Summer 2013

It is with a certain degree of nostalgia that I write this final President’s Message. I hope that there has been a thing or two that I’ve been able to impart in this column that has given you insight into our community or encouraged you to reach that next level in your respective careers. I thank Lori Barth for her dedication in putting together this world-class publication and providing an outlet for my thoughts over the years.

Of the things that I’m proud of, nothing has pleased me more than hearing about all of the new and talented members that have come into our organization over the past years. I’ve met so many of you who have come to Los Angles to seek your dreams, like I did so many years ago. Your passion, drive and talent have been an inspiration to me. I’ve also been proud to watch as interns from our mentor program, such as celebrated Nashville songwriter Chris DeStefano, move into a prominent places in the industry and my friend, Michael Giacchino move from a newcomer into the leading role he now serves in the film composing world.

It seems like only yesterday when I attended my first SCL meeting at the urging of my agent, Stan Milander. There were just a handful of us in the room, including Arthur Hamilton, Jim Di Pasquale, Bruce Broughton and Charles Bernstein, but somehow I knew that this organization was going to play a special part in my professional career. Many years later, Ray Colcord had to lobby me several times before I accepted the leadership role that ended up being the most fulfilling position of my life. To interact with a group of professionals who can engage and reason together, is critical to our well being as a community and the opportunities that you have afforded me have helped me learn and become more well rounded in return.

Serving with the talented board of directors present and past has taught me what a diverse and talented group of composers and songwriters we are. The time and effort that they have expended in furthering the advancement of our profession has been inspirational. To single out any one person is by its very nature exclusionary, so suffice it to say that like a wise athlete who surrounds himself with superior colleagues to improve his game, I have had the benefit of some of the most talented and informed people sitting around the table who have informed and educated me along the way.

I am proud to have seen the growth in our organization over the last decade. Not only has the prestige of the Society of Composers & Lyricists grown globally, but we also continue to attract the brightest of the new wave of composers and lyricists into the organization. I have you as members to thank for the outreach that you have done to encourage your fellow creators to join with us, and our educational partners around the world who have helped us in this endeavor as well. Executive Director, Laura Dunn has shared my vision of uniting our community and welcoming new members to join our quest to expand our organization, and I thank her for this.

Seeing the progress that we have made in enlisting the New York community has been a high mark for me and it was always an ambition of mine that what we are seeing now would one day come to pass. The talented steering committee, under the leadership of Joel Beckerman has done exceptional work in uniting their fellow creators through world-class events over the past few years. I know that their presence will only continue to flourish as years go by. It is a vibrant community and they are playing a dynamic role in growing this organization.

Honoring those that have made substantial contributions to our profession was another ambition of mine. Seeing the Ambassador program come into existence and we, as an organization, have the opportunity to celebrate the careers of twenty-five exceptional talents has been a joy. The significance that they have made to the world of music cannot be underestimated and their genius will be a bench- mark for the future of our industry for years to come.

Fostering the relationships of the Performing Rights Organizations has been important, not just as a means of staying financially afloat, but most importantly as valued partners in an ever-changing world, where our interests run the risk of marginalization. I believe the SCL has been the ideal catalyst to bring ASCAP, BMI and SESAC together to work in tandem as we explore the challenges and intricacies of intellectual property.

I am pleased to welcome in an energetic new Board of Directors and look forward to participating with them and you as we continue down the path with this great organization. My good friend, Ashley Irwin is taking the helm and I know that we have many exciting things in store for us in the coming months. I must say that having my wife, Cheryl and my children, Matt and Lauren by my side cannot be underestimated. There were sacrifices that they necessarily made over the years that I dearly appreciate.

Finally, along with all of the challenges that we face in the ever-evolving digital world, there are opportunities out there to create like never before. I am confident that the platforms available in every arena, from movies, to television to games and beyond will sustain careers for years to come. I’m proud to continue my role in, not only creating beside you, but also doing what I am able to do in protecting our rights and seeing that we are compensated fairly for what we as artists do. Thank you for this rare opportunity to serve this organization as your president.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVIII, Number Two, Summer 2013]


Spring 2013


As we move into the New Year and resolve to read more, eat better, exercise more and promise to direct ourselves more in our own careers, I begin to reflect on how many years I have now made those same resolutions in my own life. Some years have been better than others in the follow through, but by the time that you’re reading this, we have now made it through a few months and we can probably evaluate how it’s going up to this point in 2013.

Although I had done an isolated project or two beforehand, my career, for all intents and purposes began in 1978, which in November will be 35 years. That’s 35 years of resolving to do all the things that I hoped would propel and sustain me to where I am today. I wonder where we will be as a business 35 years into the future, in the year 2048, and where we’ll be as individuals navigating it. Those resolutions that you made a couple of months ago will have a direct bearing on your particular situation, and I feel strongly that the overall landscape will be a good place and an environment where our contributions as composers and lyricists will be recognized and appreciated.

What can we say for certain? Unquestionably there will be more of us working in the business down the line. 35 years ago, there were probably around 60 composers doing all of the work when I broke in. There were feature films, three network stations and no cable. There can only be more opportunities moving forward. The medium we record on and the means of delivery will be different. I began recording on three-stripe magnetic tape. A tape operator—in the beginning, my future engineer, Tim Boyle– would have to re-rack the picture for each take and the process was necessarily laborious. On the positive side, the film was projected on a huge surface and it made me feel like I was really accomplishing something when I was scoring the Fonze on a two-story screen at Stage M. Even the spotting sessions were held in a small movie theatre.

It is inconceivable how fast time flies. It seems like just the other day I was moving from Amherst College to pursue a career in Los Angeles. What that means is that there is no time like the present. It is imperative that you not waste a single moment. There are two routes you can take and depending on your own personality, you’ll know what’s best for you. I left myself open to exploring different avenues regarding my creativity and was open for any turns that the road might take in that endeavor. During a summer in France, I began writing songs with Tom Shapiro, who has become one of the most respected and celebrated songwriters in Nashville, and he is still going strong. Together we must have visited every publisher in Los Angeles and made a concentrated effort to write every day and be proactive about getting the material out there, which by the way, involved sitting down with a piano or guitar in a publisher’s office. Even though our first credit was for songs for a feature entitled, The Only Way Home, the going was slow and it wasn’t until Tom moved to Nashville that his dream became a reality. Fortunately, about the same time he made that move, opportunities arose for me and my new partner, Howard Pearl as a result of a personal connection of Howard’s and using material from the movie as a calling card. We began composing for shows at Paramount, which sustained us for the next ten years. There are others who successfully stay directed toward one particular goal, be that a career composing for films or games or whatever your final objective might be. If you won’t settle for anything less, stay directed and there’s no doubt that you’ll fulfill that ambition.

The next thing I’d point out is the old adage that there is nothing as certain as change. I’ve seen it in my father’s career in the courtroom and watching as my daughter embarks on a career in journalism, the changes are staggering over what the paradigm was ten years ago and the changes are more than obvious in our business of media music. You must be willing to embrace a certain percentage of those changes that are going around, because you can be guaranteed, change is going to occur, and the business you start in will not be the same business as years go by. Many of these changes are good, but unfortunately some are lamentable. One of the topics that’s dealt with in this quarter’s publication of the Score, is the reduction of live recording here in Los Angeles over the past few years. It’s true; I used to follow my friend and concertmaster, Sid Sharp around Hollywood for as many as three sessions a day. Unfortunately, as the technology allowed more production to be done in the box, much of that work for string players went away. In my own case, ninety percent of the recording sessions I had for the first decade featured between 25 to 30 musicians. The reduction of the size of the band and the reduction of work has not been something that has been good for our industry and unfortunately, it begins to change the way that our music is heard and perceived when it is lacking the live element. One of my biggest hopes is that we can turn this trend around. It will take our communities banding together to find equitable solutions that can focus on the wonderful synergy between our two groups. I can promise you, the music will sound better and you will have the benefit of the experience that the players will bring to your projects. The byproduct will be sustaining the world-class studios we have available to us and, perhaps most importantly, it will make your life and career enriched in a fashion that is beyond words. One thing I can promise, 35 years from now, the value that live players will bring to your scores will not diminish.

From my personal perspective, perhaps loving what you do is the single most important element for your own well-being. Working in the studio with the world’s finest musicians and being able to create something new every time I sit down to write is a blessing. I continue to enjoy composing to the same degree I did 35 years ago. In counting my own good fortune, I also have been honored to serve this great organization over the last ten years. Not only has it been fulfilling, but I have also had the joy of seeing so many of you grow and flourish in your own careers. We are faced with many challenges that must be addressed, but I know that working together, 35 years from today our business will be better and our creative outpourings will be more inspired than I could imagine. I am certain that the Society of Composers & Lyricists will only continue to grow and serve our community well into 2048.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVIII, Number One, Spring 2013]