Cheryl Foliart of Disney Music Luncheon – April 18, 2007

The special guest speaker for the April 18, 2007 luncheon meeting of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composer was Disney’s Cheryl Foliart who was direct and refreshingly candid. She was introduced by her husband, composer Dan Foliart (“7th Heaven,” “8 Simple Rules…for Dating My Teenage Daughter”), whom she met while they were students at the University of Southern California. Generally, she was optimistic about the future of live music scoring for television in Los Angeles.

Cheryl Foliart’s career has followed a varied path: from award-winning instrumentalist and graduate of USC’s prestigious music program to music producer and to music executive. During this most recent phase of her career she has worked on the music for some of the greatest shows in television history. She has been a long time champion of the live musicians here in Los Angeles, and was a key player in returning live recording to television, although there is a problem today in town with adequate scoring stages.

Beginning at Paramount in the mid 80’s, Cheryl Foliart had the opportunity to oversee such Nielson favorites as “Cheers,” “Family Ties,” “Webster,” “McGyver,” “Star Trek: the Next Generation” and the first series made for cable, “Brothers.” During her tenure there, she was instrumental in organizing hundreds of recording sessions, most of which were done at the venerable Stage M (now closed, unfortunately), and had the opportunity to work with the leading composers and musicians of that era. She credits music contractor Carl Fortino, music copyist Bob Bornstein, music clearance /rights expert Eldridge Walker, and music editor Jack Hunsaker at Paramount for her on-the-job training, which she describes as her post-graduate education in music.

After leaving Paramount in 1990, she became one of the youngest department heads at the Walt Disney Company, where she has served as Vice-President since 1996. She worked with Executive music producer Chris Montan in TV animation music and then moved into hour-long dramas and musicals. Over the course of her Disney career she has organized and directed the day to day activities on thousands of episodes of such television classics as “Home Improvement” and the current hits “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Scrubs,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Criminal Minds” and “Ugly Betty.”

Cheryl’s music training and background has been indispensable in interfacing with composers and musicians and her passion for the musical score along with her in depth knowledge of our industry continues to make her one of the most successful executives in the business. She proudly admits that her primary instrument is the accordion.

She told the ASMAC attendees that she always tried to encourage composers to use as many musicians as possible and to recognize the power they have and to use it. “Lost” uses a 35-piece group. Cheryl said, “Synthesizers have their limits,” and many producers and directors today want use live scoring if possible. She said that producers all want brass and that “quirky is in.” When asked about music supervisors, she commented that it is an all-encompassing title used for a wide variety of music people, but basically music supervisors are the ones choosing license music and they should be called license music supervisors. The title music supervisor is misleading and does not adequately describe the job.

Cheryl said that it does not truly matter who your agent is–they are all the same– however, just having attorney representation is not enough when you reach the level of doing professional TV and film scoring. She encourages composers to do source music for a show whenever one has an opportunity to do so because of the potential backend royalties. All of the use of pre-existing songs is good for the licensors of music but not for composers and musicians. She also advised composers, “Don’t make anybody mad and be nice to the P.A.s (production assistants), if you want to work.

She suggested that composers should not be shy about making connections with people who could be useful for their careers. Concerning communication with studio executives, “Be persistent, but not too persistent. Be direct and specific about what you would like to do.” She said that she and others in similar positions prefers emails that update them on a composer’s activity and did not appreciate weekly calls asking for work. She made it clear that a delicate balance is required.

by Jeannie Pool