Alexander (Sandy) Courage


The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) mourns the loss our dear friend and colleague, Alexander (Sandy) Courage, composer of the original STAR TREK theme and an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated arranger for TV and movies, having died May 15 at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 88 and had been in declining health since 2005.

Courage‚s fanfare for the Starship Enterprise, written in 1965 for the original STAR TREK pilot, was heard throughout the three original seasons of the show and has been reprised throughout all the STAR TREK feature films and several of the TV series, especially STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION in the 1980s and ‚90s.

He won a 1988 Emmy as principal arranger for the ABC special JULIE ANDREWS: THE SOUND OF CHRISTMAS (shared with music director/principal arranger Ian Fraser, and principal arrangers Chris Boardman and Angela Morley), and received Oscar nominations (both shared with Lionel Newman) for his adaptation scores for THE PLEASURE SEEKERS in 1963 and DOCTOR DOLITTLE in 1967.

He was born Dec. 10, 1919, in Philadelphia, but moved to New Jersey as a boy and took up both the piano and horn. He received his degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. in 1941, then moved to California. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and became a bandleader at various bases in California and Arizona.

After the war, he began working for CBS Radio, composing and sometimes conducting for such shows as Hedda Hopper‚s THIS IS HOLLYWOOD, SCREEN GUILD THEATER, THE ADVENTURES OF SAM SPADE, DETECTIVE and YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR. From 1948 to 1960, he worked as an orchestrator and arranger at MGM, including work on the classic musicals SHOW BOAT, THE BAND WAGON, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, GUYS AND DOLLS, IT‚S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, FUNNY FACE, GIGI and others.

He also scored a handful of films in the late 1950s, including Arthur Penn‚s THE LEFT-HANDED GUN and such drive-in fare as SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROCK and HOT ROD RUMBLE. But television became Courage‚s primary outlet for composition, including various episodes of M SQUAD, WAGON TRAIN and THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR at Universal, NATIONAL VELVET at MGM and THE UNTOUCHABLES at Desilu.

Much of Courage‚s 1960s output was at 20th Century-Fox, where Newman assigned Courage to write music for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, DANIEL BOONE, LOST IN SPACE, LAND OF THE GIANTS and other series. He wrote a dramatic theme and over a dozen scores for the Carl Betz legal drama JUDD FOR THE DEFENSE in 1967.

In addition to his adaptation work on THE PLEASURE SEEKERS and DOCTOR DOLITTLE, he contributed orchestrations to such ‚60s musicals as HELLO, DOLLY! at Fox and MY FAIR LADY at Warner Bros. He also orchestrated dramatic and comedic scores for composing colleagues including Adolph Deutsch (SOME LIKE IT HOT), Andre Previn (IRMA LA DOUCE) and Alex North (THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY).

STAR TREK, which went on the air in 1966, became his most famous work. In addition to the fanfare, series theme and scores for two pilot episodes, Courage composed the music for just four other hours of the sci-fi classic (two in the first season, two more in the third). He did far more work on THE WALTONS, scoring over 100 episodes in the 1970s and early 1980s, plus four WALTONS TV-movies in the ‚80s and ‚90s.

He also composed music for APPLE‚S WAY, EIGHT IS ENOUGH and other series in the ‚70s and ‚80s, receiving an Emmy nomination as composer on a MEDICAL CENTER in 1973 and another as arranger for ABC‚s LIBERTY WEEKEND ceremonies in 1986. He served as music coordinator and appeared onscreen as a conductor in Luciano Pavarotti‚s 1981 film debut YES, GIORGIO.

As composing work in TV waned, BMI-affiliated Courage returned to orchestration for old friends including BMI-affiliated John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. For Williams, Courage orchestrated several scores including FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, HOOK and JURASSIC PARK. He also adapted Williams‚ themes for SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, and wrote many orchestral arrangements for the Boston Pops during Williams‚ 1980-93 tenure as conductor. For Goldsmith, Courage orchestrated numerous films including BASIC INSTINCT, FIRST KNIGHT, THE MUMMY, AIR FORCE ONE, MULAN and, ironically, STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT and STAR TREK: INSURRECTION.

Courage also wrote large-scale orchestral arrangements for several recording projects, including Barbra Streisand‚s 1985 BROADWAY ALBUM, opera star Kathleen Battle‚s 1991 CHRISTMAS ALBUM, and violinist Joshua Bell‚s 1998 GERSHWIN FANTASY album.

He was among the founders of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America (CLGA), the union that represented composers and songwriters in Hollywood during the 1950s, ‚60s and ‚70s which was the predecessor to the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL). He was also an award-winning photographer whose photos appeared in such popular magazines as Life and Colliers.

His third wife, the former Shirley Pumpelly, died in 2005. Survivors include four stepchildren: Raphael Pumpelly, Andrea Steyn, Lisa Pompelli and Renata Pompelli, all of Los Angeles; and six grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service will be announced shortly.


The SCL Remembers

I first met Sandy in the summer of 1965. While in L.A. conducting a pre-Broadway musical at the Dorothy Chandler, I was hired to arrange and conduct demos of Leslie Bricusse’s songs for the movie musical DOCTOR DOLITTLE. We had to record two weeks later with a 50 piece orchestra on the Fox scoring stage. Realizing that there wasn’t enough time for me to write everything myself, I was told Alexander Courage was standing by to help. On enquiring who that was, I was read a list of just about every great movie musical of the 50’s and early 60’s which Sandy had worked on, from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN to MY FAIR LADY, via the BAND WAGON and SINGING IN THE RAIN. Needless to say the thought of writing alongside him was daunting. We became good friends from the day we met, and he worked on many of my projects over the years. His work was always amazing, and he and the other legendary orchestrators in the Fox music department took me under their wing, and provided me with an education second-to-none when I spent the following year working on the movie. With the passing of both Sandy and Earle Hagen this week, the last of that great music department are gone.

Many years later I asked Sandy to orchestrate a big Western production number for a television special. I told him it needed to be like the barn dance from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. He replied that he knew exactly what I wanted, since he had written the original for the movie-!!

He was an original and he will be missed.

Ian Fraser
SCL Member, Music Branch Governor of the TV Academy


We mourn the loss of Alexander Courage, a pioneer in television composing and the creator of one of the most recognizable themes in TV ˆ the original Star Trek theme. His music and intricate arrangements will influence and inspire generations of composers and musicians to come.

Del Bryant
President and CEO, BMI


THE SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS & LYRICISTS (SCL) is the non-profit and primary organization for professional film, TV and video game composers and lyricists, with a distinguished 60-year history in the fine art of creating music for motion pictures and television. The predecessor organization, the Screen Composers Association, began in 1945 with such legendary icons as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Dimitri Tiomkin and David Raksin among others. Current SCL Members include the top creative professionals whose experience and expertise is focused on many of the creative, technological, legal, newsworthy and pressing issues of the film/television/game music industry today.