Nan Schwartz Recordings
If you’ve listened to the new Divine Art album, Nan’s unique harmonic writing for the orchestra may seem something of a surprise. But once you know more about her, her family and the musical milieu in which she grew up, it will seem inevitable.
Nan’s family legacy includes a father (Willie Schwartz) whose clarinet created the “Glenn Miller sound” and who played on nearly every Frank Sinatra recording before becoming one of Hollywood’s most in-demand studio musicians. Nan’s mother, Peggy Clark, sang on such chart-topping hits as “Sunny Side of The Street” and “Chicago” with music legend Tommy Dorsey, before going to work as a studio singer for artists encompassing Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore, Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett and Danny Kaye to Sonny and Cher, in addition to extensive movie, record, and jingle sessions. Nan’s household played host to the composers and arrangers who created the iconic American music of the 40’s, 50’s, 60s, 70’s, and 80’s, including Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Henry Mancini and Dave Grusin. It was quite common to hear that music performed at the regular parties held by her parents.
Seemingly by osmosis, she breathed in the great music and harmonies that filled her living room. How many children, when they hear the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, find a guitar and have an uncle such as Bob Bain (noted L.A. guitarist on the Tonight Show) to teach them the Brazilian voicings? Another influence was jazz pianist Bill Evans, whose harmonic sensibilities led Nan to transcriptions of Bill’s music; she never played piano the same way again. And, with her perfect pitch, Nan was in demand as a “kid singer” doing studio work as well—ranging from projects for composer Michel Legrand to the instantly recognizable “C & H Pure Cane Sugar” commercial!
What opened up the world of film-scoring for Nan was the day her dad came home from work to announce “I’ve just had the most rewarding day of my entire career!” He had played woodwinds on the soundtrack to “The Sandpiper,” whose brilliant score was written by composer Johnny Mandel. Nan played the soundtrack incessantly, planting a seed that was to bear fruit in the years to come.
However, as the child of successful performers, Nan only saw two pathways for herself in music: singing or piano, and neither seemed the right fit. Instead, she opted for a career in television production, and was working her way up the ladder when fate stepped in. A skiing accident incapacitated Nan for nine long months. To pass the time she wrote vocal arrangements, “since the whole family could sing and with my perfect pitch I didn’t have to get to the piano.” Near the end of her recovery she was taken to lunch by a family friend, studio singer Gilda Maiken. “What’s your big dream?” Maiken asked her. “I would have loved to have been a film composer, but I already finished college, I’m a woman, and it’s too late.” “Why don’t you study privately and be the first woman composer?” Gilda asked. Fired up, Nan found noted orchestration teacher Albert Harris and began private studies.
One day, while singing in a live show with Frank Sinatra and a big band, she was knocked out by a swinging arrangement. Nan just had to know who wrote it, and discovered it was Billy Byers; undaunted, she hounded him until he agreed to teach her. Nan’s own charts for the Tonight Show and other L.A. bands followed, as well as ghostwriting for several of TV’s busiest composers. Finally, Pat Williams gave Nan her biggest break of all—her own show to score—and from then on there was no stopping her. Over the next several years she garnered seven Emmy nominations, including an unprecedented three in one year—for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, Outstanding Music Composition for a TV Movie and Outstanding Music and Lyrics. Her list of hit TV series and movies includes “In The Heat of the Night” and “Under the Influence.”
At the same time, Nan pursued a parallel career as an arranger. John Williams approached her to write for the Boston Pops Orchestra, garnering Nan her first Grammy nomination. Five nominations later she finally won a Grammy in 2009 for her definitive arrangement of “Here’s That Rainy Day,” written for Natalie Cole on her Grammy award-winning album, “Still Unforgettable.”
Other artists who have recorded Nan’s music include trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Till Brönner, the London Symphony Orchestra, Gianmarco, Ray Charles, Madeleine Peyroux, Raul Midon, jazz clarinetist Eddie Daniels, classical saxophonist Amy Dickson, jazz vocalists Mark Murphy and Kevin Mahogany and opera singer/ Deutsche Grammophon artist Thomas Quastoff. Additionally, she wrote a CD series for Warner Bros./Discovery Records entitled “Jazz at the Movies.” Ultimately, Nan’s work led the highly respected arranger Claus Ogerman, whose own music has been her lifelong inspiration, to anoint Nan “my heir.”
In between composing and arranging work, Nan has orchestrated on such high profile movies as “Benjamin Button,” “Julie and Julia,” ”The Lucky One,” “Godzilla,” ”Argo,” “The Life of Pi,” “Rise of the Guardians,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1” for composers Alexandre Desplat and Mark Isham. In addition to conducting all of her own work in Los Angeles, Nan has often conducted the Deutsches Symphonie Orchestra in Berlin, Germany.
She recently returned to the film scoring world with her evocative music for the independent film “Stella—Searching for a Place to Be.”
Her songwriting for the Latin market has led to mentoring and producing the up-and-coming Latin singer Javier Almaráz.
And as if that weren’t enough, in 2016 Nan “took her show on the road” by conducting a 17-piece orchestra in two sold-out concerts of her original songs and arrangements at L.A.’s premiere supper club, Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Jazz Grill.
While Nan’s life has been filled with great musical achievements, she’s found the time to achieve a balance of work and family. She has devoted herself to raising four children and being happily married. Most recently, she has started to “give back,” teaching at the Berklee School of Music in Valencia, Spain, as well as the Hollywood Music Workshop in Vienna, Austria.
Nan is always on the lookout for new musical inspiration, whether it comes from John Adams or Jacob Collier. Her goal, she says, is simply to “get better at what I do. Having been born into such a rich musical family, I take my legacy very seriously, and want to continue to make a contribution on all fronts by seeking new opportunities in film and concert composing, arranging, orchestrating, songwriting, conducting and teaching. It has been a privilege to be a part of this musical community and to engender the reputation and respect that I have.”
There’s not a musician in Hollywood, London, Vienna, or Berlin who doesn’t look forward to a recording session under Nan’s baton. They know the notes will be great and will remind them “This is why we play music!”
Visit Nan and hear more of her music on her website http://www.nanschwartz.com
(notes courtesy of Conrad Pope)