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Laura Karpman

Job Description: Composer

Breakthrough: A rare woman in the world of composing, the four-time Emmy winner has excelled in public television, cable, features, legit and classical.

In the works: “Odyssey 5,” Showtime sci-fi pilot; Oscar Wilde show opening Dec. 14 at A Noise Within in Glendale

Laura Karpman is not a composer who sits around waiting for her next assignment. If she’s not currently writing the score for an indie film or a TV project, she’s probably setting Shakespeare to music for some theatrical venture or fulfilling a commission for the concert hall.

Karpman, 42, can’t remember a time when she didn’t feel destined to be a composer. She has a doctorate from Juilliard and studied with the best: William Bolcom in Michigan, Nadia Boulanger in France, Milton Babbitt in New York. But a film music fellowship at the Sundance Institute in 1987 opened her eyes to the possibilities of music and the moving image.

Her TV scores have ranged from the sweet Americana of the Sally Field miniseries “A Woman of Independent Means” to the smoky jazz of the biopic “Dash & Lilly.” Her features include “Restless,” the first U.S. co-production with the People’s Republic of China, and the current James Earl Jones-Lynn Redgrave indie “The Annihilation of Fish.”

Karpman is now tackling (for Santa Monica College’s Madison Theater Project) a piece for soprano, mezzo-soprano, actor and chamber ensemble that deals with the relationship between feminist pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

This year marked her final season of scoring PBS’s nature series “The Living Edens,” a dream project for a composer. “I was asked to do my most creative work for six years with producers who, the wilder I got, the more excited they got,” she says. “(The series) has really helped me to hone my style. I think that if you develop a voice of your own, you will get the kind of work that you want to do.”

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