Camp Alumnus Takes Home Emmy

Composer, Garth Neustadter (JB 99, IB 00-01, HSB 03) received an Emmy Award on September 10, 2011 for his work on the PBS 'American Masters' documentary, "John Muir in the New World." In 2007, Garth received first prize in the Turner Classic Movies Film Composers Competition. His score was chosen out of a field of over 850 international participants, and judged by Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer. He has also been recognized as a five-time DownBeat Magazine award winner in the areas of composition, arranging, classical violin performance, and jazz saxophone performance. He has studied at the Yale School of Music with Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis, and with Samuel Adler of the Juilliard School. Crescendo recently caught up the composer to discuss his rapid rise as a composer. 

Q: How did you become involved in the John Muir documentary?

A: I was approached by director Catherine Tatge from PBS who had heard some of my music in a silent film score and was interested in the possibility of working with me. As John Muir was originally from Wisconsin, the director was also interested in working with a composer from Wisconsin who could incorporate a full symphonic score into the film. It is often difficult to produce and record full orchestral scores with the typical documentary budget level, but we were able to make it possible.
Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I recently finished working on a beautiful film for China’s main television station, CCTV. It was a great experience because I was able to incorporate some traditional instruments such as Erhu into the score. At the same time, the film did not contain any English subtitles, so it was a challenge working with dialogue.
I’m currently working on the score for a new silent film restoration project that is being completed by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. The 1925 film, “The Circle,” starring Joan Crawford will debut on Turner Classic Movies in 2012.
Q: You just received your Emmy Award for “Outstanding Music Composition.” Can you describe your experience?  
A: Winning the Emmy was an almost surreal experience. I had been extremely honored to receive the nomination, so receiving the actual award was a humbling moment, and I am very appreciative of everyone involved in the project. I have always had great admiration and respect for the other composers nominated in my category, such as Alf Clausen of “The Simpsons,” who has been working in the business for over 40 years. It was an honor to be in their company, and I hope that I can experience a career as fulfilling and rewarding as what they have had.
I attended the awards ceremony and dinner ball in Los Angeles and had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people from the industry. For me, one of the highlights was sitting next to nominee Ricky Minor (band leader from the Jay Leno show) at dinner. He shared some great advice and wonderful career insight with me.
During the awards, if your name is called as the winner for your category, you have exactly 45-seconds to get up from your seat, run to the stage, accept the award, and give a brief speech. During this whole process you are watching a huge clock that is counting down the remaining time before your speech gets cut off by music, for broadcast timing reasons. Once my name was called, everything seemed like a blur; I was mainly focused on trying not to trip as I hurried up to the stage!
Q: Your career is just starting but you’ve already earned one of the highest awards available to composers. What experiences in your life shaped your musical growth?
A: Although I primarily studied classical violin growing up, I was also serious about jazz saxophone, voice, and piano studies. Although some people urged me to focus on one thing during my education, Interlochen really encouraged me to pursue all of my interests, from playing in WYSO and the Jazz Ensemble, to studying piano and voice. I think this eclectic performance background has allowed me to express myself as a composer in a more complete way, as I feel comfortable writing in a variety of genres and situations.