Jul 25, 2014

WHS Graduate Arranged, Adapted Music for PBS Documentary

Matthew Sklar was a protégé of Marvin Hamlisch, who is the subject of an American Masters documentary.

WHS Graduate Arranged, Adapted Music for PBS Documentary WHS Graduate Arranged, Adapted Music for PBS Documentary WHS Graduate Arranged, Adapted Music for PBS Documentary

Westfield High School graduate  Matthew Sklar arranged and adapted the music of Marvin Hamlisch for a PBS American Masters documentary titled, "Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love."

View the trailer, here.

Sklar was a protégé of Hamlisch and met him on his 15th birthday in October of 1988. The two performed together that evening at a benefit concert at the Union County Performing Arts Center.

Since then, the two stayed in touch and Sklar would periodically reach out to Hamlisch for advice. Hamlisch even wrote Sklar a college recommendation letter and attended the premiere of Elf on Broadway in 2010 as Sklar’s guest.

Hamlisch was a successful composer and conductor who earned four Grammys, four Emmys, three Oscars, three Golden Globes, a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize before his death on Aug. 6, 2012.

Sklar followed in Hamlisch’s footsteps by attending Julliard Pre-College Division, became a Broadway rehearsal pianist and eventually became a composer.

“I used to read about him in books and newspaper articles about Broadway. I knew he went to Juilliard Pre-College and then became a Broadway rehearsal pianist, and eventually graduated to being a composer,” Sklar said. “I pursued all of those things because I wanted to be just like him.” 

Today, Sklar is a successful composer, pianist and arranger, whose credits include Tony- and Drama Desk-nominations for his composing work on the Broadway musicals, Elf and The Wedding Singer.

“Marvin taught me the importance of a strong education - learn the classics, study music theory, and listen to all kinds of music. Then use that knowledge to create your own work,” she said.

Sklar said he grew up listening to Hamlisch’s "A Chorus Line" and "They're Playing Our Song" and that his music had a great influence on him.

 “I was constantly struck by how beautiful his melodies were,” he said. “His music has great heart - and that reminded me of the kind of guy he was.”

Working on the documentary was very different than anything Sklar had done before, he said. 

“Sometimes there was a piece of music in Marvin's catalogue that fit perfectly and other times something needed to be created,” he explained. “The underscore sort of acts as the "musical glue" in between the performance moments in the film.”

Hearing of the loss of Hamlisch was deeply upsetting to Sklar, who always looked up to Hamlisch and aspired to be just like him.

Sklar said, “I feel incredibly honored to be a part of this film and I hope that viewers enjoy getting to know Marvin as a person, in addition to his incredible talent.

The documentary aired on PBS on Dec. 27 and will be available on DVD Jan. 14.

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