2008, Glancing Back While Forging Ahead

Winter 2008


By the time you receive this publication, a hotly contested presidential race will have presented us with new leadership. As we look ahead to the New Year, my hopes are that this new regime will be favorable to copyright and the dilemma and challenges of the creative artist.

I am happy to report that the Society of Composers and Lyricists membership continues to grow and we have you, our members, to thank for this. Your recommendations to your fellow composers and lyricists have brought our numbers to well over a thousand. I remember when I joined the SCL back in the mid- eighties, you basically knew everyone in the room, and we’d be lucky if there were more than a handful of new members every year. New board member, Adryan Russ, has done an exceptional job of finding new ways to grow our membership. New high profile members such as Mac Davis, Paul Williams and Michael Lloyd have joined many young composers whose careers are just beginning. Another reason for this is that the number of composers working in our ranks has grown exponentially over the last twenty years. My career began in earnest thirty years ago. I am sure that there were only sixty or so of us doing all of the scores. Now there are probably thousands of composers and I’d like to think that the work is being done at a very high level for the most part. The way our jobs are accomplished is dramatically different than when I first got started, but I still feel that the inner spark that leads one to be able to create and deliver an effective score or song is still the critical ingredient in a composer’s make-up, irrespective of the advanced tools we have the luxury to employ in the current day.

This last year has been filled with numerous highlights. I believe that our screening series was the best ever, as our membership had the opportunity to see every music and song nominated score. The opportunity to hear insights from composers such as Michael Giacchino, Patrick Doyle, Mark Isham, Alexandre Desplat, Carlo Siliotto, Dario Marianelli, Thomas Newman, Alberto Iglesias, Marco Beltrami and our second Vice-President, Mark Adler, as well as many more was invaluable. We also had the chance to hear Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken as well as Academy awards winners Glen Hasard and Marketa Irglova talk and even perform their songs for us. I personally want to thank Executive Director, Laura Dunn, as well as the numerous volunteers who went to great efforts to make these events what they were and continue to be.

Honoring those who have added greatly to our profession continues at our Holiday Dinner. Last December, Burt Bacharach and Dave Grusin were the latest members of our SCL Ambassador Program. I am pleased to say that Hal David and Lalo Schifrin will be following in their footsteps for 2008. Ron Grant, as head of our Media committee, has acquired some historic footage of these events over the past five years.

Sadly, this year marked the passing of a number of SCL members and .our thoughts go out to their friends and families. Recently Neal Hefti, my close friend and legendary arranger and composer, left us, and our first SCL Ambassador, Earle Hagen passed away last summer. Earle leaves a deep void in the annals of television music, where he was the undisputed king. It is some consolation that our organization as well as the music branch of the Television Academy, was able to celebrate him during his time. Thanks to Ron Grant, we are fortunate to have wonderful footage from that evening when Earle received his award.

Several of our members were recognized not only with Oscar and Emmy nominations, but awards as well. A number of others were recognized by their respective performing rights organizations at gala functions in their honor. Charles Bernstein, Lori Barth and Laura Dunn organized a world class Oscar reception at the home of Bonnie and John Cacavas last February, and the plans are to do the same for our Gold members again in the new year. The multi-talented John has become the newest member of our distinguished Advisory Board. His list of credits are monumental, with series such as Kojak and the Airport movies added to the countless band scores he has composed and arranged. Perhaps most important for this community was his involvement as president of our predecessor organization, the CLGA, and his service on the ASCAP board for many years.

The prominence of our members in the area of Game Music hit new heights when our board member Garry Schyman was honored with the Outstanding Composition Award during the Interactive Achievement Awards last February. Board Members Russell Brower and Billy Martin continue to bring their experience and expertise to the table as well. We are planning a major seminar in January to deal with advancements in that area. Our members such as Sharon Farber and Peter Melnick also continue to make significant contributions in the areas of concert and theatre music respectively, and we’re happy to be able to welcome new members into our ranks with these specific talents as our organization continues to grow.

Our Score magazine continues to be the ultimate source of information in our profession. Lori Barth continues her outstanding work as Senior Editor. She has delivered over twenty years of service to this organization in that capacity and we applaud her dedication to the SCL in the area of journalism. The SCL mentor program invariably fosters some new and unique talents. Chris Farrell, after a number of years of exceptional work, has passed the torch to Craig Stuart Garfinkfle, who will be steering some fabulous new talent through this term’s program, which include SCL members and students from the Berklee School of music in Boston.

This last year has not been without its concerns in the area of copyright and performing rights. As the Internet becomes the springboard for more production and as our works began to move from traditional broadcast to the Web, a joint concern of the performing rights organizations and the SCL is that we be adequately compensated for our work.

The SCL has secured meetings with Congressmen Howard Berman and Adam Schiff, as well Mary Beth Peters, the Registrar of Copyrights, in order to educate them as to our specific needs as composers working in the audio-visual medium. I feel that we have made significant strides in raising the awareness of the need to protect our interests as the means of delivery changes in our field Unfortunately, Congressman Berman will be stepping down as head of the sub-Committee on the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet and we are hoping that someone as sympathetic to copyright such as Congressman Jerrold Nadler from New York may be his successor.

At the time of this writing, I have planned to meet with the union of European composers know as FFACE in an effort, among other things, to engage in dialogue that could shed some light as to how other countries are dealing with some of our shared challenges. In celebration of the Centenary of Film Music, as it is being designated, our European counterparts have organized two days of discourse between composers around the world. Our colleague, Bernard Grimaldi, who now serves as the president of the group, felt that it was important that the SCL play an active role in these discussions. SCL Vice-President Arthur Hamilton was key in securing our organization’s place in this conference. The Europeans have always put the utmost importance on the role that music plays in cinema. Former SCL president Bruce Broughton served as the honorary president of the Ubeda Film Music Conference last summer and the event has featured our member’s works every year since its inception.

Our efforts in New York continue to grow and I’ve met with members of that community over the past year as well as speaking to a group of SCL members and students at NYU last May. It is my hope that a viable presence can help unite the film music community there, much as it did in the early days of the CLGA. Members, Joel Beckerman and Michael Patterson continue to aid in this agenda.

In closing, as we move forward into the future it has never been more important to be united as a community. We have seen how division within the ranks of our brother and sister organizations can lead to a malaise that is destructive on many levels. The Society of Composers and Lyricists has been—and will continue to be—the leading voice for composers and songwriters in the visual media. I am proud to be a part of this organization that is steeped in tradition, continues to award excellence in the field, and is a fore-runner in addressing issues that impact the well-being of our profession.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIII, Number Four, Winter 2008]