How do you compose a theme for a Star Wars project and make it “sound like Star Wars” without using any of John Williams’ iconic score?
That’s a challenge NIU School of Music alumnus Jermaine Stegall, ’00, took on when charged with creating music for Lucasfilm’s “Our Star Wars Stories.”
“We didn’t have a license to use any of John Williams’ themes, or even hint at the themes, even though it’s for Lucasfilm,” Stegall said. “But, through the rhythms and the harmonies, there’s a language that he created, and it was so intricate that you could still speak that ‘language’ without using the direct theme. The goal was to make it sound like it fits in the world.”
Stegall has done the complete scores to 20 feature films and has been brought in to contribute to the scores of many others. He has worked with some of the most accomplished film composers in the industry, like four-time Oscar nominee Danny Elfman (Good Will Hunting), Emmy Award-winner Christophe Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and two-time Oscar nominee Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place).
While at NIU, Stegall majored in saxophone performance, but when he took on a huge composition project, he was hooked. He hand-wrote an entire 30-minute orchestral concert for 35 players. He never looked back, continuing on to graduate school and then to USC’s scoring for motion pictures and television program.
“[Scoring] used to be about solving problems and exciting myself,” he said. “It was about being excited that I survived another challenge and about creating something that I didn’t think I could. Now, I think it’s more exciting to share with my kids. They’ve been in my office and seen me with the picture up, watching me actually score stuff. Now, they ask questions about what movies I’m involved with, and tell their friends about them.”
Stegall was selected for Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Universal Film Music Scoring Initiative and is working on a pair of DreamWorks Animation films.
“I’ll be working closely with Universal, DreamWorks and Focus Features to shape where my career is headed with opportunities to compose for studios. It’s exciting, and a very purposeful stream that is a pathway to more work.”
What’s next? Stegall is scoring and mixing the science fiction feature film Proximity, due for release later this year, at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch.
Visit Jermaine’s website at jermainestegall.com