CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT - Jeffery Kern

Celebration Spotlight - Jeffery Kern

CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT – Jeffery Kern

Jeffery Kern joined the Celebration Spotlight to visit with me about National Film Score Day and how movie music impacts our enjoyment of films and how we celebrate. In 2018, he founded the day to share his love of movie music with the country.

Dad and Music

Michele: Hi Jeffery. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to create National Film Score Day?

Jeffery: Certainly. I live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and my wife and I own a little online business, it’s a small business, and we’ve been doing that since 2012. That’s my day job; I guess you can say. But one of my passions is film scores. My love of film scores came from my dad. When I was growing up, my father, whose name is Lambert, he was a serious stereophile. He’s always loved classical music. He loved jazz, soul, pop, rock, choral music, and probably every genre of music you can think of.

Through his love of music, he taught me to love every piece of music no matter what the genre was. I mostly remember growing up with my dad; he always played amazing orchestral music. And he played it on these amazing 1970s stereos that fit the whole wall. It was wooden cased and probably 12 feet long with this little turntable in the middle and speakers on the side. It took up the whole wall. It was awesome. What happened was, when I was growing up, he certainly taught me the love of music that I’ve taken with me all my life.

Through his love of music, he taught me to love every piece of music no matter what the genre was. ~ Jeffery Kern

And then, in 1977, Star Wars came out. I had already started to develop a love of classical music, but when Star Wars was released on vinyl, I immediately gravitated toward film score music. That was amazing. I couldn’t get enough of John Williams’ score, and I played the LP over and over and over on my father’s stereo. And I’m sure it probably drove my mom crazy because she loved movie music, too, but I played it all the time. We all had a love of music, my mom, dad, and brother. So John Williams’ orchestral masterpiece totally and completely mesmerized me at age 11, and for the last 45+ years of my life, I’ve been a film score fan and lover of this amazing genre. It’s so amazing – the talented people who put out this kind of music.

National Film Score Day

Michele: It is. And that love is what inspired you to create National Film Score Day.

Jeffery: Yeah. This will be the fifth anniversary of National Film Score Day. So, I wanted to create a national day to commemorate and celebrate the awesome film scores but also the extremely talented composers. They tirelessly create these orchestral masterworks which give motion pictures their musical heart and soul. Of course, they’re on deadlines; they have to work with directors, and it’s really amazing the processes these composers do to get something so amazing out.

Once I decided that I wanted to create something called National Film Score Day, I needed one day in the year that would mean something when it came to the history of film score music. I was looking and doing my research before I submitted the application for National Film Score Day. The reason I picked that was that on April 3, 1942— and this will be the 80th anniversary of it this year— April 3, 1942, Alexander Korda made a film called The Jungle Book. And the composer was Nicholas Rosa, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts. The following year, 1943, the film’s orchestral score, there was a recording made directly from the film’s original soundtrack, and it was released entirely on a 78 RPM record album with narration by Sabu, the film’s star.

“April 3, 1942, Alexander Korda made a film called The Jungle Book. The composer was Nicholas Rosa,
and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts.” ~Jeffery Kern

So, the soundtrack became the first commercial recording of a non-musical U.S. film’s orchestral score ever to be released. The album was a great success. To celebrate the achievement of the first-ever score released from a film, I chose the day on which the score was initially premiered to audiences in the theatre, and that was April 3rd. And because of the joy film composers have given me and many others over the last 80 years, I wanted to also celebrate these amazing individuals with a national day in their honor. So, that’s how I came up with National Film Score Day.

Name That Tune

Michele: And it’s a great day. People think about how quickly they can identify a film simply by its score. And it usually includes the theme or the character’s theme. Star Wars – you mention Star Wars. I think most people can identify that one in three notes.

Jeffery: Exactly.

Michele: It’s not just music fans or movie fans. Someone whose never seen the movie can identify it.

Jeffery: The reason I wanted to give the composers their day is that people may not be able to tell who the composer is. Many times, I don’t know who the composer is. I have to look that up. Many people hear the music, and they love it. They don’t know who the composers are, but it’s such a woven part of our pop culture and psyche that it attaches to us. And I think without any kind of orchestral score— and this even goes with soundtrack music where it’s songs and singers performing—but with the orchestral music, it gives it its heart and soul. Can you imagine Star Wars without John Williams’ music? Or Close Encounters, or Howard Shores trilogy for Lord of the Rings. It’s a big combination that just works, and it’s glorious when it does work.

“They don’t know who the composers are but it’s such a woven part of our pop culture and psyche that it attaches us.” ~Jeffery Kern

Michele: How do you think the film score for The Jungle Book changed movie making going forward?

Jeffery: I think because it came out in 1942, it was great, and people probably enjoyed it back then. But I think once it was released in 1943 as a separate record sold separately from the movie, I think those people (I can’t speak for those in 1942), but I think they kind of thought it was really cool. Maybe we want more of that. And I think from that point on, it started to evolve, and here we are today.

Michele: Exactly. And with the phenomenal scores that are out there — every year there are new ones.

Jeffrey: Even if they’re maybe not the top of the top, they’re really good. Not everything is going to be the top. Not everything is going to be Michael Giacchino, Howard Shore, John Williams, but they put their heart and soul into it. It’s just beautiful music to listen to. And when I ran my radio station, I found that when I added in more music — album after album made the station better. And it gave an overall view of beautiful music and how it affects us. It was great.

Michele: It’s not just a couple of notes strung together; it’s an entire composition with layers.

Jeffery: Not only that, but they have to show it to the director and match it to the film. Every moment of each scene of every movie — And if it doesn’t work, the director says, I don’t want to do that, the composer has to adjust it. It’s such an organic living organism.

Passion Project

Michele: You just mentioned the radio station. Tell us about what happened there. The national day comes out, and a year later…

Jeffery: So what happened was, when I started the radio station, it was all a passion project. The idea was with the radio station was to have something people could go to without advertising, and they could just use it as an escape. I played movie scores of course but the “and more” was old retro commercials. I played movie trailers, interviews with composers and played TV music, film score music, and soundtracks and it was great. I started to build up a following. As I started as a hobbyist and you have to pay royalty fees. Which is fine. I think these artists deserve to receive their fair share. And I’d buy my own music and never downloaded any music that was free. I always paid for it.

Year Two

National Film Score Day was into its second year and I was like, “Ok. I have 30-40 regular listeners normally.” Then when the second year came around, it jumped to something like 600-700 listeners. And what happened was all the royalty companies had a monthly fee except Sound Exchange. And they would charge based on per listen and per play. So the expense of this little hobbyist radio station where I didn’t want to do any kind of advertising jumped from about $150-200 per month to about $700-800. I thought to myself, and I was talking to my wife Mary, “If this thing really takes off, I can’t keep it viable, even with some advertising.”

So, unfortunately, I had to shut that down, but I still have the website. And I still want to do something with the website, whether it be movie news or whatever. Down the line, I just have to think of something to continue it. I’m not shutting the door on rebroadcasting. It’s just that right now, things have to kind of change in the industry. I don’t fault Sound Exchange at all. Or ASCAP. They need to collect fees for these talented artists. And I love paying for them. But when it comes to $800 a month over the course of the year, I just couldn’t maintain it.

Meeting the Faces Behind the Music

Michele: That’s a heavy price for a hobby.

Jeffrey: Exactly. And you know what, the experience was great. I made a lot of friends. I made friends with the composers—met composers at San Diego Comicon. My wife and I flew out for John Massari’s reimagining of his Killer Klowns from Outer Space. When he did Killer Klowns from Outer Space, it was all synth [synthesized]. And so he decided to make an orchestral piece out of it. So my wife and I flew out and we attended the first presentation of the movie with an orchestra. I met John; I met James Horner ages ago at a Field of Dreams kind of thing in Los Angeles.

It’s been great. And the people who love the music, not just the composers, they’re awesome people because we all share the love of orchestral music and that’s one of the cool things about this day is that I never thought it would catch on to it. I thought of it as just a passion project like the radio station to come up with a day. But hearing people talk about it and share all their love of music. It’s really cool!

Michele: I agree. It is really cool. You get to talk about the music and the names behind the music. But you also get to revisit the movies and focus on the music. You don’t always focus on the music when you first go into the theatre. But when you attach that to what’s going on on the screen, you understand why the music is there.

“I thought of it as just a passion project like the radio station to come up with a day.
But hearing people talk about it and sharing all their love of music, it’s really cool!” ~Jeffery Kern

Jeffery: Just imagine your favorite movies without the music. It wouldn’t be as powerful as they are. It’s what gives movies their power to envelope all of us. The directors are great. The actors are great. But without the music in concert with everything else, it kind of falls short.

Pick One

Michele: I’m going to give you three names. It’s called Pick One. You’re going to pick one and then I’m going to ask you a question.

John Williams
James Horner
Alan Silvestri

Jeffery: I will probably pick John Williams since I’m such a fan.

Michele: I have four movies here. One of them, John Williams was not the composer of the score. Which one was it?

Harry Potter
Star Wars
Titanic
Jurassic Park

Jeffery: Uh, Titanic which was done by James Horner.

Michele: Yeah, you picked the easy one! I had a tough one here.

Jeffery: Well, try it. We can try it.

Michele: The tough one was Alan Silvestri. Which one of these movies did he not compose the score for?

Forrest Gump
Castaway
Saving Private Ryan
The Polar Express

Jeffery: Saving Private Ryan, composed by John Williams.

A Round of Applause, Please

Michele: Good job! I’m so impressed. Well done. I need an applause sound effect there. I want to swing back to the national day for just a moment. The image that you had created for that day is one of those images we have not changed on our website because it was original. I think it’s fantastic, so anybody can go out to the National Day Calendar, April 3rd, and National Film Score Day and take a look at the image. Your brother created that. Can we give him a shout-out real quick?

Jeffery: Oh yeah! My brother is Corbyn Kern, and he’s been a graphic artist and a pop culture artist for…geez, he’s been drawing since I was a kid, so he’s been drawing all his life. He does everything by hand but it’s so photo-realistic drawings of pop culture and movie music stars. A lot of people have said to him that he can’t be doing this freehand because there’s no way. The images are too good. So what he’s had to do over the last few years is to show his process. His website is cskern.biz. You can see all his work there.

An Earworm

Michele: What are some of your favorite film scores and why? We’ve talked about John Williams and a few others. Who are some others?

Jeffery: I have a whole bunch of favorite ones. The ones I list and throughout the decades…Bernard Herrmann, just great composers of the past. But the composers I kind of gravitate toward capture what I love in music. They speak to me. I guess a simple term would be that they speak to me more than others. I’m not trying to minimize what others have done. Of course, John Williams is my favorite composer—you have Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, 1941, which wasn’t critically acclaimed, but his march from 1941 is one of my favorite pieces of orchestral score music ever. My favorite one is the Imperial March from the Star Wars franchise. That’s my all-time favorite.

Michele: I’m humming it in my head.

Jeffery: Because when you hear it, you know what it’s about.

Michele: It’s dark and foreboding.

Jeffery: Exactly. Then you have Home Alone, Jaws, Empire of the Sun, Superman, the three Harry Potter films, Saving Private Ryan, Hook, E.T… That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Michele: His flexibility in the movies you’ve just listed—they’re all different.

Get Lost

Jeffery: You asked me why, and I think he captures my imagination. Another one of my favorite composers is Howard Shore. In his Lord of the Rings trilogy, I think his scores are phenomenally brilliant. They just blow me away. I also like Michael Giacchino. His scores for Rogue One I think he had to complete within three weeks. The time might be off on that because he was called to do that and he had such a rush job on it and it’s a really awesome piece of work and he continues to. I think he did it complete justice. If I can throw one non-movie score out there it would have to be Michael Giacchino’s Lost. The show ran for six seasons and 121 episodes and his work on Lost is tremendous.

Other composers I like are Danny Elfman. I like his Mars Attacks, Peewee’s Big Adventure, Midnight Run, Beetlejuice, all the Men in Black movies.

Jerry Goldsmith also did my all-time favorite Star Trek film, Star Trek: First Contact.

Michele: If you could attend any red carpet film premiere, what would it be and why?

Jeffery: I would probably go with Close Encounters of the Third Kind when it appeared at the ArcLight. I absolutely love that movie and believe it premiered at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles at the ArcLight. I’ve seen pictures where they had the Mothership there in the lobby. They also had the Space Jockey from Alien in the lobby, too. You know, I just love movies. It would be hard to pick just one.

Celebrate Every Day

Michele: A question I ask every guest, What does Celebrate Every Day mean to you?

Jeffery: Well, Celebrate Every Day is a really cool concept. I celebrate the many things that make life worthwhile through National Day Calendar. There are many national days throughout the year and some are very serious causes and some of them are celebrating fun things. What I like is that it kind of represents life. There are serious things we have to think about and do. Then there are fun things we can do too. The serious days come up and it makes you reflect on those days and the people who are going through those things. And then, when we do the fun days— let’s say National Donut Day which is on June 3rd—it’s fun to go out and celebrate by eating a donut or three of them.

“What I like is that it kind of represents life.” ~Jeffery Kern

It’s sort of a reflection of life in a way and that’s kind of cool.

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