A Composition for Success
Alumnus at NFL Films offers original work and time with music faculty and students
It was the promise of immersive educational opportunities that brought Paul Taylor to the University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton School of Music. Six years and four Emmy awards later, it also is what Taylor attributes to his professional success.
“When I tell colleagues about the experiences I had at UI, they are impressed with how immersed you are allowed to be,” Taylor said. “Opportunities like this are not very common. It’s a very special thing that exists here.”
As an undergraduate student from 2005-2010, Taylor was involved in the Vandal Marching Band, Jazz Choir I and II, DancersDrummersDreamers, the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity and multiple ensembles. His hard work enabled him to get more deeply involved in the groups, including learning how to write band drills from then Vandal Marching Band Director Torrey Lawrence.
“In Vandal Marching Band, I went to Torrey’s house and watched him write drill so I could learn how it was done,” Taylor said. “Then, I became part of the crew, which eventually led to me being in charge of the crew. I kept doing a good enough job and kept getting more responsibility.”
As a music composition student in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Taylor was able to develop a mentor relationship with Daniel Bukvich, professor of percussion and theory and director of jazz choir. Bukvich taught him a lot about composition, craft and musical integrity.
“Dan was and still is a huge influence in my life and work,” Taylor said. “He has been a life-changing educator to me.”
He was also able to have his work read by multiple ensembles.
“As a composer, the opportunity to have your pieces read is essential,” Taylor said. His undergraduate work was performed by many groups at UI, including the Vandal Marching Band, jazz choirs, DancersDrummersDreamers, the Vandaleers, wind ensemble, bassoon ensemble and two ensembles that he helped create in 2008 — a double reed quintet and a jazz dectet.
After graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in music composition, Taylor worked as a freelance musician, which included some part-time work with NFL Films, the company that produces commercials, television programs, feature films and documentaries for the National Football League. He earned two Sports Emmys for Outstanding Composition/Direction/Lyrics in his first two years with the company, including for “Men of Mettle” in 2011 and “Namath” (a collaboration with HBO and NFL Films) in 2012. He now works as assistant composer for NFL Films. His job consists of arranging, orchestrating and editing music for productions. In addition to “Men of Mettle” and “Namath,” Taylor recently worked on “Hard Knocks,” a documentary about football training camps for which Taylor earned his third and fourth Sports Emmy awards for Outstanding Music Composition/Directions/Lyrics in 2013 and 2014.
He also helped build the concert music series for NFL Films, which was most recently performed by the San Francisco Symphony for the “The Concert of Champions.” Proceeds from this series benefited local charities. Currently, Taylor is in the process of arranging new music to help expand the concert music series catalog.
Despite his commercial success, Taylor still enjoys working with professors and students at UI.
In September 2016, Taylor came back to Moscow for the world premiere of a musical piece he composed for Javier Rodriguez, assistant professor of bassoon at UI. The pair, who connected on a social media group for UI bassoon students and alumni, found a lot of synchronicity in their work.
Taylor’s piece, titled “The Call of Cthulhu,” is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. When the collaboration began, Taylor had a bassoon gig with a band called Lovecraft, named after the author. After reading the 25-page work, he was motivated to base his composition off the story’s three sections. Rodriguez also enjoys using short stories as inspiration, and even wrote a dissertation about music based on short stories.
“The Call of Cthulhu” is the first post-graduate piece Taylor has written for UI. It was written for solo bassoon and fixed electronics, a unique combination in the classical music world.
“The bassoon world can be a little inside-the-box,” Rodriguez said. “My personal artistic mission is to play a new piece in every recital to expand the repertoire for bassoon. I thought it would be really cool to do something with an alumnus of the school, and Paul had a reputation around here — a lore.”
While on campus, Taylor was a guest lecturer in multiple classes, allowing him to give back not only to his alma mater, but to the next generation of composers and musicians, something that he aspires to continue doing in his career.
His message to students: “There are more opportunities out there than they might think. You have the chance to do whatever you’re willing to work for at the University of Idaho. I wouldn’t be where I am today without hard work and the classical skills that I learned at the Lionel Hampton School of Music.”