Industry Profile: SCL Symposium

The Society of Composers & Lyricists Begins a New Chapter With Inaugural Nashville Symposium

The Society of Composers & Lyricists is a trade organization formed in 1983. It evolved from the Composers & Lyricist Guild of America (CLGA), which was founded in 1945 and it services the needs of… you probably guessed it… composers and lyricists. Specifically, the group focuses on individuals working in the fields of visual media, such as film and television. Members include orchestrators, audio engineers, music supervisors, and more. 

One of the group’s missions is educating people regarding the art and science of composing for and matching music to such media. To that end, the organization regularly conducts seminars on related topics. Members are able to attend these discussions in person or via Zoom. Once each lecture is over, a video of the event is uploaded to the SCL’s website.

A few years ago, Scott McKinlay from the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, proposed that a daylong career symposium would be an even better way of educating the masses. It was originally going to be called Musicians Mentoring Musicians. Unfortunately, the idea came into being around the time the pandemic was gaining steam. Gatherings in physical spaces obviously had to be put on hold.

As time went on, the org developed a presence in Nashville. Establishing in Music City made perfect sense, especially considering it’s home to the Nashville Film Festival, founded in 1969. NashFilm, as it’s often called, does more than simply screen forthcoming pictures. It also brings together many different cinema professionals in the spirit of collaboration. Reviving the concept of holding a symposium and doing it there in conjunction with the film festival was an irresistible bit of synergy. The premiere SCL symposium will take place on Saturday, September 30th.

Choosing Nashville was also logical because the area is renown for its many colleges that teach music. For starters, the area is home to Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, Fisk University, Lipscomb University, and Middle Tennessee State University. Although the SCL’s first-ever symposium is available to everyone, it is naturally of interest to pupils hoping to forge careers in this space.

One of these eager students is Logan Bray, a 19-year-old about to become a sophomore at Belmont University. Although she views herself as a pop artist, a dream she’s nursed since being a little girl, Bray is taking a measured approach to building a career. She’s happily considering the possibilities of life as a fulltime songwriter or getting into A&R. 

Bray learned by ear, so she felt stymied when it came to music theory. Her teacher for this class, Jay Weigel, took her under his wing and became a mentor. “I like that he’s honest,” the no-nonsense singer insists. “He doesn’t sugarcoat stuff.”

With 40 years of working on the music side of the film and television industries, Weigel possesses an avalanche of knowledge. Among Weigel’s wide-ranging credits are soundtracks for Green Lantern, Get Hard, and For Colored Girls. He composes classical compositions that receive performances throughout the country. Plus, he’s the chair of the SCL’s Nashville steering committee and played a role in making the symposium. “We just started it with the concept of―what do the students need here,” the master composer divulges. “What are the things they aren’t learning in school?“

Weigel admires Bray’s work ethic and Bray is eagerly anticipating this symposium, only partially because of the wisdom she stands to gain. The day will also be a prime opportunity for meeting the right people. As she puts it, “I want to make as many connections as possible.”

Naturally, the symposium is designed to facilitate networking. At Vanderbilt University’s music building, where the symposium is taking place, there are numerous rooms for attendees to engage in breakout sessions. The team is also creating a lounge to foster interactions. Throughout the day, there will be a variety of panels going on simultaneously, none of which are mandatory. Attendees are free to choose which ones meet their interests. They can skip out and instead focus on forging relationships with industry professionals at any time.

Because the SCL has so many members, it’s easy for Weigel and company to attract marquee names. For example, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and Alan Silvestri are members. To be fair, so is practically any other notable name. Some of the expected panelists are Tim and Angela Lauer, Tom Salta, Ashley Irwin, Pinar Toprak, Joel McNeely, Mark Isham and Dara Taylor. 

After the symposium is finished, Weigel hopes to discover what the participants want in future iterations. An online survey should help uncover the best way forward. Regardless of the results, Weigel is sure a future version will include a panel on music for interactive entertainment. Observes Weigel, “It wouldn’t be any surprise to me if 80% said video game music.” In fact, Steve Schnur, President of Music for Electronic Arts and a member of the SCL’s Nashville steering committee, will be part of this year’s edition. 

In the meantime, Weigel’s objective is to fill every seat. One way he hopes to achieve this is by charging a nominal fee for lunch. He’s found that, when people are allowed to sign up for such events without making a commitment, they often do not follow through. This becomes less likely when a few dollars are on the line. 

Ultimately, Weigel views symposiums like this one as an essential tool for industry aspirants. As he puts it, “I view them as a bridge between school and the world.” 

Contact Jay Weigel - [email protected]; thescl.com