Interview with Michael Smolanoff

ED- The Eerie digest is extremely excited to present a living legend, Michael Smolanoff, to all our readers. Michael, You and I both grew up in the Bronx in New York, and at one point in our lives we both lived on Long Island. It’s something to wonder how many times our paths must of crossed during our lives. Tell us about those early years and how they shaped your career.

MS- The first sixteen years of my life I lived in the Bronx, in New York City, then the family moved to New Rochelle, New York. My introduction to music started in Junior High School, playing the trombone. I was always curious how all of the instruments were able to play different parts and yet they all fit together and sounded great. I was very fortunate that the music teacher allowed me to write original music and I was able to hear what I had written, and this enabled me to grow as a musician. The teachers at New Rochelle High School also supported my creative efforts.

ED- We understand that you attended the Julliard School of Music. Tell us about your education in this field and your teaching career thereafter.

MS- When I graduated New Rochelle High School I thought that getting into a music school as a composition major would be easy. How wrong I was! I auditioned for The Manhattan School of Music with a meager portfolio of compositions. The composer auditioning me was the famous opera composer Vittorio Gianinni. He told me that I would probably be better off in another career. Devastated- I attended NYU studying trombone with Roger Smith, first trombonist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Roger helped me to get into the Juilliard Evening Division and I built up my composition portfolio over a two year period. I then auditioned for Juilliard with a proper composition portfolio. Two of my famous teachers were Aaron Copland and Vincent Persichetti. Much to my shock and terror-Vittorio Gianinni was one of the four faculty members doing the audition! I was accepted into the composition program. One year later, I wrote a Sonata for Bassoon and Piano which was performed in the Juilliard Recital Hall. Mr. Gianinni turned to me and said, “Smolanoff you have the gift of melody”. I started to laugh and told him how he rejected me at The Manhattan School of Music—he put his arm around me and said, “So, I was wrong”. The education at Juilliard to quote Hemingway was a moveable feast. The education and the people followed me wherever I went and became a comfort to me throughout my life. Before entering teaching, I was the editor for E.B. Marks Music Corporation, in New York City. I worked with the famous Felix Greissle, who was the former conductor of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and who had studied with Richard Strauss. My first teaching position was at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, and then I spent eight years teaching music composition at Rutgers University.

ED- Tell our readers about the point in your teaching that led you to your current career.

MS- After leaving Rutgers, I freelanced in New York for a number of years, I spent a good amount of time in the New York recording studios. I also had an office across the hall from Joe Franklin, in New York City. It was during this period around 1992 that I started writing books and screenplays and getting involved with the Broadway Theater.

ED- Your music has been the mainstay of your life and you have written and composed a plethora of music albums, and concerts. Tell us about some of the entertainers that you worked with and of your music company on Long Island.

MS- My record company was called Trac Records. The big hit album that I am very proud of was Malo V. I had some of the finest musicians performing on this Latin Rock album: Machito, Tom Bones Malone from the Blues Brothers Movie, and Santana. Billboard voted this album as the best Latin Rock album of the year. I also worked with Xavier Cugat and Charro, Tiny Tim, Billy Crystal, Vanessa Redgrave and many other fun and crazy people.

ED- You have achieved many recognitions including the ‘ Who’s Who of Music’, ‘Who’s Who in America’, ‘Men of Achievement’, ‘Outstanding Young Men in America’, and you are listed in ‘The Dictionary of Distinguished Americans’ and ‘The International Dictionary of Distinguished Musicians”. These are extremely important achievements. Have these had any effect on you from a personal standpoint?

MS- Yes, it made me very humble. I quickly learned at Juilliard that each composer is an individual and has something different to say with their music. The recognition made me feel good that people liked what I had to say with my writing.

ED- You also have two companies that you are involved with: Twin Faces East Entertainment Corporation and Handshake Films. Please tell us about them.

MS- I was president of Twin Faces East Entertainment for a ten year period. Twin Faces was a Public Company on NASDAC. Due to the terrible economic climate this was a difficult time in my life, and the company recently closed. I started Handshake Films around one year ago, and we are in pre-production on the book and screenplay that I wrote: The Scary Kids Club. www.thescarykidsclub.com.

ED- You also worked on producing a documentary on Albert Einstein for PBS and The History Channel. Can you tell us about this project?

MS- I own original film of Albert Einstein that was taken by Peter Bucky, the son of Einstein’s best friend, Gustave Bucky. Bucky was the inventor of the modern X-ray machine. Peter traveled with Einstein throughout the US filming Einstein working and at play. He owned the finest 16mm equipment from this period in the 1930’s. I lent some of the film to CBS for their documentary about Einstein, the man of the century. The project to a large extent deals with Einstein’s personal life, and personal relationships.

ED- Some of your projects are ‘The Adventures of Rainbow Rabbit’ and ‘Caring for Your Puppy: A Child’s Guide” Please explain the stories behind these.

MS- The Rainbow rabbit book was recently published, and is available through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, etc. It is a series of three books, each one a cliff- hanger. After all three books are completed and we plan on producing a full animation for the theaters. The series of Caring for puppies, cats, birds, etc. grew out of my experience with my children. After buying them a pet—who takes care of it?? The parents! The tapes were designed to teach young children to take responsibility in caring for their own pets.

ED- The latest in this line is ‘The Scary Kids Club’. Describe the story line and the cast behind it.

MS- We propose to make “THE SCARY KIDS CLUB” as a high-concept highly commercial Entertainment movie that will appeal to the massive “6 to 16 year old” market that now dominates the movie box-office. The great selling point of “THE SCARY KIDS CLUB” film, and its Sequel films, is that the kids who go to the movie get not one but FOUR stories in the movie – so there is no opportunity for them to get bored. And the stories themselves – featuring zombies from outer space, comical werewolves, teenage girls possessed by evil Indian spirits in a forest, unfriendly ghosts invading a spooky cemetery, and savage tribesmen let loose in the sewers of New York – are exactly what kids relate to and relish. All of the stories are seen through the eyes of the young adolescent characters telling the stories, so kids everywhere will relate to these stories. And every kid will want to be a member of “THE SCARY KIDS CLUB”, buy the merchandising tie-ins, play the Play Station games, and encourage their friends to also join in.

ED- Another genre that you are involved with is the creation of ‘Behind the Oval Portrait’. Please tell us about this film and the cast of well known performers in it.

MS- I usually say that it is a story about my first wife, who was a vampire –and sucked the life out of me. I’m probably not allowed to say this. Okay, the truth follows: an ageless vampire kills his partner and is forced to find another mate with whom to spend the centuries. He sets his sights on a beautiful young artist’s muse, and succeeds in winning her love and affection- to the detriment of all who surround her. The novel for Behind the Oval Portrait has also recently been published! This will be our second film after The Scary Kids Club, and we have not as yet done any pre-production on it.

ED- What other new creations are in the works in the near future?

MS- the Scary series will be five films—so this will keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

ED- Michael, you are a member of the National Academy of Television Arts, and Science, and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. So many great achievements to be garnished in one’s lifetime. It has been sheer pleasure, and a great honor, to be able to introduce you to our many readers world-wide. Many thanks for letting us interview you and I hope that you will be with us often in the future so that we can keep all our readers up-to-date with your latest developments