Robert Urban - Soundtrack Composer for "A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY
Interview by Diedra Meredith
CEO/Executive Director - OUTmusic
D. MEREDITH - Congratulations!!! I would love to include this in our Newsletter. We could do a feature on you in regards to you do the soundtrack. If you are interested, could you please answer the following questions?
1. The description of A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY is a very touching documentary. Can you tell us about the story line of the film?
ROBERT URBAN - (from the film's website) "The new documentary A True Lesson In Humanity takes an inspirational look at the work of the Special Needs Color Guard of America. Follow this courageous group of individuals as they travel across the United States to perform their artistic programs, as proud members of the South Florida Winter Guard Association circuit, as well as the Winter Guard International family. With great determination and perseverance, their unique talents are the tools that help them to continue their mission, which is to "bridge the gap" between the general and special populations by showing the world how capable individuals with developmental disabilities are. When they perform there "is not a dry eye in the house." It truly puts life in perspective for all spectators as they focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities, realizing that these individuals are an important segment of our society deserving of respect and dignity."
at the NYC "A True Lesson in Humanity" screening - director Wolfgang Busch with Robert Urban and fans
The documentary features special appearances by: Mayor Beth Flansbaum Talabisco, City of Tamarac, Florida; Dr. Rohn Kessler, CEO, Sparks of Genius; Linda Mills, Director, Special Olympics Broward County, Florida; Ron Nankervis, CEO, Winter Guard International, Dayton, Ohio; and Kathy Porter, President, South Florida Winter Guard Association.
2. Where was the documentary filmed?
R.U. - Mostly in Florida (the team's home state) - and also at various sports and color guard competitions/exhibitions around the U.S.
3. How did you get involved with the project? How long did you work on the soundtrack?
R.U. - A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY film director Wolfgang Busch and I have worked on quite few film and music projects together. I did production, talent scouting and sound engineering work on the soundtrack of his acclaimed film HOW DO I LOOK (about the Harlem Ball culture). I also designed and maintain the HOW DO I LOOK film website (www.howdoilooknyc.org).
Converslely, Wolfgang has videotaped many of my URBAN PRODUCTIONS BOLDLY PRESENTS all LGBT live-in-concert multi-artist shows, including the now legendary TWO SPIRIT EVENING that featured LGBT artists of Native American descent (http://roberturban.com/twospirit.html). Wolfgang has also done live sound engineering for my shows, including the highly successful "RIDE ON" - BRAKING THE CYCLE 2004 concert benefiting AIDS research (http://roberturban.com/rideon.html)
4. In scoring films a lot of the times composers are moved by the content of the film to write the songs. What was you experience and how did you feel while you were working on the music?
R.U. - Anyone that sees this film cannot help but be moved by it. In striving above and beyond their developmental impairments, the SPECIAL NEEDS COLOR GUARD OF AMERICA are a model of courage to all. Is no surprise NBC TV and Macy's invited the entire team to fly up from Floriday and march in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade; and why the NYC LGBT Community Center so kindly donated their space to host A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY's NYC film screening. You can imagine how excited the team is - even considering the formidable challenges that a 2.5 parade march poses for many of them.
For my part as film composer, much of the instrumental music to accompany film's marching and color guard manuvers is pretty standard, par-for-the-course fare. There are grand sequences with lots of percussion, solid grooves and fanfare.
But for the core message of the film - which involves a marginalized group - in this case special needs people - overcoming prejudice and achieving dignity & respect, I took a pared-down, minimal approach, influenced by singer-songwriter folk protest song music of the '60s - in my mind, kind of "Bob Dylan-ish".
You know, a simple song, executed simply and with a simple lyric can be quite a powerful thing. I was honored that the color guard and the producers asked me to perform live at the NYC screening.
5. OUTmusic has always loved your music Robert! What can we expect to hear when listening to A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY soundtrack? Will we get to hear yet another side of you as a musician and songwriter?
R.U. - Thank you. Not all the music in the film is by me. For example, there are scenes with the color guard marching to their standard exhibition piece - Greatest American Hero theme "Believe it or Not".
For my own part, I'm always stretching myself this way or that to accomodate the music situation at hand - be it film scoring or producing artists here in the recording studio. In the case of A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY I actually harken back to my own solo, acoustic guitar, bare-bones singer/songwriter days.
6. Is there anything more that you would like to add?
R.U. - Keep yer eyes out this Thanksgiving on TV for SPECIAL NEEDS COLOR GUARD OF AMERICA performing their routine in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on Thurs, Nov 27. I believe the A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY film screening on the following night Friday 11/28 is sold-out - which will be another fun NYC event for the team!
Here at the URBAN PRODUCTIONS studio we are putting finishing touches on a truly huge, 24 track double-cd release project for openly gay poet/spoken word artist RENAIR AMIN. Many of the tracks will also feature music to accompany her words - it's always fun finding the right grooves and music to accompany spoken word. It's kind of like hip-hop in reverse.
I'll be appearing in the upcoming "Guys with Guitars" concerts series happening around NYC in early 2009.
The number of private guitar & music students here at URBAN PRODUCTIONS had doubled in the last few months - so that and recording productions work is keeping me very busy.
You can see a sampling of feature, independent & documentary films I've scored at:
Thanks for your interest -
robert urban - founder
GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
URBAN PRODUCTIONS, NYC
Again congrats and I hope to hear from you soon.
Dee - Diedra Meredith - CEO/Executive Director - OUTmusic
Subject: Robert Urban performs at "A True Lesson in Humanity" NYC screening
Friday, November 28, 2008 at 7:00 PM
Robert Urban live at NYC LGBT Community Center
208 West 13th Street, New York City, NY
"A True Lesson In Humanity" documentary, 80 minutes New York City Screening at The Center, 208 West 13th Street, 212-620-7310 Reservations: 718-726-0831, seating is limited $10 w/flyer $15 at the door
Special live musical performance by A TRUE LESSON IN HUMANITY soundtrack composer - Award winning singer/songwriter ROBERT URBAN.
50/50 Raffles and Door Prizes - Screening followed by Q's A's
DVD is $30 plus $5 shipping worldwide - http://www.flsac.org/
The documnetary captures the esssence of artistry, perseverance, determination and true grit of a segment of our society too often underestimated, misunderstood, and forgotten. The Special Needs Color Guard of America is the first special needs Color Guard Dance Program in the world. They have performed and continue to perform for Winter Guard International World Championships (WGI), Macy's 2008 NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade and with top color guard teams in the U.S. throughout the world.