Ryan Shore ’96

Looking For Challenges

Ryan Shore '96
Ryan Shore '96

It’s the day after the 2012 Grammy Awards broadcast, and composer Ryan Shore is wide awake—even though he has had only two hours’ sleep. His score for the movie The Shrine earned him his first Grammy nomination, and he attended the broadcast and after-show parties that stretched into the wee hours.

Ultimately the Grammy for best score soundtrack for visual media went home with Alexandre Desplat, who scored The King’s Speech.

But Shore is far from dismayed. Admittedly, the competition was stiff, with The Shrine going up against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Black Swan. “I was blown away just by the nomination,” Shore says. “It’s already created changes for my career, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Since his childhood, Shore has followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Academy Award–winning film com- poser Howard Shore ’69. “Growing up, I was very aware of what Howard was doing,” the younger Shore says. “I took up saxophone at 11—he plays the same instrument. I came to Berklee because Howard had studied there. He was a huge inspiration for me.”

An Award-Winning Mentor

Ryan Shore is Canadian born but spent much of his youth in Boca Raton, Florida. He cites his exposure to a strong school music program for giving him a solid foundation in saxophone, clarinet, and flute and for focusing him on jazz. While at Berklee, he majored in film scoring but remained engaged as a performer. After graduation, he planned to move to Los Angeles and break into composing movie music but took a seven-year detour in New York.

“I undertook a short-term project with my uncle,” Shore says. “He was doing a big concert of his music in Seville, Spain, and asked me to oversee the work of the music copyist. In the end, what was supposed to be a one-day project stretched through the summer.” Shore ultimately moved to New York and, over the course of four years, did copy work and orchestra- tions for about a dozen of Howard Shore’s film projects and several concerts.

During his downtime, Shore networked with filmmaking students at New York University (NYU) and wrote original scores for a number of short movie projects. “I went all out for every project,” he says. “If there was any music budget, I didn’t take any of it for myself, I put it all into the sessions. I wore every hat I could in order to maximize the budget.” One short led to another, and Shore’s work was recognized with awards, including NYU’s Clive Davis Award for his score to Shadowplay and the Elmer Bernstein Award at the Woodstock Film Festival for his Cadaverous score.

In 2000, Shore scored his first feature, a film titled Vulgar, which he describes as a “dark comedy that’s not for the whole family.” He recalls, “We decided a jazz score might add some levity to it. I had a tiny budget but still found a way to record 45 minutes of music for an ensemble with four horns and an extended rhythm section.”

The chance to write a full orchestra score came in 2003. “The project was a short film titled Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher by an NYU student,” he says. “I wrote for a large orchestra—110 pieces. We recorded in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic [Orchestra]. That one built my confidence that I could do this job.”

After seven years in New York, four working for his uncle and three on his own, Shore had a strong reel showing his work in a range of film genres. With an agent representing him and additional West Coast contacts, Shore moved to Los Angeles in 2003.

“The transition was pretty easy, and I started working right away,” Shore says. “Not long after I got here, I was offered the job scoring a movie that was terrible. It made me realize for the first time that I had standards!

The film wasn’t very good and there was little money for a lot of work, so I turned it down. You get so used to saying yes to every project to build your reputation that saying no seems foreign at that point in your career. I wondered if those people would tell every- one in the industry and I wouldn’t get called again.”

Shore’s fears went unrealized. His talent and warm personality have enabled him to collaborate with various producers and directors. “When you work with a filmmaker for the first time, it’s kind of like going on a date,” he says. “You’re sizing each other up, learning what each other’s sensibili- ties are and whether you will be able to work well together. In addition to figuring out the person, you’re also trying to figure out what kind of a score the movie needs. The second time you work together, you can just focus on the film’s musical needs.”

By now, Shore has credits on 30 films featuring some of Hollywood’s top stars, including Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Perry, and others. He is also taking on other types of projects. Shore was tapped in 2011 to write eight orchestral arrangements for Heavenly Christmas, the second CD by vocal prodigy Jackie Evancho. He also wrote music for a Los Angeles stage production of On Golden Pond and is currently scoring a video game. “I’m having a ball,” he says. “The game music will be primarily a big-band score, but the tracks will later be cut up by remix artists to make new versions. I’ve never collabo- rated with remix artists before, and I’m loving it.”

Shore’s scores have been divided pretty evenly between horror movies, romantic comedies, and action or drama films. The balance may tilt tempo- rarily toward the horror genre due to the attention his Grammy-nominated score for The Shrine received. “If a film like The Shrine leads to more opportu- nities and bigger challenges—great. That’s what I’m looking for.”