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Special Pops Month 10x10: Film Composers!

The opportunity to conduct pops music is a definite perk of being a conductor. Pops music provides an excellent way to reach and connect with our audiences in a different way. This music, whether from a particular musical, band, movie, or game, provides immediate transportation to the fond memory of a past experience. For me, any piece from Robert Reiniger Meredith Willson’s “Music Man” immediately catapults me back to the orchestra pit of the Amarillo Little Theatre where I first performed as a violinist in the pit orchestra.

Conductors of all ensembles have enjoyed countless performances of popular music by composers Leroy Anderson, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, and Andrew Lloyd Webber as well as suite arrangements by Robert Russell Bennett in collaboration with Jerome Kern and George Gershwin. My guess is that most of you have conducted more recent movie suites such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” by Hans Zimmer or “Harry Potter” by John Williams as well.

When the Everything Conducting team decided to make February our Pops month, I was super excited to dive into this music and highlight various compositions and publishing information that music directors could quickly access by underrepresented composers. However, this task was trickier than I thought.

To start this process, I delved into several articles written about film music and several websites. Two particular articles by Laura Studarus (Shondaland, Feb 7, 2020) and Tim Greiving (New York Times, 1/10/2019) helped focus my search but also broach the subject of “balance” concerning disparity in the music in the film industry. The website Maestra, compiled by Shoshana Greenberg, has a mission to provide “online resources and partnerships that aim to promote equality of opportunity and address many historical disadvantages and practices that have limited women composers and musicians in the musical theatre.” It proved to be an excellent resource as well as an informative timeline of female composers on Broadway.

My original plan for this article was to offer various Pop titles, instrumentation, and links to publishing information for easy access for your Pop’s programming. However, what I found is that access to this music is not readily available. In fact (and to my surprise), I found that publishing concert music based on movies or games is simply not that practical or lucrative. What I discovered after numerous conversations was that unless there are dozens of ensembles willing to perform this music, publishing costs are too prohibitive.

As a result, for this 10 x 10, I am offering a slightly different approach. Included below is a list of Pops composers with two or three links of their movie music (so you can get a flavor for their style of writing). Then, if I was able to find other music available for performance, I include my usual pertinent information.

Though I enjoy conducting a variety of Pops repertoire, the publishing aspect (in addition to all of the rules that go along with both the rental and performance of these works) are new to me. After working on this article, I sincerely look forward to diving a little deeper on this subject and letting you know what I find out!

Please enjoy!


Entries will follow the following format:

1. Composer Name (hyperlink to additional info about the composer)

  • Title of Musical, Movie, or Game (hyperlink to additional info)

    • Sound Clip

    • Length

    • Instrumentation (if available)

    • Rental information (if available)

  • Title of Composition

    • Length

    • Instrumentation

  • Link to rental information via publisher or composer

  • From movie: The Cider House Rules Sound link: Main titles

Angela Morley (1924 – 2009)

CODA: I would LOVE to find more performable pieces by these composers!

Elisabeth Lutyens (1906 – 1983)

Shirley Walker (1945 – 2006)

  • From movie: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Sound link: Theme

  • From movie: Final Destination Sound link: Main Theme

  • From movie: Willard Sound link: We Need To Go


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