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Jeff Beal

By Kevin Zimmerman

Jeff Beal
(Monk, Pollock and Rome)

Well-regarded as a jazz trumpeter, Beal made the move into film composing with the 1988 indie comedy Cheap Shots. “My grandmother, Irene Beal, played piano for the silent films in a theater in Boise, which I find a fascinating connection to what I do now,” he says. “Playing piano for silents always involved a lot of thinking on your feet and improvising, as there was rarely a pre-composed score in the silent era.”

Beal says that jazz and film scoring share certain traits that are attractive to him. “Being a part of both jazz and classical ensembles gave me a feel for what an orchestra does and how players interact together I suppose. The artistry of both is creativity within limits.”

A student of music who grew up with the great soundtracks of the ‘70s – from Star Wars to Apocalypse Now – Beal says the key now is to “Study how to compose, orchestrate and notate your music for real instruments. Seek out or create opportunities to have things you have composed played by live musicians. This gives you feedback on your work that digital tools -- as powerful as they are -- simply can’t.”

“Also become a student of film,” he adds. “Being a successful film composer means understanding the language of dramatic story telling, and all of the arts that go into that -- acting, editing, direction, and how good scoring can complement that.”

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