Looking Back at 2009

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]