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Versatility Is Key To Surviving Music Business, Says L.A. Composer

The greater Los Angeles region is home to a voluminous number of laborers that endeavor to become accomplished musicians and singers. Those with noteworthy musical talent and devotion to the profession should be able to receive access to stellar opportunities, experts say. Gary Stockdale, a Los Angeles City College (LACC) alumnus, is one of 2,600 performing artists in L.A. working on an in-demand basis.

(Photo Courtesy of Gary Stockdale)

"I went to LACC in the early 70s, first as a theater student, then as a music student," said Stockdale, a veteran singer-songwriter, composer and music producer. "At that time, the institution was turning out more professionals in the TV, film and music industry than many of the universities. After completing its music program, I began working immediately as a performer and composer. Later, I studied film composition at Dick Grove Music School."

What drove your ambition?

"My mom was a singer in local jazz clubs and started me on piano when I was four. When I started studying acting at LACC, they found out I could play the piano, so I wound up being hired to music-direct shows for the theater department. I worked as an accompanist for the voice classes in the music department, so I realized this was something I could make a living at."

How advantageous was your career pathway?

"The biggest thing was being fortunate enough to meet and become friends with Henry Mancini, which opened up many opportunities for me, such as writing and arranging for Lalo Schifrin's various film and TV projects and eventually getting my own film and TV show-scoring gigs."

Are you still sharpening your skills?

"I am constantly working on my craft. I still sing on movies, and there's a commercial jingle I composed for Nature's Way vitamins that is currently running on national television."

What is your message to wishful musicians?

"The number of arrows you have in your quiver increases your skill set. Your chances of making a living in the business improves greatly if you have more than one way to hit the target. Versatility and adaptability are the master keys to surviving L.A.'s rigidly-competitive music industry."

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist. Some news articles she has authored are archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

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