeda to celebrate film music with composers from around the globe, including SCL member and this year’s academy award winner, Michael Giacchino, who is serving as the honorary president of the festival.

Since last writing, the Performing Rights Organizations celebrated many of our friends at their annual television and film awards. Rachel Portman and Terence Blanchard received honors at the BMI Awards. Bruce Broughton and Dennis McCarthy received ASCAP special recognition Awards for their contributions to our industry and SESAC bestowed honors on several SCL members such as Board Member, Dennis C. Brown, Jeff Beal and Bruce Miller.

Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Chairman and CEO Hal David, once again did a stellar job acting as the host of this year’s show. I was privileged to be in the audience to see our SCL Ambassador, Johnny Mandel join with other icons to receive recognition for their body of work as they were inducted into this prestigious organization. SCL Ambassador and Songwriter Hall of Fame honoree, Charles Fox, put together an impressive show, with his third installment of the Songs of Our Lives for the Fulfillment Fund. In July, ASMAC honored the legendary arranger, Sam Nestico and our Advisory Board Member, Marc Shaiman at their annual awards gala in Universal City.

There has never been a more important time for us to celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues and affirm the importance that their contributions hold in our society. The challenges of the digital era continue to take their toll on various sectors of our profession and it becomes more imperative to spread the message that our contributions are not only worthy, they are essential to the well-being of communities around the globe.

In May, I was proud to join for a second time with other SCL members to spend a day on Capitol Hill, “walking the halls” to spread the word that along with the accessibility the internet provides, there are inherent dangers in the freedom of access to intellectual property. Through the efforts of ASCAP, members of the Board of Directors and grass roots composers and songwriters from across the country joined together to enlist members of Congress to partner with us as we navigate the challenges of the digital era. I had the opportunity to meet with several Congressional members, such as Henry Waxman and voice the concerns that as the means of delivery moves from one platform to another, the creators need to be fairly compensated for their work. We were addressed by an entertaining Senator Al Franken, and he affirmed his support for our cause, citing his days on Saturday Night Live as a sometimes songwriter. The evening before, we had the opportunity to meet with Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer and a hall full of Congressional members, who were treated to an evening of music, entitled “We Write the Songs” at the Library of Congress, celebrating the one-year anniversary of gifts to their collection from the ASCAP Foundation. The show, with Paul Williams serving as Master of Ceremonies, featured such gifted songwriters as Hal David, Alan Bergman, Albert Hammond, Traci Chapman, Wayland Holyfield, Dion DiMucci and Bill Withers. Another evening is in the planning stages in Washington that would focus on the role and importance of the film composer.

The next month I was in New York to participate in another top-level event, organized by our SCL colleagues in collaboration with Musicians Local 802. The dedication of the steering committee there has been inspirational, as has the support from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. This symposium, under the stewardship of Joel Douek, Chris Hajian and Greg Liska, was one that was dear to my heart. I have stated time and again that I wouldn’t have gotten past my first recording session without the talents of the world-class musicians that we have here in Los Angeles. New York’s talent pool is immense as well, and we had the opportunity to join with some of New York’s finest composers and musicians as we explored the opportunities and challenges in incorporating their talents into our scores in various media. We were proud to have many esteemed SCL members, such as Carter Burwell on the panels, along with experts such as Dennis Dreith from the Film Musicians Secondary Market and the RMA’s Phil Ayling who joined with 802’s, Tino Gagliardi to make it a memorable gathering.

As we move forward from here, although the path is uncertain, our contributions are not. Events such as those mentioned here, only go to affirm how integral our words and music are, as well as the musicians who perform them. It is important that we don’t sit on the sidelines during these challenging times. Many of you will be called upon to lend your expertise as situations present themselves. Know that the SCL, as well as continuing to inform, foster collegiality and be the wellspring of creativity, will also be at the forefront of spreading our message as we move into the future.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXV, Number Three, Fall 2010]


Summer 2010


I had the opportunity to see Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s spectacular revival of Promises, Promises a few months ago in New York. It brought back so many vivid memories of my first summer in Los Angeles, when I saw the production during its initial run. I recall being in Century City, driving up to the Schubert Theatre in my songwriting partner, Tom Shapiro’s battered mid-60’s sedan and having the valet service whisk the car away in lightening speed, saving their arriving guests an unseemly experience. Then I recall entering this magical place as the lights dimmed and the fabulous overture began and being transformed by the songs. Moving ahead in time many years, the magic is still there and those songs are still as fresh as they were then.

I know that there are those of you in your first summers, with your dreams and aspirations alive and their realization still ahead of you. If you are like me, writing’s not really a choice; it’s a passion that can only be satiated by your creative out pouring. Whether it is film, television, video games, theatre, commercials, trailers, or any variation thereof, our profession is rich in opportunity; you’ve only got to tap into it. I’ve welcomed countless SCL mentor students to attend my recording sessions at Capitol Studios over the past years and many of them have begun successful careers in our business, and others will in short order no doubt.

I think a real catalyst to success, however subliminal it may be, is having the chance to be in the company of some of the true legendary icons of our profession. Being able to mix with the likes of a Hal David, is part of the joy of the Society of Composers and Lyricists. This year’s Oscar reception reminded me of the value of having an organization that acknowledges the best work in our field and gives us the opportunity to celebrate with writers that have had such a great impact on our musical community and turned their dreams into reality. This year’s nominees were among the finest in our profession. Hearing friends and luminaries such as James Horner, Marco Beltrami, Hans Zimmer, Alexandre Desplat, Randy Newman, Maury Yestin, T Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham, Buck Sanders, Reinhardt Wagner, and Frank Thomas was an inspiration. I am particularly proud of all that Michael Giacchino has achieved this last year. His reverence for those who have come before is one of the real tenets of this organization. As I stood on the podium at the home of our advisory board member, John Cacavas and his lovely wife Bonnie, I reflected on the years before, having joined with Arthur Hamilton, Charles Bernstein, Richard Sherman, John Williams, Anthony Lloyd Webber, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, David Raksin, Ennio Morricone, Ray Evans and countless others to celebrate the profession that truly adds an element that no other craft in the film making process can.

If my career is any indication, rest assured, our profession will go through many transformations over the course of your careers. As you traverse the uncertainties that are part of a creative profession, there will be choices that you make along the way. All of these decisions will add to your maturation as a writer and collective experience as a person. I recall a group of less than fifty members when I first joined the SCL. There were also less than sixty of us doing most of the work in the television field and when my opportunity came, I was privileged to join that selective community. Now the SCL counts over a thousand in its numbers.

There is one thing I can promise you, I still feel as excited and passionate about the music as I did that summer’s night many years ago. The joy of writing it has not diminished in any way or form. My partner, Tom has become one of Nashville’s most successful writers, and I assume he has better transportation today. I truly believe that we are fortunate and blessed to be able to write and create music and song. As I say, it’s not really a choice, it’s necessary for our souls. I know with dedication, a positive outlook and a little old fashioned luck your creative spirit will turn your own dreams into reality.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXV, Number Two, Summer 2010]


Spring 2010


As I customarily point out at our holiday dinner, the Society of Composers & Lyricists created the Ambassador Program to recognize and acknowledge a select group of composers and lyricists without whose valuable contributions our profession would be less than it is; without whose creativity our artistic community would be lacking and without whose gift, our society would be deprived of wonderful music and song expressed by their genius. Their achievements will be used as the ultimate standard for future generations of film composers and songwriters.

Last year’s event, which was held in the beautiful Crystal Ballroom of the Riviera country club, was significant for two reasons. Not only did we bestow our Ambassador Award on another two talented recipients, but also, Dennis Spiegel became the fourth person to receive our Lifetime Achievement Award. Besides his great talent as a lyricist, his warmth and generosity of spirit has made all who know him feel appreciated and welcome, whenever he is around.

This year’s dinner was particularly rewarding for me, as our two honorees were instrumental in setting an exceptionally high standard for me at the beginning of my career. Our first honoree was Jack Hayes. Among the many missions of the SCL, none is more important than celebrating and raising the awareness of those who have contributed significantly to our profession. Without Jack Hayes, the body of work left behind by many of our luminaries past and present, would be lacking one of the essential qualities that makes it what it is. That attribute is the magic that he so seamlessly brought and continues to bring to the scores with his unmistakable orchestrations. Just a small sampling of his amazing work as an orchestrator spans the history of cinema over the last 60 years. The Greatest Story Ever Told, Gun Fight at the OK Corral, Riverboat, Donovan’s Reef, Hawaii, Casino Royale and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In his introduction, Michael Giachhino spoke passionately about Jack’s talent and his contributions to his own scores. I think it was a fitting follow-up that Michael won the Golden Globe a month later for his music to the film Up, in which Jack contributed masterful orchestrations.

Few, if any of our colleagues have enjoyed as much success in such a wide range of musical disciplines as last year’s second honoree, Charles Fox, who performed some of his memorable classics for us. If only as the co-writer of one of the most performed songs in the BMI repertoire, Killing Me Softly, his place in our musical conscience would be assured. But with Charles, that is only part of his illustrious story. His music to such favorites as Foul Play and Goodbye Columbus are filled with some of the most well crafted score cues of their era. His themes and musical compositions underscore some of the most successful television series of the past fifty years. I was fortunate to follow in his footsteps after he established the unmistakable sound for Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. This past July, Charlie conducted the Warsaw Opera Company Chorus and Orchestra in the premiere of his oratorio, Lament and Prayer based on the words of Pope John Paul II. For the next two years he will be the composer in residence with the Young Musician’s Foundation, and is also the author of a soon to be released book on his life in music.

Bringing Charlie to the stage was Richard Sherman, who along with his brother Robert, was our 2005 recipient of the SCL Ambassador Award. Richard’s charm will always hold a special place in the hearts of those fortunate enough to attend our 2005 event, where Richard performed his Oscar winning songs and other classics for his appreciative audience. His career continues to soar with citations and awards and other widespread recognition including the recent success of the restaging of his beloved Mary Poppins, which at this writing is having a sold out run, here in Los Angeles.

Also in the audience in December was Lalo Schifrin, one of our 2008 honorees. Few of our peers can truly be designated as icons in our profession, but Lalo Schifrin redefines the term. Lalo’s unmistakable creative touch has had a far-reaching impact on every area of our profession. From jazz composer, arranger and performer, to classical composer and conductor to consummate film composer, Lalo Schifrin’s talents have run the gamut, each time putting his unmistakable touch on each genre as no one else can. We heard solid renditions with the maestro at the piano of his music from Cool Hand Luke and the stirring Mission Impossible.

Lalo’s fellow inductee in 2008 was Hal David. As I pointed out in my introduction, It’s difficult to know where to begin when discussing a career as vast, long lasting and successful as Hal David’s has been. I am pleased to say that Hal has become a friend over the last few years, but I feel that I have known him all of my life. There’s nothing unusual about that as everyone I know feels the same about Hal. That is simply because his lyrics have been in our living rooms, in our cars in Trains and Boats and Planes and of course in our hearts and will continue to be for as long as a song is sung. And sing he did, with memorable performances of I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.

A year earlier, 2007 Ambassador, Burt Bacharach paid homage to Hal in his performance of Alfie, saying this is one of the best lyric’s Hal David ever wrote; matter of fact, it’s one of the best lyrics anybody ever wrote. Earlier that evening, the other Ambassador from that year, Dave Grusin and Burt quipped about their early days of being in the south of France together, and afterwards Dave and Stephen Bishop did a moving version of Dave’s song written with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman It Might be You, from Tootsie. The following day, Dave wrote me: thanks …for a wonderful warm evening.  When we talk about the importance of community, this group is such a prime example.  It was great to be in that environment. This is a testimonial that I will treasure, as I have always striven to achieve this, in a great part, through these evenings.

We’ll never forget the touching speeches of our first two inductees, Ray Evans and Earle Hagen. I applaud my colleague, Ray Colcord, and the Television Academy for also recognizing Earle Hagen as a granite figure in the annals of our craft. My wife, Cheryl feels that raising the awareness of the contributions of the Ambassadors has fostered more appreciation for their careers. I remember Ray Evans attending our Oscar receptions and on one occasion being engaged by a number of young writers who had attended our dinner (as well as Dolly Parton). Playing all through this and every holiday season at our home were the seasonal vocal albums of the Ray Charles Singers, led by the consummate arranger and conductor, 2004 Ambassador, Ray Charles.

One of the touching moments of these affairs was when 2006 Ambassador, Johnny Mandel looked into the audience and recognized the previous year’s winner, Van Alexander and paraphrased his earlier statement of I couldn’t have found a better teacher than Van, he threw me in the water and said, Swim! Johnny continues to be one of the most recognized and in demand arrangers in our profession and Van has just authored a book from Harlem to Hollywood.

In 2006, in introducing David Shire, I used these words to welcome him to the stage to perform some of his beautiful music: Tonight we are honoring a gentleman whose range, diversity, and general ability to do many things well is unparalleled in our profession. David Shire has written for the theatre, scored television, scored motion pictures and written hit songs and then music directed, played piano on Broadway and produced pop records. Doing them all to perfection.

Vic Mizzy was an inspiration to our community with his at times irreverent, but always light hearted demeanor; at 93 he still had that childish twinkle in his eye. He entertained us with his wit as he accepted his award in 2004. His works, including the theme and underscore to The Addams Family and Green Acres, will forever be apart of television history and lore.

As I look back over the years of my tenure as president of the Society of Composers and Lyricists, nothing has been more gratifying than the Ambassador program that the board and I implemented during my first term. To join with you as we celebrate and recognize a number of individuals that have helped make our profession the unique and rewarding one that it has always been for me, will forever be something that I will be most proud.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXV, Number One, Spring 2010]


Winter 2009


The last year has been one of financial challenges for many within our field. I know that some sectors of our profession have seen reductions in the amount of work that has been readily available, while others seem to continue along recession proof. Whatever category you fall in, I hope that you have found the Society of Composers and Lyricists to be a valuable resource as you move ahead in your careers.

I feel that the amount of information disseminated this year has been robust. We certainly can applaud our Senior Editor, Lori Barth for the fine work that has appeared in this celebrated publication and I want to personally thank all of you who participated with stories and insight into a myriad of topics germane to our industry. By the time that you are reading this, our new website will have been unveiled. I want to thank Billy Martin for his tireless work on facilitating this new design as well as his past decade of dedication to keeping it up and running. Besides being a talented composer he has added to the feeling of collegiality that I have tried to foster by organizing the SCL Golf Outings. Look for another one in the New Year.

I want to acknowledge our New York Steering Committee under the leadership of Joel Beckerman for the most fruitful year on the east coast in the history of this organization. Two seminars focusing on Where’s My Money brought some of the true experts in the field to elaborate on some of the issues on the front line as the paradigm of how we are paid and who pays us continues to evolve on a daily basis. The distinguished attorney, Jay Cooper and our first Lifetime member went above and beyond the call of duty to travel to New York University in the middle of a snow storm last March to join this year’s ASCAP Henry Mancini Award recipient, Carter Burwell as they explored how we can navigate these uncertain times.

Ron Sadoff continues his dedication to this organization by his much appreciated work in securing facilities at NYU, where he serves as Director of the NYU Film Scoring Program. I was privileged to join Hall of Fame songwriter, Jimmy Webb for an extraordinary evening in late May there as we discussed his craft and career at a sold out event. New York’s ASCAP and BMI offices hosted two events, the latter, an in-depth look at the live recording issues facing the composer working in New York. In October, SESAC was able to secure the legendary Bitter End for a performance of some the city’s celebrated songwriters working in the field of television and film moderated by Beth Rosenblatt, one of New York’s top music supervisors. By the time that you receive this, an informative evening with one of Broadway’s hottest composer’s Jeanine Tesori, once again at NYU, will have taken place. At the top of the list of who to thank for all of the above activities, in addition to their vigilance in protecting our rights as composers and lyricists, are our performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Their support is critical to this SCL and to our well being as a community.

The SCL elected a new board of directors in March. As well as many continuing directors, several new faces have been added. I am proud to say that the new board has been full of energy and vitality and we are continuing to see growth as our membership continues to spiral above one thousand.

Our seminar committee under the able stewardship of Ashley Irwin, Benoit Grey and Ira Hershen has truly flourished over the past year. Notable are three video game seminars, two in Los Angeles and one in New York featuring the talented Tom Salta. Early in the year Russell Brower moderated a concentrated look at the Relationship between Composers and Large Corporations, which was followed up in September with a group of several top Audio Directors, moderated by Garry Schyman, who had worked with all of these panelists.

In Los Angeles, the SCL put together an impressive evening on the Writing of Musicals. Board member, Adryan Russ was able to lend her expertise, joining with past board member Peter Melnick, as they delved into the world where both have seen much success. AFI was the site of one of the most unique events in our history. Multiple Emmy winner, Sean Callery captivated a sold-out house as he deconstructed scores from 24 and Medium and actually composed cues on the spot for sequences in these hit shows. Long time friend of this organization Todd Brabec, joined with his brother Jeff as they investigated the Many Worlds of Composer and Songwriting Deals. Ed Roscetti and friends brought us World Beat Rhythms. Sally Stevens showed her artistry is not only limited to impeccable vocals as she invited the membership to her opening of a new show of incredible photos featuring many members of the SCL in the recording studio. In March John Rodd, enlightened the membership to the “Hollywood Sound” in an informative seminar on sound mixing. Board member Stu Phillips, celebrated his birthday and clearly demonstrated that 80 is the new 40 as he led the Golden State Pops Orchestra in some of his superb film work and the world premiere of his Variations for Piano and Orchestra.

As this article goes to press our annual membership meeting unites four talent composers: Steve Bartek, Jeff Beal, Lee Holdridge and Laura Karpman as they join board member Miriam Cutler to explore what fuels their creativity. We meet once again in the historic American Legion Post and walk in the footsteps of Bogie, Bacall and Louis Armstrong in old Hollywood. Recently, Dr. Thomas E. Backer led a seminar on the The Stresses of the Creative Process and the SCL spent an evening with Fletcher Beasley as he shared his experience on Logic.

Laura Dunn, continuing in her role as our indispensable Executive Director, also coordinated, along with our Public Relations friends and PROs, an amazing array of screenings and Questions and Answer sessions following the film. Just a sampling of these in the past year were: Bottle Shock (Composed by board member Mark Adler), Tale of Despereaux (William Ross), Captain Abu Raed, Grace (Austin Wintory), Seven Pounds (Angelo Milli), Valkyrie (John Ottman), Up (Michael Giacchino), the Stoning of Soraya M (John Debney) Adam (Christopher Lennertz), Milk (Danny Elfman), Revoluntionary Road ( Thomas Newman), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat), Flash of Genius (Aaron Zigman), Doubt (Howard Shore), The Reader (Nico Muhly), The Wrestler (Clint Mansell), High School Musical 3 (Adam Anders, Nikki Hassman and Steven Vincent), Igor (Patrick Doyle), and Appaloosa (Jeff Beal) At this writing numerous others are in the process of being organized, making this another outstanding year of screenings.

One of the programs that I am most proud of is our SCL Ambassador Award that we give every year to individuals that have made a significant and unique contribution to our profession. Sadly, our recipient from a few years ago, the unique, witty and talented Vic Mizzy recently passed away. In 2008 two of the true icons in our profession, Hal David and Lalo Schifrin were celebrated at our annual holiday dinner. This year two more distinguished legends, Charles Fox and Jack Hayes joined their ranks.

The SCL continues to honor our community with gatherings that have become some of the most anticipated events of the year. Our Oscar reception, hosted by Advisory Board Member, John Cacavas and his lovely wife, Bonnie and the Emmy reception, in collaboration with the Television Academy, are the settings where SCL members continue to collect the most coveted awards of the year. These events, held for our Gold Members and above, are lifetime experiences and I encourage you to join us. Our Premier Partners program continues to offer member discounts and special events like the one hosted by Melrose Mac earlier this year. This year’s evening at Hollywood Bowl, under the baton of David Newman, was one of the most enjoyable ones that I can remember and one that is open to any of our membership categories. Chris Farrell and Craig Stuart Garfinkle continue to bring in some of the best and brightest new talent into our Mentor Program.

Certainly with all of the above, nothing is more important than staying vigilant as we move into the challenges of the digital age. The SCL will continue to advocate copyright protection as your members did in Washington in May. Of top priority is the performance right in an audiovisual download, which is the most significant issue facing our members. We will continue to fight for our collective rights in the courts and in Congress and I will continue to keep you informed as this issue continues to evolve. In closing, I look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year and wish you the best in your composing and songwriting endeavors.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number Four, Winter 2009]