Category: Personal

My Decade With Elmer Bernstein

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Ten years ago today, the world lost one of its most influential musical figures of the twentieth century: Elmer Bernstein. Most people know his music long before they ever know his name. His themes are iconic, woven into the fabric of our popular culture. To industry veterans and film aficionados, his name is legendary. Elmer was the first composer whose film career reached a fifty-year milestone, achieving success in every conceivable genre and medium along the way. He was revered by musicians, filmmakers, executives and fans alike, and was known for defining, then destroying, genre expectations. He was, truly, a titan of the industry.

To me, he was much more. Last year, I wrote a blog entry sharing my favorite quotes from my years as his student, but that did not come close to expressing how much he inspired me and impacted my life, both creatively and personally. Elmer encouraged me to pursue my dreams in Los Angeles, to become a well-trained musician, and to always write music with “personality.” He heard something in my work when I was a kid and decided to help me find my way into the business. (more…)

ASCAP Composers’ Choice Award 2014

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I just got home from the ASCAP Awards Banquet, and I’m still buzzing and overcome with emotion. There is no way I’m going to sleep anytime soon. So, I’m blogging instead.  I’ve attended the ASCAP banquet for several years now, and have received awards for having music on the airwaves in popular series. For me, the event is mostly a chance to socialize with other composers who, like me, rarely step out of their studios. This year there was a new award category, the Composers’ Choice Award.  Unlike other ASCAP awards, this one was decided on creative merit and voted on by peer composers. I was tremendously honored to be nominated alongside industry giants Alf Clausen, Dave Porter, Jimmy Levine and Sean Callery.

Apparently there was a tie, so the award was given to both myself and Dave Porter (the composer of one of my favorite series ever!). The honor was amplified when the award was presented by Mark Snow. Seriously… the guy who wrote all the music for The X-Files handed me an award tonight! Mark called out my name, and the next thing I knew I was up on the stage, stammering like an idiot. I was confident I wouldn’t win this one, so I was totally unprepared to say anything.  For the life of me, I can’t even remember what I said.

Now that I’ve had a few hours to mentally digest all this, I want to put my thoughts down. (more…)

I Won An Emmy!

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I won an Emmy on Sunday night, for my “Da Vinci’s Demons” Main Title Theme.

I’m still so overwhelmed by this that I can barely process it. If I didn’t have this winged golden lady sitting on my table right now, I’d hardly believe that it happened at all. At Sunday’s award ceremony, I almost felt like I was watching my speech from an out-of-body experience. The ceremony is airing this Saturday night on FXX, so I’ll tune in then and remember exactly what I said! Since then, I’ve been inundated with a flurry of congratulations, smiles, cards, flowers, champagne and enthusiastic words from friends, family and fans alike. I will likely never have the chance to respond to each one personally, so let me now just thank you all for the chorus of kindness.

From what I can recall, I thanked a few people in my brief speech last Sunday, but 34 seconds is not enough time to thank everyone who contributed to this recognition. Here on my blog, however, there’s no timer counting down, so I can say everything I would have on Sunday if I’d had the whole three-hour ceremony to speak! (more…)

Elmer Bernstein Wisdom

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I was fortunate to work legendary composer Elmer Bernstein for the last decade of his life. He was my mentor, friend and first employer.  I met him when I was still a junior in high school, in Bellingham, Washington (a remarkable story worthy of its own blog entry one day). Elmer encouraged me to study professionally at the University of Southern California

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I sat in on his film scoring classes, even though I wasn’t supposed to attend them until my final year. During those years, I began to work for him over the summers, organizing his archive of film scores and personal documents, all of which are now housed in the USC Library. I also house-sat for him while he was away for the summer, and he would assign me massive orchestration tasks to keep me busy. I re-orchestrated his complete lost score to the 1963 film, “Kings of the Sun,” as well as concert suites of a handful of other scores for various concert performances. (“Kings of the Sun” was eventually recorded during Elmer’s final recording sessions. My orchestrations can be heard on the album, which I just discovered is on iTunes!) (more…)

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