Legendary Composer Alan Menken Shares Wisdom with His Alma Mater
Award-winning composer, songwriter, and NYU Steinhardt alumnus Alan Menken (BA '72, HON '00) joined students, faculty, and friends of NYU Steinhardt on Monday, March 6 for a Master Session at New York City's Steinway Hall.
The event was the latest episode of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions @ NYU, a series launched in 2011 as a collaboration between the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at NYU Steinhardt.
Menken, who is perhaps best known for composing the music for several Disney movies, is the recipient of eight Academy awards, eleven Grammy awards, a Tony award, and is a 2008 inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His award-winning work for film includes Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. His stage credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Sister Act, and Newsies.
During the Master Session, Menken discussed his 50-plus-year career of writing music with Phil Galdston, NYU Faculty Songwriter-in-Residence, Director of Songwriting, and founder/curator of the Sessions. He stressed the value of continual writing, the courage to fail, the wisdom of exploring new genres, and an openness to collaboration and criticism. He spoke in depth of his working relationships with noted lyricists Tim Rice, Stephen Schwartz, Glenn Slater, the late Howard Ashman, and the teams involved in the creation of films and stage musicals.
Menken performed of some of his best-known songs and two of three new compositions for the live-action feature of Beauty and the Beast, which will be released nationwide on March 17. He also spoke with Steinhardt students in attendance, including the three current Menken Scholars, whose studies are supported through Steinhardt's Alan Menken Scholarship for promising undergraduate music composition students. Menken endowed the scholarship in 1998, and to date, 22 students have benefited from his generosity.