Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharon Farber.
Sharon, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
If someone told me, when I was in my teens, that I will be living in Hollywood and compose music for films, TV and the concert stage, I would have thought he or she was out of their minds. But, everything is possible when you truly believe and go forward despite challenges, nay – sayers and well, life!
I was born into a musical family. My grandparents on my mom side played guitar and mandolin and used to give these wonderful family concerts when we were kids. My grandfather was also a master in playing on spoons- making the most remarkable rhythms with two spoons. It was magic!
My mom became a ballerina, my dad played piano for ten years, and my uncle became a celebrated songwriter, which for me translated to “there IS a way to have a great career in music. “ I believe that seeing him so successful, worked on my sub-conscience in a subtle way, and when music “chose” me, it was easy to immerse myself in it and follow my “calling.”
I started playing piano at 7, and graduated from “Thelma Yelin High school for the arts” with much knowledge, which led to a scholarship to attend “Berklee College of music.” I graduated summa cum laude with a double degree in Film scoring and concert composition, and as a foreign student, I was granted a work permit for one year after graduation.
I applied for the internship of the TV Academy and won… which brought me to LA where I felt very comfortable with the weather, after three very cold years in Boston! Upon arriving in LA, I spent two wonderful months with Jonathan Wolff (“Seinfeld”) and Alf Clausen (“The Simpsons”) and then was elected for the ASCAP film scoring workshop, which concluded with eight of us young composers conducting our music at the FOX- Newman scoring stage with a great orchestra consisting of top Hollywood players.
This was my first time conducting an orchestra, and I remember the unbelievable feeling I got when I raised my button. It all became quiet, and then this huge “sound” came at me, when I gave the downbeat for the opening notes of my own music, with all the players looking at this new kiddo and following her conducting. It was exhilarating and needless to say, I became addicted, and since then I use every opportunity to conduct!
At the end of my internship, Jonathan introduced me to my hero- Shirley Walker- a remarkable composer who was scoring “Batman” and “Superman” for Warner Brothers animation. Shirley was one of a kind- an outstanding composer, orchestrator, and conductor with the kindest heart. When I was still at Berklee, I never scheduled classes at 3 pm, when the show was on, as I wanted to listen to the remarkable music she composed.
I was in awe every time, as she scored animation like a real live action film! Shirley took me under her musical wings and opened the door to Hollywood. I have learned so much from her, and her orchestration footprint is always noticeable in my orchestral music. I feel blessed to have known her and worked with her. She was a pioneer for all of us women composers, and she is still guiding us from above.
After my time with Shirley ended, I met the women who sponsored my Visa (today I’m an American citizen)- Virginia Ellsworth was an EMMY winner music editor who became a trusted friend. She was my first manager, and not only we are here today because of her, we are grateful for her guidance and friendship. She brought me my first TV film at SHOWTIME, which opened the doors to the next projects and to relationships that I still cherish today.
Later on, I met another remarkable woman who was and still is, part of my family. Beth Wernick (who owns “Imaginary Friends Music Licensing”) was my manager for 12 wonderful years that brought me four EMMY nominations! Beth introduced me to music supervisor Paul Antonelli who, after listening to my music, has since collaborated with me on so many projects.
I am so grateful for the women and men in my life who have supported me and believed in me for so long! I kept on working on film and TV projects with such broadcasters as SHOWTIME, NBC, CBS, etc. while scoring feature films. Moviescore Media release my soundtrack of the movie “When Nietzsche Wept” (Millennium studios) which led to a suite from the film playing live in concerts.
I was a board member of the SCL- The Society of Composers and Lyricists for ten years, and in 2018 I became a member of the Motion Pictures Academy- a true honor. In addition, I have recently been elected Co Vise- President of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, where I look forward to better the 2-6 percent of working female composers in the industry.
In 2002, I composed a piece that was the first stone to paving my concert music career, in parallel to my Film and TV one. I was writing arrangements for a choir conducted by Dr. Judea Pearl when he called me one day and told me that his son, Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street journalist, was kidnapped in Pakistan. As I could not find the words to express my sorrow, I set music to a beautiful Hebrew poem called “Mothers’ Lament” by poet Nathan Alterman.
I started it when Daniel was kidnapped and completed it after his death, recorded it with some wonderful singers, and sent it to Judea Pearl, who called me to say how much comfort it brought him. Later on, through composer Paul Chihara, the piece was sent to the Los Angeles Master Chorale and was premiered under the direction of Maestro Grant Gershon. I remember sitting at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with more than 3,000 people in the audience, listening to the piece being performed by 120 singers.
When the piece ended, there was a deep and emotional silence that only after about 30 seconds, was broken by the overwhelming applause. I realized more than ever, at that moment, the immense and true power of music- this abstract sounds organized in time, melody, harmony, and rhythm that can reach the deepest levels of our souls. I made a conscious decision to continue to compose music that will move and inspire people.
Since then, I have indeed written many pieces that have special meanings, and my music has been performed by The Los Angeles Master Chorale, Pacific Serenade Ensemble, The Israeli Chamber Orchestra, The Northwest Sinfonietta, The Bellingham Symphony, Orange County Women’s Chorale, Culver City Symphony Orchestra, The Jewish Symphony Orchestra, iPalpiti Artists International, The National Children Chorus and more. I had my Lincoln Center premiere in 2017 and Carnegie Hall in 2018.
I’ll be back to both great halls in this year for two different concerts, and I honored and excited for these great opportunities. Human stories inspire me, and somehow, they come to me in different ways. One of the most important work I’ve ever composed is my concerto for cello, orchestra, and narrator, “Bestemming” (Destination in Dutch) that portrays the story of Holocaust survivor and hero of the Dutch resistance, Curt Lowens.
Curt saved more than 150 Jewish children and two American pilots during WWII, and I became very attached to him. The piece, (with narration by Richard Stellar, Beth Wernick and myself) which was commissioned by cellist Ruslan Biryukov and the Glendale Philharmonic) premiered in 2014 at Temple of the Arts the SABAN theater Beverly Hills, CA (where I’m the music director), with Curt Lowens narrating the grand finale of his life.
Recently, I was on a tour in the Pacific Northwest, where the concerto was performed many times with master cellist Amit Peled and conducted by Maestro Yaniv Attar. Curt, sadly, passed away in 2017 and I gave him my word that his legacy will keep on living through the concerto. I hope I will be able to keep my promise so his acts of heroism can continue to inspire the next generation.
As I have a dual career in both worlds, I make a distinction between my role as a film composer and the one as a concert composer. When I score a film, I am a “musical tool” to bring to life the director’s vision; my music is the “glue” that holds the film together and contributes to the different emotions the audience’s experience. It is a true collaboration with the director, and the process is always fascinating.
On the other hand, when I get commissioned to compose a new concert pieces, may it be chorale, orchestral, solo… it is my own imagination and creative muse that leads the way to a piece that defines me and my musical style. It’s total creative freedom. I love both mediums and look forward to continue my path in both worlds, creating music that is an expression of my life, my experiences and the skills and knowledge that I have obtained throughout the years.
Lastly, I love giving back. I have been mentoring young composers, female and male, who are making their first steps in this sometimes maddening but very exciting worlds. At the request of Berklee, I am currently mentoring master program students who are finishing their studies, and I always try to make the time to speak with those who contact me. I was helped by so many- I love paying it forward.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think a “smooth road” is actually possible, for anyone, especially in this industry. Maybe for a very lucky few it happens overnight, smoothly, but for most people, it’s a constant push forward.
Like every profession, this one definitely has its challenges, especially for women, even today; there are the ups and downs, and as a freelancer, these can be sometimes hard to digest. For me personally, although I feel that I have been very blessed in my dual career, I’ve had my share- from losing films that I really wanted to score, to trials that were connected to my gender, to the pre-justice about what kind of music a woman can compose.
This issue is getting more attention every day, and the industry is changing for the better, giving more opportunities to women and to minorities in general. There is much to look forward to!
Please tell us about Score by Score Music.
My business is creating music for Film, TV and the Concert stage. I love working with live musicians- orchestra players, soloists, singers, choirs… however, in today’s world, the technical part is extremely important and as a media composer, one MUST have the tools needed to create music even recording an orchestra is not an option. I do all of that in my studio and enjoy the process, especially when later on the computer music moves on to the scoring stage, to be recorded with a live orchestra. There’s nothing like listening to your music being performed live!
As film composers, we can write in many different styles to suit the mood and feel of different scenes. Being able to do so is simply part of the profession, and you are expected to be able to score in different ways. You’re asking what sets me apart from others? Humbly I would reply that probably the fact that on top of creating film scores, I also compose music that is not relying on media; rather, it portrays my own voice and expression and is always performed live.
There are a few film composers who compose concert music, and I’m honored to be one of them. This side of me has brought me to many important stages in the world, and I look forward to continue spreading my musical wings.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
That’s a really tough question! I would probably have started earlier, as I started a bit late with college and moving to LA. For whatever reason, I always chose a very individual path; thinking back, maybe I would have chosen a path that was more social, working for a big music company for example. But I don’t regret anything.
I have become who I am today as a composer and a human being because I made the decisions I’ve made, for good or bad. Every path I took brought me more experiences and thought me important life lessons. Every decision made me grow and mature.
Today, I only look forward with great excitement for the future and the many wonderful gifts it would bring.
- Website: www.sharonfarber.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @sfarbermusic
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharonfarbermusic
- Twitter: @sfarbermusic
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-farber-6424703/
Norman Schwartz, Aleksandre Zamyatin