Musical Storyteller: Joel Goodman '84

Joel Goodman ’84

Emmy Award-winning composer Joel Goodman ’84 has found a unique niche in the world of film and TV music. He has scored more than 125 films and television programs that have received four Oscar nominations, 15 Emmy awards, and more than 25 Emmy nominations. He has composed music for 40-plus films for HBO as well as the main theme for the critically acclaimed PBS series American Experience.

Goodman attended the High School of Music & Art (now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts) in New York City. He played trumpet in various ensembles, and played bass and wrote arrangements for the school’s jazz band. After attending a Berklee summer program before his senior year, Goodman knew exactly where he wanted to go next.

At Berklee, he double-majored in bass performance and jazz composition and arranging. He studied with such iconic faculty members as Herb Pomeroy, Michael Gibbs, Bob Freedman, John LaPorta, Gary Burton, John Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi, Steve Swallow, and Bruce Gertz. Goodman also played bass in the first Tower of Power ensemble at Berklee.

After graduation, he eventually moved back to New York, where his focus gradually shifted from playing to composing. Working at a Manhattan jingle house gave him the opportunity to hone his chops writing to picture and producing recording sessions. After a few years, he started scoring feature-length narrative and documentary films, building a solid client base that included HBO, PBS, and many independent filmmakers. With his focus squarely on music for film and TV, Goodman decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 2003.

When asked whether he feared having to start over in a new city, Goodman says, “The Internet had changed everything. When I moved to L.A., I thought I would lose many of my clients, but they all continued to work with me.”

Goodman’s career in Los Angeles continues to blossom. He received his second Emmy nomination in 2014. In 2015, he scored Dirty Weekend, starring Matthew Broderick and Alice Eve, as well as the four-hour documentary Walt Disney for the PBS series American Experience. In 2016, his music will be heard in Prescription Thugs and in two HBO films: Claude Lanzmann and Everything Is Copy. The latter is about the life of writer Nora Ephron.

As a composer, Goodman appreciates the impact of technology and the changes it has brought. “The tools that are available are inspiring—software, soft synths, plug-ins. We now have the ability to work with musicians and filmmakers all around the world. There are more opportunities for scoring work than ever before—traditional TV and film, cable TV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. More and more companies are getting into original programming and that creates work for both composers and musicians. It’s a great time.”