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Marvin Hamlisch talks music

Marvin Hamlisch will be on stage at the Bushnell, May 22

When it comes to music, Marvin Hamlisch has just about done it all.  In fact, the 66-year old composer  (born June 2, 1944) is the only person to have been awarded the Emmy (he’s taken home four), Grammy (also four), Oscar (three), Golden Globe (also three), Tony (just one). For Broadway he has written the music for “They’re Playing Our Song,” as well as his groundbreaking show, “A Chorus Line,” which received the Pulitzer Prize.
Hamlisch is the composer of more than forty motion picture scores including his Oscar-winning score and song for “The Way We Were” and his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for “The Sting,” for which he received a third Oscar. Most recently, he composed the score for “The Informant,” starring Matt Damon.
Hamlisch is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Queens College.
The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford will present “An Evening with Marvin Hamlisch” in the Maxwell M. & Ruth R. Belding Theatre on Sunday, May 22 at 7 p.m., in celebration of the Jewish day school’s 40th anniversary.
Recently, the Ledger spoke with Hamlisch about his work – past, present and future.

Q: Tell us a little about your early years growing up in New York?
A: I grew up in Manhattan and went to P.S. 9 and then to the Children’s Performing Arts School.  All that time I also went to Julliard – since I was a little boy.  I grew up in a Jewish home. My parents were from Vienna and were lucky enough to get out before the Holocaust.  But coming from Vienna, they were very aware of what was happening and it was always a topic of great concern in my home.  I remember my mother going every year around the new year to the bank where she would get a free calendar and the first thing she would do was take the calendar and turn to September and mark off the days that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fell on so that she was sure to  know.  That left a great impression on me and I do the same thing to this day.

Q: You’ve worn so many different hats professionally.  What was it your dream to become when you were a student at Julliard?
A: I am one of those people who is living his dream.  I always wanted to write for Broadway – that was my big dream. I ended up first writing for several movies – I actually won an Oscar before I wrote my first Broadway musical, which was “A Chorus Line.” The reason I wrote for film first was simply because I couldn’t get a job writing a Broadway play.  But that was always what I dreamed of.

Q:  Of all the different roles you’ve played or projects you’ve worked on, what was your favorite?
A:  By far my favorite was working on “A Chorus Line.”  I was 29 years old – it opened just a few days before my 30th birthday, and it was an amazing experience.  It was amazing mainly because of the remarkable people that I was working with.  We were like one big family. Michael Bennett, who wrote and directed the play, was brilliant and Ed Kleban who wrote the lyrics was just wonderful to work with.

Q:  You wrote the now-classic “The Way We Were,” What was it like working with Barbra Streisand?
A: I wrote “The Way We Were”…and Barbra sang the hell out of it. I worked very well with Barbra Streisand.  You know many people say they don’t like working with her because she’s a perfectionist – they say that as if being a perfectionist is a bad thing.  It’s not.  I like working with someone like Barbra.  She knows exactly what she wants…she has remarkable instinct. I admire and respect her very much.

Q:  You recently composed whimsical classical music for a children’s DVD called “Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin.” What motivated you to do something aimed at children?
A: This is my first work for children I’m very excited about it. I did it, first of all, because I liked the book [by Lloyd Moss] so much. It’s important for children to develop an appreciation for music.  You know we don’t really have an arts program in this country and I’m hoping that this will help children develop a love for music and for the arts.

Q: What can people expect at the “An Evening with Marvin Hamlisch” on May 22?
A: Fun. Fun. Fun. First and foremost, people will have fun.  I’m going to bring a terrific singer with me and I’m going to play music that I’ve written and some music written by others. I hope that people with children will also bring them along because, while they may not be familiar with my name or my music, I can guarantee that they will enjoy the music and have a great time.

For more information about “An Evening with Marvin Hamlisch” hosted by Solomon Schechter Day School call (860) 561-0700.  For tickets call the Bushnell at  (860) 987-5900.

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