How did you feel when you heard your music in The Blindside?
It is always a blast to hear your music on TV or in a film, especially in a theater. The Blind Side was just starting it’s run, and had attracted some attention fairly quickly. The theater was full, and I didn’t know when the music would be in the film. Trying to find your music in a film can be a challenge. In this particular instance, the music is very much in the background, setting the atmosphere amongst the crowd noise of a football game. With surround sound, music can be coming from anywhere, so your ears really have to be listening. This placement was about 15 seconds, so it comes and goes quick. When you are in a theater and hear your music in the middle of a crowd, it is a very unique feeling. No one around you knows your wrote the music. It is surreal. When your credits go by, it is very thrilling as well. I did pick up the DVD recently, and found the music again. It’s great to start a collection of films and shows your music is in. Your reel can become very impressive quickly, especially when the movie does well. In this case, the film has won many awards, including an Oscar (making for a interesting experience watching the Oscars!). It has done very well in theaters and even overseas (royalties!), considering it is a very American style film. When the film gets on TV, it will likely be on multiple networks over time. I have had the experience of having songs on different channels on TV, at the same time. That is a true kick in the pants.
How did you ever decide to compose “Football Funk?”
I can’t remember what the pitch was for, but somebody was looking for Southern marching band-drumline style music. That pitch never turned into anything, but the track became part of my larger catalogue. For me, having a motivation to compose a piece is the best way to build my library. In this case, what was a throwaway piece has really paid off.
I composed the piece using older keyboard sounds, and with older modules (pre-computer composing). I used a TASCAM 8 track digital recorder. With limited tracks, I divided the parts into upper and lower brass, and percussion. I performed the sections as a unit, giving it a real live sound, rather that individual part-by-part arranging and performance. Sometimes old school recording is best!
The percussion was performed on a very large drum set with lots of open toms that are great for simulating a drum-corps quad sound. My strength as a percussionist really helped. I don’t think loops or electronic drums would have cut it. It is a cool funky sound. The song has done well, and also appeared on “Scooby Doo, The Mystery Begins” last year (biggest Cartoon Network viewership ever!)
What is your background, how did you get into music?
I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, next to Chicago. After trying the violin and trumpet briefly, I studied percussion privately from elementary school through high school (7 years). My high school had a huge music program with bands, orchestras, jazz bands, experimental music, percussion ensembles, etc. I went to Indiana University and got a degree in percussion. I did dabble in composition at college (to the dismay of my percussion instructors!) After college I moved to Seattle. One of the first things I did was start an open style composer’s concert series. It lasted about 4 years, and we even premiered music by Alan Hovhaness. I have been performing, writing and teaching music ever since. In the 80s I performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in NYC, playing a wide variety of classical, jazz and original music. I have recorded with many artists over the years as a percussionist, and especially on mallet instruments (vibes and marimba).
How do you get your music out there into the world?
I’ve always been a PR nut. I do a lot of marketing using postcards, emails, mailings, etc. I have music in a few libraries. It really got me going, and motivated me to write a ton of music.
How has MusicSupervisor.us helped you?
The Blind Side has been a great boost. They have a great staff, and are very professional and informative. I do get occasional pitches from musicsupervisor.us when they are looking for something particular. It is a library run by composers for composers.
What are you goals for the future?
I hope to do more scoring of shorts and features. I am on the board of the Seattle Composers Alliance, a NW composer’s organization. We bring directors and composers together with events and workshops. I hope to significatly increase my library regularly, and hopefully become filthy rich on royalties! My BMI check has been growing, and I hope to see big royalties for “The Blind Side” soon.
Interview by Julius Robinson