Composer Laura Karpman

Hit play below to listen to our bonus web only Arts Alive interview with Laura Karpman.


Laura Karpman is a composer who is comfortable writing in just about every genre imaginable. The classically-trained composer studied with the eminent French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, whose students include just about every important name from the 20th century from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass and beyond. She holds a masters and doctorate from The Juilliard School where she studied with Milton Babbitt. Karpman says it was Babbitt who encouraged her to explore the world of film composition.

Today, Karpman is a Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer, whose music has been featured in films, television, and the concert stage. Karpman was the first woman to be elected to the music branch of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors. As part of The Academy’s partnership with the LA Phil, Karpman and fellow governor Michael Giacchino, have created a special concert showcasing great film scores and the process of making a score come to life on the silver screen. The concert takes place on Wednesday, February 28th.

In a wide-ranging conversation recently at the KUSC studios, Laura Karpman and I talked about how the program came together, where the film industry has succeeded and failed in the area of diversity and inclusion, and why, despite those failures, there is hope for the future.

To listen to the entire conversation, press play on the audio player at the top of this page. Scroll down for excerpts from the conversation and audio clips from the scores discussed in the interview.

On this LA Phil/Academy concert:

• “It lets you in—in, I think, a really interesting way—to the compositional process. Not only film composers, but any kind of composers who are writing dramatic music, including opera composers and many concert music composers. So, it’s a neat way into the putting together of music.”

On the importance of female composition mentors:

• “When you see it, you can be it. Which is why programming women, having women instructors, having women review applications processes at universities, all of these things are absolutely crucial. It’s no longer a luxury. It’s no longer a, ‘Gee, should we?’ It’s a mandate now.”

On programming diversity:

• “I think that, at this point, if you’re programming all male and all white [composers], you’re overlooking. It’s not that you’re not looking hard enough. It’s that you’re not looking at what’s there. We want to reflect what’s in our community and we want to, in five to ten years, have half or more than half women on that concert and I don’t think we’re going to have to struggle to do that. But we still have a lot of work to do to get there.”

On data that shows inequality and how to share that data with others:

• “Numbers don’t whine. Numbers exist. Numbers give us a motivation to do better. I think it’s good: people need to speak up. It’s important. You’ve got the motivation. Now, we have fantastic enlightened men; we’ve got a lot of women; we’ve got more more people of color—although, god knows we all need to work on that in this business. We are establishing what The Academy is going to look like for the 21st century. I love to call it The New Academy but it builds on the old Academy.”

You can listen to some of the pieces discussed in the interview below:

And listen to each of the Oscar nominated scores below:

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