Scoring Big at Symphony Hall

by Bernie Smith
Composer/conductor Lucas Vidal ’07
Composer/conductor Lucas Vidal ’07
Phil Farnsworth

A new computer-generated science-fiction film called Chimera got a larger-than-life treatment by college students from Boston, New York, and Florida. Based on the comic book series, the film was produced by students at the Digital Animation & Visual Effects (DAVE) School at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and scored by Berklee film scoring major Lucas Vidal of Madrid, Spain, with production direction from music business/management major Steve Dzialowski of Belgium.

Chimera was everything Vidal and Dzialowski were looking for in a final project preceding their graduation in May. Conducted by Vidal on the stage of Boston’s Symphony Hall, the recording session was the culmination of months of work by an all-student team. Vidal composed the music, and Dzialowski oversaw the selection of the film, recruitment of the musicians, scheduling of the entire production, and coordination of a vast array of tasks with a crew of Berklee students. Their team handled everything from preparing the scores to press coverage.

Boston Conservatory students comprised the 88-piece orchestra and 50-member women’s chorus. Forty students from all but three of Berklee’s 12 majors were involved in the project, including several from the MP&E Department who handled the sound under the supervision of the Symphony Hall house engineer. In addition to students from Berklee, the Boston Conservatory, and the DAVE School, students from the New England School of Photography and the New York Film Academy took stills and video footage to document the recording session.

Both Vidal and Dzialowski hope that the finished project—their 10th and largest collaboration—will help launch their professional careers as a film-scoring team. They both plan to move to New York, where they already have some projects in the works.

Vidal and Dzialowski met about two years ago and have been collaborating since then. Their success with previous projects fueled their desire to work on something larger and more complex. Dzialowski says that an animated film offered possibilities they hadn’t encountered previously.

“With animation, there are no limits,” Dzialowski says. “Chimera is a really impressive movie, at least technically, and that’s what we needed for this project.”

Both Dzialowski and Vidal are quick to note that none of their projects could have gotten off the ground without help from the Berklee community. “I could never have done any project without Berklee’s help and support,” Vidal says. “Teachers and chairs from the Composition and Film Scoring Departments, Berklee Vice President for External Affairs Tom Riley, and the president himself have been there offering their experience and advice.”

Vidal acknowledges composition teacher Dennis Leclaire for his role in his musical development. “Dennis taught me everything I know about composition and the orchestra, including the importance of thinking carefully before composing anything,” Vidal says. “I will never be able to thank Dennis enough.”

The appreciation goes both ways. Don Gorder, chair of the Music Business/Management Department that has nurtured Dzialowski, says he was astounded by the size and scope of the Chimera project and how well it succeeded. “When I heard they were doing this at Symphony Hall,” says Gorder, “I thought, ‘It will be enormously positive for both of them professionally.’”

“For Steve [Dzialowski], this is a wonderful addition to his résumé,” Gorder adds. “To my knowledge, this is the first time students jumped in and took on something of this size. This puts both Steve and Lucas in good stead to really launch their careers.”

—Bernie Smith