The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) community grieves the loss of our dear friend and colleague, composer, conductor, orchestrator, mentor, SCL leader, SHIRLEY WALKER, on Wednesday night, November 29th, 2006, having suffered a form of a stroke from which she did not recover. Just shy of their 40th wedding anniversary, her husband, acoustician and studio designer Don Walker, passed away on March 7th, 2006 after a long battle with cancer. Shirley is survived by her and Don’s sons, Colin and Ian, and many cherished friends.
She was an active member of the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) since 1985, including Vice President (1988-1992), Board of Directors (1986-1994), Working Conditions Committee (1987-1989), wrote numerous articles and was interviewed for various articles for the SCL’s quarterly publication, THE SCORE.
Shirley Walker spoke at the 2006 SCL Annual Membership Meeting, October 10th in Hollywood:
From SCL President Dan Foliart:
Shirley Walker was a good friend of this organization, she was a good friend to our community and perhaps above all else an unfailing champion of composer’s rights. Shirley’s insight and devotion to our craft was unparalleled. Those of you who attended our annual membership meeting last month witnessed the charm, grace and insight that personified a person devoted to what she loved best– the joy of making music. Shirley’s accomplishments in all aspect of our business from conducting to orchestrating to composing, exemplified the consummate musician. Along with her countless contributions to our profession such as her work on BATMAN, FINAL DESTINATION, and other projects too numerous to mention, her legacy will be her tireless energies in improving our profession and mentoring the many talented composers that will be forever indebted to her. Her professionalism, wit and warmth will be dearly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to know her.
Shirley Walker was born in Napa, California in 1945, and began her professional music career as a piano soloist with the San Francisco Symphony while still in high school. She later got her first big break as a synthesist on Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 feature Apocalypse Now, and co-composing credit on Coppola’s, Black Stallion. Since then, she has garnered 2 Daytime Emmy Awards and multiple nominations. Other nods have included a CableACE nomination for the Blair Brown film Majority Rule, a Prime Time Emmy nomination for the Fox series, Space: Above and Beyond, and two Annie nominations; one for the animated Superman Main Title Theme and, more recently, for her original score for HBO’s Spawn series.
FILMS: Willard, Final Destination 2, Final Destination, Mystery Men (Additional Music, Turbulence, Escape From L.A., Memoirs of An Invisible Man, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
TV SERIES: The Others, Space Above and Beyond, Batman Animated Series, Superman, New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond, The Flash, Spawn
TV MOVIES: Asteroid, The Garbage Picking, Field-Goal Kicking, Philadelphia Phenomenon, The Love Bug II
FROM SCL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER MARILYN BERGMAN
“With the passing of Shirley Walker, we have lost not only a fine musician, but a pioneer as one of the very few women film and TV composers to have broken through the ‘brass ceiling.’ She will be missed by us all.”
Marilyn Bergman, President and Chairman of the Board/ASCAP, Songwriter
FROM SCL MEMBER/PAST BOARD MEMBER LAURA KARPMAN—
“The loss of Shirley Walker is devastating. She was a paragon of courage and one of the great composers of our time. I feel this tragedy personally and for our entire community.
I first met Shirley in 1987. I was the only female fellow at the Sundance Institute and I came there with absolutely no film music experience. I soon encountered Shirley, who, shockingly, was not there as an advisor, but rather as the wife of an advisor. I quickly realized the musical powerhouse whose presence I was in. When I asked Shirley why she wasn’t there as an advisor, she looked at me, paused for a moment, and then knowingly tipped her head to the side. What followed was three weeks of coaching with Shirley. She worked with me on my first film music compositions and encouraged me against my own huge personal fears and doubts, to get up in front of the orchestra. She guided me through conducting my cue and mentored me through what was to be my first success in film music.
Shirley continued to be deeply encouraging. I’ll never forget, after receiving my first Emmy nominations, Shirley showed up at the SCL reception and said, “I’m here for you.” She was someone whom I have called upon during both highs and lows of my career. She always had an open ear and was always very disclosing about her own experiences.
Shirley was the pinnacle of composers making music in Hollywood, and equally important, she was at the apex of the tiny group of the women composers in our profession. The very best tribute we can make to Shirley is to continue to make room, build consciousness and opportunities for women composers. Shirley’s passing is a major loss. And although I am shaken, I am equally overwhelmed with the fortune I have had knowing this master composer.”
Laura Karpman, Composer
FROM SCL BOARD MEMBER RUSSELL BROWER—
“I had the privilege of working on Batman – The Animated Series with Shirley, in the role of Sound Designer. Of the myriad composers and musical directors with whom I worked on Warner Bros. projects during those years, Shirley was the only person who spotted every frame of every episode with me, determining, as a team, how best to approach each scene. Music and Sound, working together as partners, and not as adversaries later on the dub stage, profoundly and positively affected not only that series, but the whole of my creative experience. Later, as I became a composer and musical director, I found myself reflecting on her example every day. Now, she has departed us and I am sad beyond description. Shirley was a wonderful human being, always supportive, ever inspiring. She blazed trails, not only for women in film music, but for the art and craft of all composers looking to express themselves in support of a story in moving pictures. I am forever indebted to her for her kindness, camaraderie and the illumination that came with every project, conversation and moment I was lucky enough to share with her. Rest well, my dear friend.”
Russell Brower, Composer and Audio Director
FROM SCL BOARD MEMBER SHARON FARBER—
“Shirley Walker was my idol and mentor. She was one of the most talented composers I’ve ever met, but moreover, she was a kind, gentle and beautiful human being who has opened her doors to so many of us who were just starting out.
I met Shirley in 1997, after finishing up my Academy of TV, Arts and Sciences Internship in music. When Jonathan Wolff asked me whom I would like to meet in the industry, I knew, without hesitation, that Shirley was that person. Shirley was there for me from the beginning, encouraging me and teaching me with love, kindness and endless patience. It was only when I started orchestrating for her on “Batman” and “Superman”, that I understood the scope of her musicality and skills, and her amazing abilities as a composer, orchestrator and conductor. Shirley also gave me my first chance by giving me the opportunity to compose for the shows; experience that opened my eyes and ears to new and exciting musical achievements. And being included for Thanksgiving at her house, with her family years back, showed me her generosity and benevolence.
Shirley was a person who had courage, integrity and a pure love for others. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have known her and to have worked by her side. I will always remember her and hold her memory in my heart. I hope that in my life, I will be able to give others what she, so kindly, gave to me.
I am shocked and saddened by her sudden departure, and I can only hope she has joined her beloved husband in peace. I will miss her dearly.”