On Air

I spoke last week about how I 'fell into' flute playing at the off-hand suggestion of the high school guidance counsellor. It really was quite a dramatic change in my life - over the space of a few months I went from having no interest or knowledge of music at all, to an all-consuming passion for it.

The high school music teacher was helpful to the extent that he could be, but because our school had only a band, and no orchestra, I soon began to look further afield for a wider musical experience. I learned that there was a youth orchestra in nearby Vancouver, and lost no time in applying for a position. I was accepted into the orchestra, and followed the same pattern that I had done with the school band - starting at the lower end of the flute section, but soon jumping directly to the top.

(As an aside, it is interesting to note that back in those days (this was the late '60s), flute was not a common instrument for boys at all, and all the other flutists in these groups were girls. It was not until I went to university that I met another male player.)

Once in the orchestra, my world widened a great deal. I was exposed to a much wider variety of music, both in the orchestra itself and in the chamber groups that members created together. The lead woodwind players formed a woodwind quintet, and working with this group was a great stimulation. We looked for opportunities to give performances and concerts wherever we could, including many in schools.

All the time that these activities were going on, I was also exploring another avenue of musical life - that of arranging and composition. Right back in the first year with the school band I prepared some transcriptions of orchestral pieces for the band, and although we never played any of them in concert, we did try them out in rehearsals, and that was a huge thrill - hearing a group of musicians play something that I had written down for them, even if it was only an arrangement of an existing composition.

It wasn't just arranging that interested me though; I also tried my hand at composition. Writing music for the band or orchestra was still quite a bit above my head, so I wrote smaller pieces for our chamber group. One of these I felt was 'not so bad', so I entered it in the composition section of a local music festival. Now I was really quite a beginner at this, and just feeling my way forward, but I guess the competition was not so strong, because my piece was awarded a scholarship prize.

And that was what led to the TV connection I mentioned last week. Somebody heard the piece, and told somebody who told somebody, and I got a call from a person involved with producing TV programs for a cable network. They had a new series in preparation that was to be concerned with consumer affairs, and they were looking for suitable theme music. One, could they use my composition, and two, would our group perform it for the taping?

Well of course the answers were 'yes' and 'yes', and we soon found ourselves in their studio doing the session. It wasn't necessary for me to make any alterations in the music, and we just recorded it for them the same way we had been playing it in our concerts. They then showed us how it was going to be used - as the music that would play while an animation of shopping carts bumped across the screen. It was actually a very good fit!

All these years later I remember nothing else about this episode. Were we paid for this? Did I receive anything for the use of the music? I suppose not, as it was all just 'for experience'. And I have no idea how long the series was on the air. I wonder, is it possible that it might still be running? Wouldn't that be funny; maybe I could send them a bill!

Let's see ... theme music for a weekly show ... we could work out a reasonable fee. And at 52 weeks a year, for ... let me count ... 40 years! That should be quite a nice royalty cheque!

If only!


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