Young composers conducted 60-piece orchestra
On July 27, participants in the 21st annual ASCAP Television and Film Scoring Workshop took the podium on the Clint Eastwood Scoring Stage, the performance and recording site for music from classic films such as “Casablanca,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Cool Hand Luke.”
Not that there was any pressure.
Assisted by veteran scoring mixer Armin Steiner and score reader David Slonaker, the young composers conducted a 60-piece orchestra through their own three-minute cues written to scenes from “Ice Age 2,” Mission Impossible 3,” “Hidalgo” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Slonaker gave detailed feedback between each take, recommending one composer use a smaller triangle, while telling another that a musical passage needed more clarinet and less piccolo.
The stage’s control room on the Warner Bros. lot was filled with friends and family, ASCAP executives, past FSW participants and other composers, including ASCAP board member and 10-time Emmy winner Bruce Broughton. “It’s a really scary night for these people,” he said of the 12 FSW students. But he gave the nascent scorers all high marks: “They’re all really competent. They have a certain mastery, which is kind of amazing given their age.”
Almost all of the composers had some previous conducting experience, but few had led an orchestra as large as this one. Joseph Trapanese has conducted other composers’ scores for several TV movies, but considered an evening with such experienced musicians as “extraordinary… I probably could have fainted in the middle and they would have kept going. They’re really on your side.”
Even though this could be the only time some of these young composers conduct, Emmy-winning composer and ASCAP board member Richard Bellis said he hoped they took away some valuable lessons. “There is a contribution by each and every member of the ‘team’ that is responsible for bringing your music to life,” he said via an email interview. “The composer should know how to create an environment which provides each person the opportunity to shine. If they never take the podium again, they will have empathy for whomever they ask to conduct.”
For Jehan Stefan Legros, it was his first time on the podium — and likely his last. While he said he felt no fear, he could tell that “between the first take and the third take, it was getting better and better.”
Like Legros, Sunna Wehrmeijer said she has no plans to conduct her own scores. “It was a very intense and beautiful experience, but I’d rather concentrate more on [being] in the booth,” she said. “I would have someone who I trust really well conduct the music for me.”
Principal cellist Stephen Erdody has played with the workshop participants for more than 20 years. “It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “We don’t make a lot of money doing this. But we know it makes a difference. We want to give them something back; we want to give them a good recording.”
Plus as Erdody knows, today’s FSW composer may be tomorrow’s employer: Erdody has been hired for sessions led by former FSW participant-turned- Emmy-winner Jim Dooley.