A Trailblazer in TV Scoring

By Schwartz, Nan | International Musician, May 2009 | Go to article overview

A Trailblazer in TV Scoring


Schwartz, Nan, International Musician


Nan Schwartz of Local 47 (Los Angeles) is a bit of a trailblazer for other female composers. Her life has taken her from early years of singing professionally, to a career in television production, then scoring for television series and films and arranging. She has garnered several awards, including seven Primetime Emmy nominations and a recent Grammy Award for her arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day," performed by Natalie Cole.

For breaking into the male-dominated world of television scoring, Schwartz could be seen as somewhat of a trailblazer. "I'm not the kind of person to be a pioneer," Schwartz says. "It was inadvertent that I became that; I just happened to be one of the first [female composers scoring for TV]. It's something I wanted to do and I felt like I couldn't let anything stop me."

An accident provided her a turning point in her professional life, after spending about five years in the television business, working as a production assistant on various television and award shows. On a skiing trip at June Mountain in California, she fell and broke her leg in five places. She was incapacitated for nine months and doctors thought she might never walk again. Though Schwartz made a full recovery-now running 30 miles a week-her career direction was changed forever.

While laid up, she yearned to do something in the television or film industries and thought she could take a stab at composing scores. "But, I didn't go to Juilliard, I thought it was too late, and I'm a woman," she says about the field long-dominated by male composers.

A friend encouraged her to try anyway and to follow her dreams. So, as soon as she recovered from her skiing accident, she took private orchestration lessons and started ghost writing music.

She apprenticed with Patrick Williams of Local 47 on a TV series he was composing. He asked Schwartz to write an episode and conduct it.

The producers liked her work and it led her to work with other shows like Cagney & Lacey and some TV movies. Meanwhile, she arranged music on the side, including working for famed composer John Williams of Locals 47 and 9-535 (Boston, MA) and the Boston Pops, which led to her first Grammy nomination.

Schwartz joined the AFM early in her career when she first started arranging. …

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