An Open Letter To My Niece

Dear Penny,

It was great hanging out with you all this Christmas – I hope you had fun too.

One of the best parts of the holiday (even better than getting to introduce you to Doctor Who) was seeing the look on your face when you opened your present.  When you’re trying to find a gift for someone, you always hope you know them well enough to make sure it’s something they’ll really like, but you never really know until you see their reaction.  And knowing some of the conversations we’ve had about film music in the past, I was hoping this one would go over well.  I’m glad it did. 🙂

Like I said before, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is my favorite score of all time.  And Jerry Goldsmith is my favorite composer of all time.  (If you’ve seen Mulan or The Secret of NIMH – and you need to see The Secret of NIMH – you’ll likely know some of his work already.)  He’s one of those people who set the example for other composers to follow – listen closely to the way he uses percussion, and repeating melodies (sometimes we call them leitmotifs), and especially the way he combines the orchestra with electronic instruments, because a lot of composers who came around in the 80s picked up on what he was doing and were inspired to try it themselves.

(And he composed the Universal Pictures theme.  As many times as your brothers have made you sit through Despicable Me, I know you’ll recognize that one.)

But Jerry Goldsmith is only the beginning.  There’s a whole world of film music out there, a whole history you’ve only begun to explore.  If you hover the mouse over that little atom thingy at the top of this post (just to the left of the title), you’ll see a long list of names that I’ve tagged.  They’re all composers.  Some of them are legends, like Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann and John Barry, who did so much to define modern film music.  Others are working today, and keeping the art alive by continuing to create music.  Some of those names you may already be familiar with, and some will be new to you.  But they’re all part of this amazing art form, and I think you’ll learn something from all of them.

Penny, you’re going to go through a lot of different “what you want to be when you grow up” phases before you finally discover what you’re meant to do.  That’s just part of being human.  But I hope that at some point in your life, one of those phases will have you considering a career in film music.

Look at that list on your left.  There just aren’t enough female names on there.  And the film music industry needs more of them.  We need more #girlpower, more people like Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley and Lolita Ritmanis and Shirley Walker, more women who will blaze a trail, not just for other women, but for all film composers, all filmmakers, all filmgoers.

And if you ultimately decide to follow a different path (and I know you’ll excel at it, whatever it may be), you’ll still have the passion and appreciation you’ve gained from all of this.

And in life, that makes all the difference.  After all, it was a film composer who said this:

If you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK?

Thanks for listening.  Happy New Year, Penny.


Uncle Lee

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