Former ‘Simpsons’ Composer Alf Clausen to Be Feted by Recording Musicians Association Fundraiser

Composer Alf Clausen (left) and California
Television Academy, Paula Parisi

Erstwhile Simpsons composer Alf Clausen and California State Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon are the guests of honor at the 24th Annual RMALA Night fundraiser for the Recording Musicians Association Los Angeles Chapter. The event takes place Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Bel-Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades.

“Alf is a legend, and has been a huge part of the fabric of our community,” RMA national president Marc Sazer said of the selection of Clausen as an honoree. “I can’t think of anyone else that has scored a television show for 27 seasons with original music and a live orchestra.” Clausen was unceremoniously “fired” from Fox’s “The Simpsons” on Aug. 30, it was reported in Variety.

“He was a great choice for a number of reasons, one of which was the instant fame he achieved by being fired,” joked Sazer, a violinist. “We’re proud to have him in our midst, under any circumstances. The RMA is deeply appreciative of all he’s done to represent the value of music. He is a hero.”

RMALA president Steve Dress, a bassist, said he could not think of another composer that has worked on a TV show for 27 seasons “with original music and an orchestra every week. It’s been a huge part of the fabric of our community. Alf is a legend. He’s had such a wonderful impact — every week 30-40 musicians were hired to do the show. He kept people working, getting them health insurance and pension contributions.”

Sazer said the recognition for Clausen accomplishes several things. “We wanted to celebrate a unique person who’s had a storied career in television as a way of honoring all composers working in television, because in the past most of our honorees have been in film. Also, our hope is casting a spotlight on Alf will shine a light on the orchestra that’s been a part of The Simpsons all these years.”

While The Simpsons producers apparently plan to record live music for the weekly episodes, “from what we’ve heard it’s going to be a drastically reduced number of musicians,” Sazer said. It will be a member of the Simpsons orchestra that will be introducing Clausen on Sunday, according to Sazer.

Assembly Leader Calderon is another champion for musicians, having in April introduced AB 1300, the “Keeping the Score in California” tax credit bill. “This is an evening where we come to honor and enjoy our own, and we’re thrilled to invite him into our family, and acknowledge his stellar leadership,” Sazer noted. Calderon will address the crowd and “basically mingle with all the people who earn a livelihood doing exactly what he’s leading a legislative push to support — creating production music in California.”

RMALA Night event committee chairman Douglas Tornquist, who plays tuba, said the group expects a capacity crowd of about 300. “This is our big annual fundraiser — where players, composers, arrangers, friends and family join together to celebrate our community. The Bel-Air Bay Club is a beautiful venue on the Pacific Coast Highway, overlooking the ocean. It’s going to be a fun night!”

And also a practical one, generating a war chest for the many trips to Sacramento Sazer and Dress have been taking to talk up the AB 1300 initiative. “When Steve and I go up there we meet with legislators, but we also talk to their staff, who are younger and tend to be millennials,” Sazer recalled. “When I say ‘I worked on Pinky and the Brain, people will start singing the theme song from their cubicles. TV is ubiquitous, but people aren’t always conscious of the way the music in television infuses their lives.”

The Recording Musicians Association Los Angeles is a non-profit organization comprised of many of the world’s leading musicians. The group’s membership rolls  include legendary composers such as John Williams, Randy Newman, James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri, John Powell and Hans Zimmer; recording stars Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, and Lynn Harrell; and a roster of top vocalists, music prep professionals and instrumentalists. In addition to Los Angeles, the RMA has chapters in New York, Nashville and Japan.

Each year, Local 47, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund and the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund have joined with our community to support our work on behalf of recording musicians. This past year the RMA has been an integral part of negotiations on behalf of our members, strengthening our contracts, fighting for tax credits to boost film scoring., and developing relationships throughout the communities of entertainment and labor citywide and nationwide.

Tickets to RMALA Night are $175 each, which includes an open bar and gourmet dinner. “The event has evolved over the years,” said Tornquist. “I think it started in somebody’s back yard. Last year we held it at the Bel-Air Bay Club for the first time. Before that, it had been at the Biltmore, where we’d have as many as 500 people.” Tornquist feels the event is significant in punctuating the work that is done year-round. “People always hear us, but don’t very often see us, and sometimes don’t even know it’s actual human beings making the music.” The event, he said, helps brand an identity for members who contribute a lot to the entertainment community, but are often, well… unsung!

“L.A. is full of aspiring filmmakers, actors, dancers, people who want to make their living at either end of a camera, but support themselves as baristas or waiting tables in a restaurant. When musicians come to L.A. to make it, which happens on a daily basis, we start out by giving lessons — teaching children how to play instruments,” Sazer said. “Our entry-level employment is different, it’s giving back to the region educationally. But we can’t earn a living teaching kids, or even playing with the Pasadena Symphony or the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Those are add-0ns, but they don’t constitute livelihoods. What they do is provide a tremendous educational and cultural resource for California by people who earn their living in the recording studios. That’s something that goes back many, many decades. This is an opportunity to support local music.”