Modern Film Industry
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1.CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FORMATION OF THE COMPOSER
Alan Silvestri is one of the most outstanding Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated movie composers in Hollywood. During more than 45 years of creative activity, this talented musician has produced over 90 amazing film scores that allow the public not only watch the movies, but also feel them.
Alan Silvestri (full name – Alan Anthony Silvestri) was born in New York on the 25th of March, 1950. His childhood took place in Teaneck, New Jersey. Silvestri’s parents had nothing to do with music or composing, but their contribution cannot be ignored.
His father’s impulsive Italian temper and dedication to high family traditions and his mother’s rich mental world had a great effect on young Alan Silvestri.
For the first time Silvestri paid attention to the music at the age of three. It was a period of his first “drum sessions” and, at the same time, the beginning of his future career.
“On Saturday morning it was a cartoon time. Long before I had a drum, I had a little black notebook, one of those hard three ring binder notebooks, and a pair of chopsticks. I would sit and watch cartoons and I would just play along,” Alan Silvestri recalls. And while other children were just playing around, he was making music.
The only family member, who was associated with music-making, was Silvestri’s sister. She served as the family’s obligatory accordion player, what enhanced Alan’s interest in this area. It is amazing, but since being a kid Alan knew, that practical side of music did not play a great part for him. He was concentrated on theory. Therefore the boy had explored dozens of books concerning a wide range of questions: from writing music to music as a science.
Alan Silvestri’s family was quite typical. In summer they used to spend lots of time on the shore. Like other teens Alan was fond of playing baseball. His father has always seen him as a baseball player. Nevertheless Silvestri’s parents supported all their son’s beginnings. Young composer attended Teaneck High School and was a member of the school orchestra. He learned to play the clarinet, saxophone, bassoon and woodwinds there. At the age of 14 he bought his first guitar and shortly after that moved from the suburban area to New York, where he was taught to play it.
While studying at the High School, he used to works as a busser. Alan did his best to save enough money to visit a girl in Louisiana. But at the end of the summer he made up his mind to buy an amp instead of implementation of his previous idea. Today he laughs and says that he probably liked music more than that girl.
At the age of fifteen Silvestri faced an idea of becoming a musician. At that time he has not even thought of writing music for movies, he wanted to be a jazz performer. Young Silvestri was inspired by his favorite jazz guitarist Wes Montgomeri.
In 1967 Silvestri started his own jazz band called “The South Winds”, in which he played the guitar, Glen Gollobin – flute, Ken Petretti – drums.
After the graduation from the High School, in 1967, Alan Silvestri entered Berklee College of Music, in Boston. He studied jazz there and from time to time used to play the guitar for public. But Alan Silvestri has spent less than two years there. Once the representatives of the “Las Vegas blues band” Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders entered the classroom of his college and asked, whether there was a guitarist, who wanted to start on a tour. Alan Silvestri made up his decision. Since 1970 he has lived in Las Vegas.
2. AT THE SUMMIT OF FAME
In Las Vegas Alan Silvestri continued his career as a guitarist and arranger in the band of Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. Very soon they were offered a contract from a recording studio. When the friends had found out that the contract conditions were unfair (it involved low salaries and musicians were tied with the studio for the rest of life), they decided to go to Los Angeles to find that deceiver. That is what the beginning of his musician career looked like. Los Angeles was not waiting anxiously for his arrival and Alan Silvestri faced plenty of difficulties before he gained success in his area of interest. As soon as the band arrived to Los Angeles, they realized that they had neither contacts nor money.
The situation was saved by Alan Silvestri’s old friend. He introduced the young composer to Bradford Craig, who invited Alan to write music for films and introduced him to the producer of the movie “Doberman Gang”. Alan Silvestri spent his last money to buy all necessary literature about writing music for films. He wrote more than sixty minutes of music within fourteen days. The film was a real failure. However it was Silvestri’s first experience in that area. He has not been invited to write music for large-budget movies for a while.
In 1977 Paul Michael Glaser invited Alan Silvestri to write music for the TV series “Starsky and Hutch”. After he wrote music for several episodes, Silvestri was noticed by the company Metro-Goldwynn-Mayer. So he was invited to write music for the second season of the TV show “California Highway Patrol”, which involved more than one hundred and twenty hours of music.
After being appointed to this position Alan Silvestri realized that his life was changing rapidly. He gained valuable experience and said goodbye to poverty. At the same time he kept playing the guitar. So Silvestri worked with Mistique, Scherrie&Susaye and Jimmy Smith. But since he had started composing music for films, playing did not matter much for him any more. Suddenly “California Highway Patrol” was canceled and Silvestri found himself without any money again. Another composer Mark Snow tried to help him (a composer for “T.J. Hooker” was needed), but the producers have not hired him.
In 1983 Silvestri met Robert Zemeckis, who changed his life greatly. It is unbelievable, but the day they first met, they both wore the same white Calvin Klein sweater. The first film they produced together was “Romancing the Stone” (1984).
Since that time Alan Silvestri and Robert Zemeckis have worked together for 9 more movies, among which “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Forrest Gump”, “Death Becomes Her”, “Contact”, “Cast Away” and “What Lies Beneath”. Their collaboration lasted seventeen years and was one of the most continuos in Hollywood.
“A relationship between a director and a composer is always a special and difficult relationship. There is so much reliance on the director being able to communicate his needs and the composer being able to hear those needs and translate them into music. There is a gap that can really only be spanned by faith. And, for Bob and I over the years, he’s become more and more trusting, and that has only inspired me more and more to achieve his vision”, says Alan Silvestri.
Silvestri is also known for his work on “Predator” (1987), “Predator II” (1990), “The Bodyguard” (1992), “Super Mario Bros.” (1993), “Blown Away” (1994), “Father of the Bride II” (1995), “Stuart Little” (1999), “What Women Want” (2000), “The Mummy returns” (2001), “Lilo and Stitch” (2002), “Two soldiers” (2003), “Van Helsing” (2004), “Night at the Museum” (2006), “Beowulf" (2007), “Hannah Montana: The Movie” (2009), “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009), “G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (2009), “Predators” (2010), “The A-Team” (2010), “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) etc. In 2012 the movies “Who Framed Roger Rabbit II” and “The Avengers” with Silvestri’s music will be released.
A great number of the movie soundtracks with Alan Silvestri’s music has been produced. Alan Silvestri even released several own discs, including “Selected Themes” (1994), “Voyages: The Film Music Journeys Of Alan Silvestri” (1995), “Selected Themes: The Special Edition” (1997), “Selected Themes” (2nd edition, 1998), “The Back to the Future Trilogy” (1999), “Cast Away: The Zemeckis” (2001), and “Musica de Cline 2” (2007).
It’s also worth mentioning about the albums released with Silvestri’s contribution. The most successful of them are “Sit on It!” (1977, Silvestri was the author, a guitarist and an arranger), “Mystique featuring Ralph Johnson” (1977, Silvestri was an arranger), Partners (1979, Alan Silvestri was a guitarist and arranger), “Move to Groove: The Best of 1970s Jazz-Funk” (1995, Silvestri was the author, a guitarist and an arranger), “The Big Picture” (1997, he was an arranger), “Ultimate Collection” (1999, Alan Silvestri was an arranger as well as the producer), and “Mystique” (2000, Silvestri was an arranger). Besides there’s still plenty of unreleased soundtracks and compositions by Alan Silvestri. Quite many people gain free access to them because of the internet. That makes the representatives of Alan Silvestri unhappy. They believe that his music should be released officially.
He has won two Grammy Awards for movies Cast Away and Polar Express. Silvestri has received two Academy Award nominations for “Forrest Gump” and “Believe”, two Golden Globe nominations and two Oscar nominations for “Forrest Gump” and “Polar Express”. In 2011 he was awarded with the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award.
3. NON-MUSICAL LIFE
Although it is impossible to imagine up-to-date film production without contribution of Alan Silvestri, this man has his priorities in order. Except composing music he is also an active public figure, a great vintner, an exemplary husband and a loving father of three children (Alexandra, Joey and James).
“When I work on a film, my task mostly centers around communicating with a director. You can’t have too much life experience when you sit down with another human being and try to understand their point of view, what’s moved them to do things the way they have. The fact that I always have had lots of other interests – my family being one of them – helps what I have to do in the workplace,” says Silvestri.
He has never considered himself to be an outstanding composer. Silvestri just used to look around and express his feelings in music. He said that music was the most important part of his life, but within reasonable limits.
Silvestri married Sandra in 1978, which stopped her model career shortly after that occasion. At the moment family lives in a small town Carmel, California. They own a ranch with cattle and horses and really enjoy countryside life. They also have a 300-acre vineyard named after Silvestri. There different kinds of wine for sale are produced. And, of course, Alan knows, how to deal with a tractor.
Silvestri himself is sure that their family became a part of the community because of their wine business. He and his wife donate wine for different charity events, especially for those organized by Junevile Diabetes Research Foundation. They took part in many programs within this institution activity, because one of their kids Joey suffered type 1 diabetes. Once their son was on the edge of coma. Since that time Alan Silvestri and Sandra became important fighters and advocates on behalf of the Junevile Diabetes Research Foundation. The search of medicine for defeating the illness of their son is the main goal of Alan Silvestri’s and Sandra’s lives.
Alan Silvestri’s wife founded the Children’s Congress – a meeting where more than one hundred kids with type 1 diabetes get an ability to see the top USA decision-makers personally. This occasion takes place twice a year in Washington, D.C. Besides Sandra is a member of the International Board of the Foundation. Not long ago he, Sandra and Joey participated in the Children’s Congress’ ten-year anniversary celebration.
There is one more thing that Alan Silvestri is really fond of. Silvestri cannot do without flying. He has his own plane and a license for private flights. When he has meetings in the other parts of the country, he pilots the plane by himself.
Even if Silvestri has nothing to do in his vineyard, there are no upcoming JDRF events or any domestic concerns, he always keeps himself busy expanding his knowledge of the music science. There is still much to do. On one side Alan has to get acquainted with innovative technologies in film industry to impress public with new movie scores. On the other side he returns to traditional instruments such as a guitar. He says that playing the guitar is a kind of meditation for him.
Alan Silvestry has his own secret of success and he is glad to share it with pubic. “I am still amazed at how I go through that initial panic and that initial search of 'how am I going to do this? I can't do this.” Then I look at this list of stuff behind me and I think, well, somebody has done it, but why isn't he here today? Sure enough, you always have to blast through those obstacles that are all psychological,” says Alan.
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