Touchdown! New York musicians a part of TV history

Volume CIX, No. 3March, 2009

Who do you call when you need the best musicians to record for the biggest event on TV…with one week’s notice?

Answer: New York City musicians.

That’s exactly what happened for this year’s SuperBowl.

According to reliable data, this year’s contest between Arizona and Pittsburgh was the most-watched SuperBowl in history, and the second most watched television event of all time. (The first was the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.)

“The music was absolutely crucial for delivering the message,” arranger and Local 802 member Joel Beckerman told Allegro. “Recording in New York City is alive and well — and this proves it. We’re in demand and we’re ready.”

John Williams originally composed this year’s SuperBowl music in 2006. NBC producers liked it so much that they decided to update the arrangement this year.

“It was an honor and a thrill to be trusted with arranging and extending John Williams’ fabulous theme for the NFL on NBC,” said Beckerman, who created new sections of the music for modern instrumentation.

He and conductor Jim Hynes utilized 35 musicians from the New York Philharmonic and 16 rock and studio musicians.

Orchestrator and Local 802 member Kim Scharnberg was also a part of the project as were co-arrangers Jeff McSpadden, Chris Knight, Richard Jacobs, Mickey Alexander, Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez.

For those who watched the game, the new music could be heard at the beginning of the program and every time the game went to a commercial. In fact, the technical term for this is “bumper” music, because it bumps up against the commercials.

Of course this was a union session. Musicians were paid according to the terms of the AFM Television Agreement, which includes all the usual benefits: doubles, pension, health and re-use, to name a few.

The session was recording at Avatar Studios on Jan. 23 — one week before the broadcast.

“This tight deadline shows how much confidence the producers and I had in New York musicians,” said Beckerman. “This was very challenging music, especially the brass parts. The performances of the New York musicians were absolutely stunning.”

Beckerman added, “I couldn’t have gotten this caliber of performance anywhere else in the world, outside of perhaps Williams’ orchestra in Los Angeles. NBC should be commended for continuing to support the highest possible standards.”

Local 802 is doing its part to keep recording in New York City. For more information about our “Record in New York” campaign, contact Recording Supervisor Jay Schaffner at (212) 245-4802, ext. 160 or