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Craig Stuart Garfinkle, Composer

March, 2007

As an award winning music producer and Emmy nominated composer, Craig Stuart Garfinkle’s career includes work on feature films,multimedia, network television, commercials, stage musicals and albums.

Presently Craig is creating music for the NBC series, THE OFFICE as well as numerous other notable programs. As a music producer, he is producing a CD for the band “Know Illusion” and just completed producing two songs for DANE COOK. The first of these, “I’LL NEVER BE YOU,” was released this past Christmas day.

He recently completed the score for the film GHOSTS NEVER SLEEP, a “dark dramedy” starring Faye Dunaway and Tony Goldwyn. He also recently completed THE KIDS WHO SAVED SUMMER, a family comedy which features, in addition to Craig’s score, four of Craig’s songs. The film is presently running on The Disney Channel and Showtime Family.
In the world of Multimedia, Craig recently completed BALDUR’S GATE THE DARK ALLIANCE II, and the main menu theme for FALLOUT, A BROTHERHOOD OF STEEL. BALDUR’S GATE marks Craig’s thirteenth journey to “Middle Earth” having started composing for the “Dungeons and Dragons” genre for TSR Inc. in the mid ’90s. Other scores in this genre include the TV special DRAGONSTRIKE, and the games PLANESCAPE, A GUIDE TO THE OUTLANDS, RAVENLOFT – A LIGHT IN THE BELFRY, and TERROR TRAX (among others). He also contributed music (with partner Simone Benyacar) to the trailer for feature film THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE RETURN OF THE KING.

Craig has composed for hundreds of network television projects ranging from NBC’s THE JEFF FOXWORTHY SHOW (theme and music) to ABC’s TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS (theme and music) series. Television projects presently in production include RUSSIAN ROULETTE (theme and music), a game show for Sony/Columbia Tri-Star that is airing on The Game Show Network, and the music library and original music for the Tollin/Robbins production THE NICK CANNON SHOW airing on the Nickelodeon Network.

Other notable television projects include: LUNATIC THEATER (theme and music), a pilot for the Fox Network, written and produced by Jerry Seinfeld, Barry Marder, Alan Marder & Jim Coane, and IMAGES OF ARIZONA, the latest in the series of Emmy winning documentaries he has scored for Arizona Public Television.

Finally, Craig was part of the composing team (headed by Stephen James Taylor) for Disney’s RAW TOONAGE, and the sole composer for the KAET/PBS production VISIONS OF ARIZONA. Both programs received Emmy nominations for outstanding original score.

Craig Stuart Garfinkle, A Personal Biography

The Journey Started Early

Craig Stuart Garfinkle began his journey to being a composer at the age of seven years old when, frustrated by his piano lessons, he would spend the time that he was supposed to be practicing his assignments making up his own melodies to play. “There was one instance,” Craig recalls, “during a second grade show and tell, I was supposed to play a piano piece I was studying. Trouble was, I hadn’t learned the piece. Instead, I sat down at the piano and improvised a simple melody reminiscent of the one I was supposed to perform. No one seemed to notice.”

By the time Craig started high school, piano had taken a back seat to guitar as his main instrument, but his desire for a career as a composer for film had already been cemented. “I can’t place the moment that the inspiration struck me, but from my first day as a freshman, I knew my course was clear. I had these passions for so many diverse styles of music and I knew that composing for film and television was the only way I could satisfy them all.”

Craig is quick to credit his alma matter, New Trier High School on Chicago’s North Shore, with starting him on the road to compete in the extremely competitive film music market:

“I feel I am a wonderful example of what can happen when a student’s passion for music is fed by excellent public music education. Five days a week I played guitar in the jazz ensemble and string bass in the orchestra. I got to play in the pit orchestra for dozens of the standard Broadway shows such as ‘West Side Story,’ ‘The Pajama Game’ and ‘Anne Get Your Gun.’ As a sophomore, my Jazz Ensemble won a contest held by “The Friendship Ambassador Foundation” and we were invited to tour Greece and Romania. Finally, I got to compose, orchestrate and conduct two full length student musicals. I had no idea just how special this was at the time, but now I am beyond grateful for the experience.”

“And pushing me the entire way, were three wonderful music educators, Roger Mills, who conducted the jazz ensembles, Philip Smith, who conducted the orchestra, and my private guitar instructor, Dave Dorsett. I only pray that when my daughter enters school, music programs like this might exist again!

Indiana University

By the time Craig finished high school, his parents knew that there was no way to alter the course of his career. They made only one demand of him, he would have to get a formal music education.

After high school, Craig entered Indiana University’s prestigious school of music in Bloomington Indiana. “It was the allure of being able to study with jazz educators Dominic Spera and David Baker that lead me to I.U.. I had been exposed to their music in High School, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study with them. Further, at that time, I.U. was one of the few places one could get a degree studying jazz.”

But Craig wouldn’t get his degree from I.U. – goofing off during his piano lessons came back to haunt him! By this time, Craig’s skill as a guitarist was earning him wonderful accolades like “The National Association of Jazz Educators Award for Jazz Performance,” “The Samuel Mages Memorial Scholarship”, “The Jazz Ensemble Award for Outstanding Musicianship” and others. But in order to graduate from Indiana University’s school of Music, one has to pass a proficiency examination on a “recognized” instrument. Since I.U. had no “guitar” degree, Craig tried, and failed, to pass piano proficiency. Craig claims this failure was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

“I knew that I couldn’t get a degree from I.U., but I wasn’t going to let that keep me from getting an education! By the end of my sophomore year, I had begged, borrowed or stolen my way into as many of the graduate composition, improvisation and/or orchestration classes that I could. Further, by now I also knew that my film and TV career waited for me in Los Angeles. Failing piano proficiency simply kicked me in the right direction.”

The Musician’s Institute and U.C.L.A.

It was David Baker who suggested that Craig should check in to “The Musician’s Institute’s ‘Guitar Institute of Technology’” as his first stop in Hollywood. This school, with a faculty filled with legendary guitarists such as Joe Pass, Joe Diorio, Robin Ford and others, was a great way for Craig to polish this part of his musicianship. It was during this time that Craig met Frank Gambale.

“I was walking down the hallway past an open practice room and I heard the most amazing sound coming from the other side of the door. I was mesmerized. Frank was a new teacher at the school, barely off the boat from Australia, and he played like no one I had ever heard – except when I played guitar in my mind. I spent the next year intensely studying not just Frank’s unique guitar style, but also his harmonic theories of composition and improvisation. His approach simply clicked in my head and made sense.”

Late in his year at M.I., at barely the age of 20, Craig received two huge opportunities: He was offered his first film score and received his first offer to do a record album as a guitarist.

“This was not a ‘this or that’ situation as the opportunities were not simultaneous, but emotionally they conflicted. I had submitted a demo tape to an upstart record company that wanted to feature solo guitarists and the tape had generated great interest from the company’s president. When this happened, I had just started scoring my first feature, a Danish teen comedy entitled, ‘Topsy Turvey.’ “

“I took a giant step back and made an honest assessment of the situation. I loved performing as a guitarist and I was a wonderful instrumentalist, but I also knew that if I truly played guitar the way I wanted to, I would sound like Frank Gambale. The world doesn’t need another Frank Gambale! On the other hand, when I composed music, it didn’t sound like anyone else – I was truly expressing the way I hear things.

“It was then that I called the president of the record company and told him, ‘I know you like the way I play, but if you want to really hear a brilliant guitarist, you need to meet Frank Gambale. The things you like on my tape are just emulations of his true genius.’ Frank, of course, got the record contract and went on to play with the likes of Chick Corea and was twice voted ‘Guitar Player Magazine’s,’ ‘Jazz Fusion Guitarist of the Year.’”

“And was befitting, when Frank had his first of many covers on that magazine, I received a modest article in the “Spotlight, New Talent” section – earned from the same tape that had generated the interest from the record company. The article was complimentary of my playing, but highlighted my composition as what was truly special about the music.”

Unfortunately, Craig’s first film score did not snowball into a film scoring career – it would be years before Craig would have another opportunity – so ever the professional student, and at his parent’s urging, Craig decided to finish his college degree. The University of California, Los Angeles was the next stop on the list.

This was no slam dunk! In order to get a music degree from UCLA, there was still a “proficiency” issue. And although – unlike Indiana University – UCLA had a degree in guitar, the degree was classical guitar. This was the one style Craig had never studied.

Two weeks before Craig’s audition, he scraped together the money to buy a classical guitar along with some books on basic finger technique and the required music for the audition. He dedicated every waking moment to learning how to “fake” his way through the compositions. He even wrote jazz chord symbols on the sheet music to help him remember the classical fingerings.

At the audition, his performance was not flawless, but good enough to keep from getting the ax from the faculty. As an afterthought, he decided to play a chord melody that he had learned back in high school – the song “Somewhere” from, “West Side Story.” A few weeks later, Craig received the letter of acceptance to UCLA’s school of music and with it was a pleasant surprise. He was offered a full scholarship based on “Popular Guitar Performance.” Thus started the next chapter in Craig’s career.

Armed with his previous jazz education, Craig soon became the teaching assistant to the UCLA jazz ensemble, a position usually held only by graduate students. In addition to conducting the freshman jazz ensemble, he also taught classes in jazz improvisation and orchestration. His boundless energy earned him many additional awards including “The Gil Rodin Memorial Scholarship for Jazz Performance,” but more valuable to Craig was the exposure to two additional great educators, David Raksin and Gary Gray.

Gary Gray, in addition to heading the jazz ensemble at UCLA, is also one of Hollywood’s most sought after studio clarinetists. He has performed on literally hundreds of film scores over his career. Sometime during Craig’s first year as a teaching assistant, Gary, aware that Craig wanted to work in the genre, started inviting Craig to observe some of these sessions. Craig jumped at the chance.

“I would quietly sit in the back of the control room in my nicest suit, soaking it all in – the language, the mannerisms, the way the composer would relate to the director – I couldn’t learn enough! And because I was in a suit, no one ever questioned who I was. They all thought I was some executive from the studio, or worse, someone’s nephew!”

“Because of Gary Gray, I got to watch Alan Sylvestri score films such as, ‘Outrageous Fortune’ and ‘Batteries Not Included.’ I watched Danny Elfman score the film, ‘Nightbreed.’ I watched Bill Conti and James Brooks practically ‘duke it out’ during the sessions for ‘Broadcast News.’ There are too many more to even mention!

“And years later, when I first stepped to the podium on the scoring stage at 20th Century Fox studios, I visualized the way Alan Sylvestri had handled himself in the same situation, on the same podium, with the very same engineer, Armin Steiner. Because of Gary, I was able to draw on this visualization to keep me calm, to know what to expect and more importantly, to keep me from running to the bathroom to throw up from fright!

“I vividly remember raising the baton, looking around the orchestra and in my calmest voice saying, ‘Armin, could you press the ‘ethereal button’ please?’ Armin, knowing exactly how to calm the neophyte, replied, ‘It’s always on.’

“Armin has had so many sessions I know he probably doesn’t remember this situation, but his voice in my ear at that moment sounded like the almighty himself – something one does not soon forget”

Which brings us to David Raksin. What can one say about this film scoring legend? As Craig explains,

“David’s film composition classes were 1/3 mechanics of the art, and 2/3 the art of the mechanics. As they say, if talking about music in film is like trying to dance about architecture, David taught his classes how to dance! I credit David for helping me to avoid many of the pitfalls that inevitably confront any composer trying to work in film as well as countless other life lessons.”

“He will be missed terribly – not just by the film community for his volume of work, but by the hundreds of other students, like me, who he mentored during the course of his decades long teaching career.”

ack Segal, Songwriting and Teaching

Craig readily admits that he came to traditional songwriting rather late in life. “When I was a young composer, I thought those ‘lyric things’ just kept getting in the way of the music. I now attribute this belief to youthful ignorance.” What really changed Craig was exposure to Jack Segal, one of the world’s great lyricists.

Craig inherited Jack as a “Demo Client” in 1992 when Jack’s former producer, Richard Rosing, moved to Nashville to pursue work there. “When I first met Jack, I had no idea just how influential he was going to be on my art and my life.”

Jack’s credits include many of the standard tunes that were performed by Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Nat Cole, just to name a few, and even today his standards such as “When Sunny Get’s Blue,” “Scarlet Ribbons,” “When Joanna Loved Me,” and “More Love” regularly appear on contemporary albums.

Additionally, Jack’s songwriting seminars have been a legendary part of the Songwriter’s Guild of America for over two decades.

“Since first meeting Jack, I have produced countless demos of his new material, even when I was no longer producing demos for anyone else.

I was also a guest at many of his songwriting seminars offering advice on production techniques. Somewhere along the way, through this exposure, I started to see the beauty and poetry within lyrics. But it was almost eight years before I attempted to write my own lyrics.”

Craig now includes “lyricist” as one of his hard earned skills having written lyrics for clients such as “Hasbro,” and “Interplay,” among others. His recent score for the feature, “The Kids Who Saved Summer,” includes three of his lyrics including the main title song “At the Park.”

“Jack also taught me, through example, about the need to share knowledge and how being a teacher is one of the greatest gifts one can offer.”

In addition to his composition career, Craig is an avid sailor and skier. He serves on the board of directors of The Society of Composers. Finally, Craig is an annual music judge for the national Emmy awards.

Craig lives in Malibu, California with his daughter Madison and his fiancé, conductor and composer Eímear Noone.