A One Of A Kind Female Composer & Hockey Player
By: Judy Shields
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 8/19/2016 “It’s like poetry going 80 miles an hour, that is how I describe hockey.” Megan Cavallari told The Hollywood Times yesterday during a telephone interview yesterday.
What a happy voice I heard on the other end of the telephone yesterday morning and what a wonderful way to have started the day. Megan Cavallari just had happiness and positive vibes illuminating through the receiver. We had a wonderful conversation, firstly about hockey, because I am a huge hockey fan, then her real career as a female composer.
Megan is a world renown composer with more than a 100 film scores as performer, arranger, conductor, or composer; the official composer of the L.A. Kings for ten seasons; 25 television shows; 16 stage musicals; and hundreds of songs, jingles, and assorted musical offerings have earned her respect, acclaim, multiple professional awards, and a reputation as someone who seemingly creates and produces music in every waking moment of a 37 hour day.
Here is how the conversation went:
THT: What are you up to today?
MC: I have my assistant coming in and he is training another assistant and a new intern. I’m very excited because I have a female intern. You don’t see a lot of film composers who are female that are coming up. I made sure I hired her and another interview later this afternoon, so I’m talking a lot today. Usually I am in my little cave writing music.
THT: Tell me about your “Little Cave” I saw on your website?
MC: Yeah, it’s my hockey cave, I love playing hockey, I’m a Philly girl, so it’s sort of in my DNA. My parents first date, my Dad took my Mom to a hockey game and his cousins played on a hockey team called the Hershey Bears back then, a Philadelphia team and after the game, he took her out to meet the players and show her his cousins, who some of them where on the team. She got sticks and she was thrilled and a couple of days later he took her younger brother and of course he just thought he was the keeper, and he go sticks and they sort of courted during hockey. If you are from Philly, that is pretty romantic. We are huge Flyers fans and then I came out here and became a Kings fan and that is when I learned hockey, it was scary but I got better.
THT: I read you actually play on team, what team?
MC: My coach is Daryl Evans (Evans was drafted in 1980 by the Kings and has been the radio color commentator for the Los Angeles Kings for over 15 seasons). I met a woman named Heidi Androl when I was at one of the clinics and afterwards we were talking in the locker room and she asked what I did and I said I’m a composer and she said “oh, the Kings need some new music and I think they need it spruced up. So I gave her my CD and I started writing for the Kings and wrote for them about ten seasons. There is another composer now that is writing for them. I worked for a great producer named Aaron Brenner, and now he is producing all kinds of commercials and I still work with him. It is really wonderful to go to games and hear your stuff and 18,323 people that don’t know it is you and it is a great experience.
I play on a man’s hockey team, so I’m pretty small, like 115 lbs. and these guys are about like 220, so I’m the little one.
THT: Aren’t you nervous?
MC: Yeah, people don’t know that (THT: they do now!) but I just have a number on my back and we are all going for the puck and trying to score with this great big man in the cage I should say. This little cage with this huge man and we are just trying to get that little piece of rubber in the net, either top shelf, side hole or any way we can, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to go in.
I love playing hockey and I’m a Kings and Flyers fan, but a diehard Kings fan first. It has been such a great run with the Kings and then winning the Stanley cup last year. I have always collected Jerseys from around the world and have an original Boston shirt from 40 years ago. I have jerseys from teams that no longer exist. They are hanging in my cave.
THT: How many years have you been playing on a team?
MC: I have been playing for 12 years now. It’s awesome and my daughter has been learning to play but she does not love it as much as I do.
THT: What team do you play with?
MC: I play on pickup teams. I play at this Poway arena and after the Kings play I play with Daryl Evans’ pickup team. I also play with Callie Heaton, she is a woman and there is all men and only us two women. The pickup team is sponsored by the Kings and I get an email about every week to come out and play and they tell me what squad I am on. It’s noncontact, but when I do get hit I go flying and I have gotten stitches on my chin, but when you are out there you sort of feel like you are ten! It is so different from my job composing, because so much music has to be written and orchestrated, fixed and sent over to the director, get notes and be rewritten, re-orchestration, remixed and so on, you are on a time line, it’s fantastic but it’s a wonderful job but it is also great to do something totally different. You don’t have to get paid and run down for a check and call your agent to make a deal or things like that. You just have to suit up, you play and you get the puck and you try to get it in.. You work with your lines, just like you do in film scoring, you have your line and they are your orchestrators, your directors, they are your producers, you have your team just like in hockey.
Pickup games can be seen after Kings games, so look for Megan playing on her pickup team this next Kings hockey season.
Megan also told me that true spirited hockey fans can go to the practice games the morning of the evening games at 10 a.m. and it’s totally free. You just have to call the Toyota Sports Center to see if they are playing and gather up the kids and get down to watch them practice. Great hockey in August for the draft players, maybe worth ditching work to go at 10 a.m. to check them out and at 11:30 a.m. the players come out to see the fans and sign autographs and take pictures. Sounds like a great weekend day trip for all us die hard hockey fans. Thanks Megan for that secret!
THT: Can we talk about your daughter?
I have a daughter named Shoshie, who is twelve and she is going into the seventh grade. She is into Anime. My daughter has arthritis (she has had juvenile idiopathic arthritis since she was 1-1/2). I am an arthritis ambassador and trying to get cures for children with arthritis. There are 300,000 children that have this type of disease. We do a great deal to raise money for the painted turtles Paul Newman camp, Also she has been picked to speak on October 12 and they are doing an arthritis bike ride from San Francisco, all the way down to Los Angeles and she has been asked to speak about juvenile arthritis. She is doing that and it’s been rough, the last few days she has been in a great deal of pain because of the heat. In her case, it’s probably articular which means it’s in all the joints. So sometimes she is in a wheelchair and has to have chemo treatments to try and stop the cells from attacking her joints. I didn’t know that children got arthritis until my child got arthritis. It is hard to watch as an adult to watch your child suffer. Children really don’t complain compared to adults.
My Talk Foundation that I have I noticed that when I record the chronically ill children with various diseases like cancer and are really fighting for their life. One thing you find is that they don’t complain, they talk about getting better a great deal of them are in a positive state. Some of the teenagers that I have recorded may be angry and that anything they say is always the correct thing to say, and many of them don’t complain, just talk about getting better and a happy story.
She talked about the camp that Paul Newman created for children with series medical conditions and that they are free for these children. You spend a week up there and it changes the attitude of the child and in life and it’s such an amazing camp. She has seen it turn her daughter’s life around just attending the camp. Shoshie raises money for the camp and tells her story and it has really helped with everything her daughter has gone through.
Megan said Paul Newman has many of camps throughout the world and the camps are free and no accounting departments in any of his camps. When you buy the Paul Newman salad dressing the money all goes to the camp. When you buy any of Paul Newman’s products you are giving a child a chance to experience swimming, horseback riding, the cabins, the counselors and all of the stuff available there for the kids. All the camps have concerts to help benefit the camps too. Megan was at a concert with Katy Perry performing and Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito showed up and they were hysterical. No one knew they were coming and they just showed up. It’s beautiful and because Paul Newman had so many friends, they come out and still help out today.
“My daughter only knows Paul Newman as the guy that created the greatest camp on earth. That is all she knows him as and that’s a beautiful legacy.”
Check out the website about Paul Newman’s camp for kids: http://thepaintedturtle.org/
A quote from the website below from Megan: “I want to be involved because kids like my Shoshie don’t deserve this pain. I hope there is a cure for these children who live in pain and it’s through research like that funded by the Arthritis National Research Foundation that we will find it!”
THT: Was becoming a music composer a dream of yours and at what age?
MC: As far as becoming a composer I knew pretty early in my life. In second grade we sat in a circle in Ms. Mengenie’s class and said what we wanted to be when we grew up. All the boys said “Rich and 2 said a firemen and all the girls said a mommy”. I said “Leonard Bernstein” and everyone laughed at me and I was so angry I got up and walked out of class and walked home where my surprised mother asked me why I was home. I told her the story and she told me “Good job”.
In the 6th grade everyone had to say what was special about them. My friend Lydian Giardini who sat beside me said “I can paint my nails like they do at a salon-which was so impressive and everyone was clapping. I said “I hear 26 instruments in my head at all times”- the room went dead silent. Who knew being such a freak would become my passion!
THT: What was your first song you composed on your own?
Megan: My first song I remember writing is “Enough is Enough” when I was 11. I used to make my brother and sister sing parts for harmonies for musicals. They hated it but they were great musicians. They still are. My brother Seth plays drums and sings in a band and my sister Renie is learning jazz flute- after years of being a classical flutist. They are both really talented. But they have day jobs. My mother has one of the most beautiful voices in the world and sang me to sleep- even when I was in high school- my sister made fun of us but we loved it. We were a very music loving family.
When I was 15 I wrote my first fully produced musical for The Swarthmore Players Club Young People’s Theatre Workshop.
I went over the Donna Peck’s house. Half of the adults said I could write the musical and half said I could not. I played through the musical and the adults argues in front of me. Half stormed out. Then I got a check for $75 and I could not believe someone would pay me for doing the thing I loved best! I figured you all I had to do was find my people and that some people will never be “my people”. A very important lesson to learn.
THT: You mentioned you had a couple of degrees, what training does a person go through to become a composer?
Megan: My training was being an assistant to composers.
I began my composition, theory, orchestration lessons at 15 with Dr. Alfred Blatter who wrote the book on orchestration and instrumentation. I wanted to write operas so he told George Crumb about me and I went to University of Penn to study with him for a while. Then I went to NYU for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in composition and lyric writing for the musical theatre from there I came out to LA and fell in love with film scoring.
As a teenager studied music with professor and author Dr. Alfred Blatter (Curtis Institute of Music) and George Crumb (University of Pennsylvania)
THT: What are you currently working on?
MC: I am working on two things right now. I’m working on a pop song for Eric Robinson, he is a Grammy nominated producer for Taylor Swift’s Red album and he’s an incredible pop producer, so I am writing Pop songs for him and he critiques them and he takes the best song and shops me around for production. Basically some type of deal for me. It’s not a record deal, because I don’t want to go on the road for nine months. This is like a writing deal for different stars.
The other thing I am working on is a feature film called “Jacob Marley” with a wonderful director named Russ Francis and it’s an animated musical and Russ and I are writing the songs this year. Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s deceased business partner (Ghost), it is sort of like “Wicked,” the other sister in the Wizard of OZ, sort of a take on that. Next year I will do the score and Russ has facilitated my favorite place, Capital Records, to conduct and he has a great budget for me to use, my practically female orchestra. I will conduct that and he has just given me the dream team go ahead and I am so lucky to get this huge deal.
I asked Megan how she met Danny Elfman and here is this great story
I came out here to LA and had my musical at the Mark Taper Forum, which I had done in grad school at NYU called “Echo Park” and I fell right into the best director at that time. I met Richard Kraft, who loves musicals and he was so impressed that I had a musical and so young at the Taper. I met Danny because I couldn’t afford to fly home and it was Thanksgiving and I just happened to be at Richard Kraft’s home and there were other composers who were from out of town that came for Thanksgiving and I sat next to this red haired gentlemen and he asked me what I did and I said I said I had a musical at the Mark Taper and I’m just trying to figure out my opening number and I started talking to him about it and he said “wow, you really know your musicals” and I said “yeah I have two degrees in composition for musical theatre in lyric writing.” He said “Wow, what are you doing tomorrow?” Megan said “nothing, I am totally unemployed.” He said “here is my address, so why don’t you come and work for me.”
That is her story and the movie was none other than “Nightmare Before Christmas.” What a fantastic break and talk about being at the right place at the right time!
“The luckiest gal in the world” Megan said. Her first job in Hollywood.
She also talked a little about meeting Tim Burton, a guy with crazy hair and how he was so nice and would draw pictures for her and animals that he though she should have as pets. He designed watches for the cast and crew and Megan still has hers and wore it proudly and did not keep in the box.
Megan said she is naturally positive and she wants to see people succeed, and she does not have that jealousy gene. Find her people that work for her and hire her and that love to be with her and her with them. “If you don’t love what you are doing, you need to do something else.”
Our conversation ended with Megan quoting her late Father: “Take your good time with you.”
About Megan Cavallari
Composing for the web series “The Real Zombie Hunters of America”, written, produced and directed by award winner Mike McDonough
First professionally produced a musical at the age of 16
2012 Winner of Telly Award “Best Score, Best Main Title”
2012 Winner of Cynopsis Media Award “Best Score, Best Main Title”
2 degrees from New York University: Music Composition major and a minor in Lyric Writing, graduated with academic honors
Began working with Danny Elfman on “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” and continued with Mr. Elfman for 8 movies ending with “Dolores Claiborne”
Worked for film score legend Jerry Goldsmith and film composer Edward Shearmur
Arranged for Graeme Revell (film composer) and Johnny Mathis (singer)
Has conducted over 45 scores
Singer, vocal arranger, music director on over 75 film scores, and records (including “Nightmare”)
Winner of numerous awards including 3 ASCAP awards, 1 BMI award and 1 Dramatic Guild Award
2 Platinum Albums
Written music for over 25 television shows (including: Handy Manny, Made for Each Other, Higglytown Heroes to name a few)
Written music for 9 feature films, including the award winning films “Life After Tomorrow” and “Sex Guns and Drugs” and “The Family Tree”
LA Kings composer – 6th season
Hersey Bears Ice Hockey Team “No Rest” campaign
Composed over 20 jingles
Composed 16 critically acclaimed musicals at the Mark Taper Forum, Barrington Stage, 5th Street Playhouse, Living Arts Centre (to name a few)
Has worked with legendary guitarist Steve Vai, Ann Marie Calhoun, Mike Lang, Sid Page and Federico Ramos.
Her songs have been performed by Disney Record’s Tiffany Giardina, American Idol’s Allison Iraheta, Rachel York, Sara Ramirez, Martin Short, Wilmer Valderrama, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Kenny, Marion Ross, Andrea Martin, Jodi Benson, Richard Lewis, Dom DeLuise, Charles Nelson Reilly, Tim Curry and Michael York.
Creator and engineer of “The Talk Foundation”
Recording studio in Studio City
Crazy ice hockey fan and player (left wing)
Chi Marathon runner
3 ASCAP AWARDS
1 BMI AWARD
Cynopsis Media Award
Yip Harburg Award
Founders Day Award
2 Platinum Albums
Directors are saying:
Richard Kraft – Megan is an amazing composer. She writes ear candy.
Sean Frost – She is amazing. Just wanted to say that. Can talk, but listens well, very cordial, engaging, polite, nice; also to the point, frank, and honest. I can see why people want to work with her.
Mike Viney, Emmy Winning Director/Producer – I had the pleasure of working with Megan on three projects that could not be more varied: an independent feature film, a reality TV pilot, and an animated short series. Needless to say, Megan is not limited by genre or format with her ability to capture the perfect mood and emotion of a scene or overall piece.
One of the things that sets Megan apart from other composers I have worked with is her sense of when NOT to use music. To me, that illustrates her overall understanding of the entire scope of a project, be it a film or an animated short, and how the absence of music can be just as powerful as a song.
Perhaps Megan’s greatest strength is her skill in developing musical themes that give a sense of cohesion for a film or TV show. Specifically with my feature film Triggerfish, the use of these themes for different characters and moods transformed our little independent movie into a polished feature film.
Aside from her overall musicianship, Megan brings an attitude of professionalism, humility, and fun to every project, making her a joy to work with in every regard.
Candi Clare, Producer/Writer/Actor – Megan was able to take a little punk film and make it legendary… Her innate talent and ability to get into the moment and convey them musically is pretty extreme. We were so lucky to have her as such an integral part of “Triggerfish”.
Adrian Selkowitz Director at TRfilms – “Megan Cavallari has taken my film to a whole new level with her musical talents. She has solved the musical riddle of several of my most challenging scenes. I can’t imagine making another film without her involvement. I feel lucky to have met her.”
Julie Stevens – Director/Producer, Double 19 Productions – “Megan composed the score to my documentary feature and did an amazing job. She really captured the tone and was able to add depth and humor to the film with her music.
I have had the pleasure of recording Megan’s music as a singer and am always amazed at how well she sings herself. It is certainly as asset as a composer to understand how voices work and Megan is talented in so many areas.”
Chuck Smith – Editor at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Post Production Supervisor at Starz Entertainment – “Megan is a wonderful composer with the ability to meet tight deadlines and produce fantastic results.”
Grace Benn – Special Project Manager at USC Institute for Creative Technologies – “Megan is an amazingly talented composer and one of the nicest, fun, upbeat, responsible, creative, innovative, caring people in town. She’s one of a kind. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Megan’s work, her worth ethic, and her as a person.”
Tara Browne – Mattel – “It would be easy to recommend Megan on the beauty of her music alone: just listen to the songs from Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, or Barbie as the Island Princess, among others. Her music is little-girl friendly, yet powerful enough to make a grown woman weep. Singable, yet sophisticated.
As a song composer on several of our animated features, Megan has always been committed to ensuring the highest quality deliverables possible – even when it means working around the clock, or flying overseas to supervise international song recording on short notice. Megan is a pleasure to work with, and I am happy to recommend her work.”
Amy Powers – Lyricist “The Game”, “Dr. Zhivago” – “Megan Cavallari is, quite simply, fantastic. Her boundless enthusiasm, dedicated professionalism and magnetic positive energy make every project a joy. She moves easily between many musical genres, creating indelible melodies and exciting scores. She gives 110% to every assignment and interfaces equally well with corporate clients, musicians and collaborators to produce unforgettable music.”
Heidi Androl – LA Kings Organization – “Megan is one of the kindest people and most brilliant composers I have ever met. When given a project, not only does she have the pieces finished on time she has provided scores so good that we could not have imagined this year without her! I would highly recommend Megan Cavallari for your next project!”
The Talk Foundation
The TALK Foundation gives chronic and terminally ill children the opportunity to express themselves through sound. Each child’s words, songs, laughs, cries, and other audible forms of expression are recorded and mixed live by professional record producers and provided to the children and their families on CDs. These recording sessions are conducted in accordance with procedures developed in consultation with leading child psychiatrists. The volunteer producers (and the actors, athletes, musicians and other volunteers who sometimes assist them) approach this task with both love and humility. They recognize that each of these recordings is more precious than even the biggest hit song, and they accept the challenge of making sure that each CD tells the child’s own story.
The TALK Foundation is the creation of film score composer, songwriter, and record producer Megan Cavallari. Her passion for sound and her love of children inspire the work of the TALK Foundation and the volunteers who strive to accomplish its mission