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Monday, March 22, 2010

6 Questions For Composer/Orchestrator Chris Boardman

Chris Boardman has lived multiple careers in the music business. From being a touring musician with Seals and Crofts to musical director for Tom Jones to an Emmy-winning orchestrator and arranger for television and film to composer for major Hollywood motion pictures ("Payback" with Mel Gibson is one of my favs) to jazz pianist to platinum producer, Chris has had enough musical success to fill several lifetimes.

I know I'm not doing Chris justice with this short intro, so go to his website for an idea of what a musical powerhouse he really is. In the meantime, Chris was kind enough to answer this week's "6 Questions."

1) How did you break into the business?
Started playing dances etc at 14. Big break came meeting an established arranger/musician named Billy Byers at 18. We developed a very close personal and musical relationship....mentor/protege. Through Billy I did my first professional arrangement (solo harp for Joey Heatherton singing the Minnie Ripperton tune "Loving You". I think I was 19. At 20 I did my first television show as an arranger (a forgettable show). At 22 I left college to become musical director for a Vegas act (Mitzi Gaynor). For the next 6 years we worked elbow to elbow doing a variety of different project.

2) What makes you unique?
Good question. Something everyone should ask themselves. I mean, if you can't describe yourself to you how in the world can you expect anyone else to figure it out?

Recently I was forced to rethink this question, even after all these years. A career is a moving have to evolve or get left behind.

What makes me unique? I could go through the laundry list of experience, talent, credits etc but I think the truth about me is this: looking at an abstract (film, song, record, orchestra etc), defining its form, creating a palette, chopping it into puzzle size pieces and then being able to execute (put the puzzle together). I apply this to any project I work on. It doesn't matter what the genre, music, film,technology, business etc. Not sure how unique that is actually.

From a purely musical perspective my experience really is unique. I was blessed with having access to the greatest talents from the previous generation who were gracious enough to let me learn from them. This makes me somewhat of a hybrid. Remember, my career started PRIOR to the advent of the personal computer (1974).

3) Who was your biggest influence?
I'd have to say Billy Byers and all the amazing people he introduced me to and allowed me to work with. From Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby to Julie Andrews and Shirley MacLaine. Second I'd have to say Quincy Jones (who first called me at age 23). Q IS the quintessential producer and inspirational personality. Third I'd have to say David Foster. David and I weren't that close personally but I learned an enormous amount working for him on and off for close to 20 years. After that it would be all the talented film composers Michael Kamen, James Newton Howard, Bruce Broughton, etc.

4) What's the best thing about your job?
:) I get to do it ...a LOT! Getting out of bed each day is such a gift!

5) When and where were you the happiest?
Musically? I tend to be a restless soul artistically. Therefore when a situation is no longer fulfilling I move on.

Consequently I have had many careers along the way. Studio pianist, musical director, arranger, conductor, orchestrator, conductor, composer, producer, songwriter....etc. I find happiness in just doing the job...being in the process...working with great musicians and artists. Being around talented people is the best.

6) What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
Stay home and get good. People will find out about you.
Beyond that, take care of your personal life. It affects everything you do.

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