PASSING THROUGH Plays Goodspeed Festival

My newest musical, Passing Through, with a book by Eric Ulloa and based on the memoir “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel will be presented at Goodspeed’s 13th Annual Festival of New Musicals in January.

We’re super excited to hear the piece aloud with a cast of actors and have it play in front of audiences. It’s a big opportunity, and we couldn’t be happier.

Under the leadership of Executive Director, Michael Gennaro, Goodspeed Musicals is dedicated to the preservation, development and advancement of musical theatre and is the first theatre in the nation to receive two Tony Awards (for outstanding achievement). Passing Through was developed over the course of two years at Goodspeed’s Johnny Mercer Writers Colony, and the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat.

Tickets are available here and are very cheap if you’re interested in coming up for the weekend or even the day. Our presentation is on Sunday January 14th at 1pm.

Click below to listen to “Cut You Out” – a song from the show.

The Sheet Music Whisperer

Few parts of the job of a composer are as boring or tedious as music preparation, also known as copy work. And yet, when it comes to communicating your ideas to the other people who must execute them, no job is more important.

Copy work can be described as the visual presentation of music on the page. The people who do this work professionally are called copyists. In musical theatre, copyists are typically the LAST people to touch the sheet music. After the music has been composed, arranged, and orchestrated, the copyist will craft the individual charts that each musician will play from.

Unfortunately, it’s rare to be on a production where you can work with a copyist. Most of the time the task falls to the composer, the music director, or sometimes the musicians themselves.

The problems arise when these people have little to no experience in writing good charts. They may know how to write a vocal lead sheet, or a piano part, but what happens when they have to write a string part? A drum part? A GUITAR PART?? (Seriously you guys, guitar parts are the worst. Unless you play guitar yourself, give up. It’s a hopeless enterprise.)

Fortunately, I just stumbled upon the BEST THING EVER. Continue reading The Sheet Music Whisperer

WATCH: New Song from Passing Through

Last Monday I hosted Musi-CAL, a bimonthly concert celebrating new works of Musical Theatre in Los Angeles. I premiered a new song from my musical-in-development Passing Through. It turned out to be perfect timing, as it was announced last week in the New York Times that my book writer Eric Ulloa and I were accepted to the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat to continue working on the piece this summer.

The song is sung by a 73-year-old ranch hand, Dennis, in New Mexico. Our main character, Andrew, is taken in by him for the night and begins to open up with Dennis about his conflict with his dad. In a very fatherly way, the old ranch hand shares his experience with Andrew, offering him a little perspective.

Listen! A New Folk Hymn Demo

I just finished a new draft of a song I’m writing for an indie film. Sent it off to the director earlier (we’ll see if she has any notes!), but thought I’d share it here, too.

Eventually it will be sung by a woman, with guitars and strings accompanying.

Enjoy! Continue reading Listen! A New Folk Hymn Demo

The Anatomy of a Best Song

What makes a song the “Best Original Song” for a motion picture? This year is particularly fascinating.

There appears to be a clear front runner in La La Land, nominated for the maximum two songs – “Audition” and “City of Stars.” Being a “movie musical” (yes, in quotations) the songs function in a very clear and direct way, allowing their effectiveness and relevance to the dramatic whole to be more objectively quantifiable. With two nominations, however, it runs the risk of cancelling itself out.

Furthermore, historically the academy has chosen songs by famous pop artists, which gives an edge to Justin Timberlake and Sting. Although THIS year, with the massive pop appeal of Hamilton, the prize could go to Lin-Manuel Miranda. So it’s really up in the air.

There is always going to be a large amount of subjectivity when evaluating a creative endeavor. Ideally, the law of averages works it out so that the opinions of an educated sample reflect the opinions of the educated majority.

Remember, though, that while the nominations are made by Academy members who are songwriters and composers, the winners are decided by the membership as a whole. (So beware Lin Manuel Miranda – the deciding vote may come down to a tone-deaf cinematographer.)

I’ve always thought that songs in motion pictures are a difficult thing to judge, and precisely because of that they are almost always a difficult award to predict. Add to that the bizarre and ever-changing rules which govern the nominations of songs, which results in years where only two songs (???) are even nominated.

I thought it might be interesting to go through the nominations and see how to evaluate them on the principles of the Academy.

According to the voting rules of the Academy: Continue reading The Anatomy of a Best Song

Ryback scored short film “30 Nights” an Official Selection Broad Humor Film Fest, 2015

This Saturday, September 26th @ 5pm, come to Venice, CA to see this hilarious short film I scored. It’s an official selection of the Broad Humor Film Festival – celebrating funny films by funny women.

The festival is held at the Electric Lodge Performing Arts Center at 1416 Electric Ave, Venice CA, 90291.

Get ticket and schedule information here.

Does This Sound Out of Tune to You?

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I remember in college walking down the hallways of UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall and hearing the ethnomusicology majors practicing their bizarre semi-tones. These “notes in between the notes” left me fascinated and a little unsettled. I preferred my more easily digested 12-tone scales, based comfortably around middle-A being tuned to the frequency of 440hz.

But according to an interesting article in The Daily Beast, it turns out that’s a relatively recent standardization of Western music, and – according to musical conspiracy theories (yes, there really is such a thing) – was propagated by the Nazis in order to move people towards “greater aggression, psycho social agitation, and emotional distress predisposing people to physical illness.”

Whaaaaa!? Continue reading Does This Sound Out of Tune to You?

See what the Tonys Inspire

6a012876c6c7fb970c01bb08264d7a970d-300wiThe Tony Awards always leave me inspired. I didn’t get to watch this years broadcast, but even just seeing the names of nominees and winners that are close to my heart fuels me to keep pushing ahead in this crazy business of show.

I’m especially inspired by the win of FUN HOME – a story we’ve never seen before on the musical stage – as it further widens the breadth of what stories a musical can tell. As it has for centuries, the theatre continues to have the power to give voice to all sorts of populations whose stories deserve to be told.

That’s why I’m so excited to premiere some brand new songs from JOE SHMOE SAVES THE WORLD as part of The Festival of New American Musical’s Musi-CAL series, celebrating new musicals written by SoCal writers.

The show is hosted by Rockwell Table & Stages in Los Feliz. It begins at 8pm and tickets start at only $15.

Come have a bite to eat and support new musical theatre performed by my incredible cast featuring Jonah Hill (American Idiot, Hair at the Hollywood Bowl), Alex Wyse (Masters of Sex, Broadway’s Lysistrata Jones), Ashley Argota (The Fosters), and Nicole Farnoush, as well as Kat Hennessey, Chris Meissner, Lyle Mackston, and Holly Howell.

Grab your tickets ahead of time – and I’ll see you there!

JOE SHMOE @ Rockwell

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This June, the Festival of New American Musicals will feature songs from my show Joe Shmoe Saves the World at Rockwell, during it’s bi-monthly showcase of new American musicals in the works Musi-CAL.

Joe Shmoe Saves the World tells the story of two young women worlds apart – one an American indie rocker, the other an Iranian street artist – who attempt to change the world through their art, and end up changing each other instead. During the concert, I will share 5 songs, 3 of which will be world premieres.

I’m very proud of this show and this music, and I’m looking forward to playing it for you all. The concert is Monday June 8th at 8pm at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. Tickets just went online – click here to get ’em fast.

The Best 3-for-1 Deal in NYC

2F6B1BB02-A0BC-EA96-0BF8CE001A137B36.jpg.pagespeed.ce.GtMymtHlpJ If you’re looking for an excuse to see MURDER FOR TWO – there ain’t a better one than this.

Next Monday, April 7th, following our performance you’ll get to see work from 2 emerging musical theatre composers.  Alexander Sage Oyen and ME!  I will be presenting a condensed concert of my musical comedy THE TAVERN KEEPER’S DAUGHTER.

For the price of one ticket – you get 3 shows.  Frankly, it’s criminal.

And a portion of all ticket sales goes to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Use code MRMUSMON20 to get $37 tickets (normally $87) and join  Alexander and myself and a cast of massive Broadway talent (i.e. Lesli Margherita, Taylor Trensch, Todd Buonopane, Julia Mattison, Preston Sadleir, Leo Ash Evans, and so on) for a GREAT Monday night out.