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]