This blog post was written by George S. Clinton, chair of Berklee’s Film Scoring Department.
Imagine if you will, that you’ve been sailing around the world in a small boat. It’s a worthy vessel that you have steered for years through many a stormy sea. Then imagine you are suddenly transported aboard a huge ocean liner and in charge of one of the many departments critical in keeping it afloat and on course. That’s sort of the way it feels coming from my solo career as a film composer in Los Angeles to being chair of the Film Scoring Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. It is both an exciting and intense transition, and I’m loving it.
My wife and I are renting a place in Beacon Hill and have left our cars in LA. We are walking or taking the “T” almost everywhere. Public transit—what a concept! I see more people in the course of one day than I used to see in a month in L.A., simply because I’m not isolated in an automobile. We’re near the Boston Common and the Frog Pond has just opened to ice skaters. Add to that the glorious autumn foliage and people bundled up in hats and scarves. I start to feel like I’m walking through a Currier & Ives postcard. Our daughter just came up from New York to join us for Thanksgiving. I mean, Thanksgiving in New England, the home of Thanksgiving. I had to fight the urge to dress up like Miles Standish.
There is an amazing energy and momentum at Berklee. Just walking the halls and hearing the students practicing inspires me and makes me feel like I have been reunited with my tribe of fellow musicians. I’ve been sitting in on classes and getting to know the faculty and I am amazed by what a great department this is. I keep coming out of classes saying to myself, “I’ve been scoring films for 32 years and I never knew that!” Don Wilkins, who began the film scoring program, and Dan Carlin, the chair before me, set this department on a great trajectory and I feel like I’m taking over just as the booster rockets are about to kick in.
Berklee’s president Roger H. Brown and provost Larry Simpson have their sights set on the future and are intent on keeping the college relevant and ahead of the curve. For example, a brand new 16-story building is being built at 160 Massachusetts Avenue that will include two floors of recording studios. The scoring stage will rival those in Hollywood and accommodate a 40- to 50-piece orchestra to record student projects. The studios will also house a state-of-the-art dub stage. One of the most important processes in making a movie is the final “dub,” where all of the audio components (dialogue, sound effects, and music) are mixed together to create the film’s final soundtrack. These facilities will offer an amazing opportunity for students from different parts of the college to come together and be trained at the high level they will need to be successful in today’s industry.
As I embark on my tenure here, the new Berklee campus in Valencia, Spain just launched successfully, offering the college’s first master’s degree programs—including scoring for film, television, and video games. I plan on visiting next spring. Paella, anyone?
Last Wednesday was BMI day at Berklee. BMI is a major performing rights organization that represents composers and songwriters. Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI VP of film/TV relations, brought Ed Shearmur, one of L.A.’s top film music composers, to present the annual scholarship that BMI awards to a Berklee film scoring student. This was a wonderful “full circle” moment for me. The first time I came to Berklee was in 2005 when Doreen invited me to present the BMI scholarship. I returned as a presenter just last year and remember saying to Dan Carlin, chair of film scoring at the time, “It must be incredible to be part of this place (Berklee) on a daily basis.” Fast forward one year and now I am chair. Who knew?
We have kept our place and my studio in Los Angeles. The plan is to go back and forth as necessary since I intend to keep scoring films. But at the moment, my focus is on this beautiful city, this wonderful opportunity here at Berklee, and these incredibly talented students who remind me every day of why I got into music in the first place; for the sheer and unbridled joy of it.
About George S. Clinton
George S. Clinton, chair of Berklee’s Film Scoring Department, is an award-winning film composer who has scored diverse films including the Austin Powers’ movies, Mortal Kombat, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Santa Clause 2 and 3, and Cheech and Chong’s Still Smokin’ and The Corsican Brothers. He began as a songwriter, arranger, and session musician in Nashville. After moving to Los Angeles, Clinton became a staff writer for Warner Bros. Music and his songs were recorded by artists including Michael Jackson and Joe Cocker. Clinton has received a Grammy nomination, nine BMI Film Music Awards, and BMI’s highest honor–The Richard Kirk Career Achievement Award for Musical Excellence. He has mentored young composers at the Sundance Institute’s Composers Labs for over a decade. Berklee College of Music is the only college in the world that offers an undergraduate degree in film scoring.