250 guests packed the Dairy Center for the Arts for Boulder Jewish Family Service’s (JFS) second annual fundraiser, Reel Hope Boulder, on October 26. Attendees socialized in the lobby while enjoying a Mediterranean spread before moving into the auditorium for the program featuring Hollywood composer Rob Simonsen. The event raised more than $36,000, which exceeded fundraising goals!
Yana Vishnitsky, president and CEO of Jewish Family Service of Colorado, Meg Quiat, chair of the Boulder JFS Advisory Committee, and Cathy Summer, Boulder JFS coordinator spoke eloquently of the work that Boulder JFS is doing and thanked sponsors, event chair Deb Grojean, committee members, and staff.
Sy Youngleman, a local senior and Boulder JFS client, also shared his story of how JFS helped him after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and faced other health challenges. JFS has provided a Friendly Visitor volunteer, connected the couple with resources, helped them find a new place to live, and is available to help with other needs that may arise.
After kicking off her painful shoes, Rebecca Cohen, Rob Simonsen’s mother and Lafayette resident, introduced the interviewer, Ron Bostwick of the Boulder International Film Festival, and her son. She gave a little insight into Rob’s childhood and some of his activities that started his journey to become a Hollywood composer.
Rob and Ron came on stage, sat in the “living room” set, and made themselves comfortable by following Rebecca’s lead and taking off their shoes. Rob shared that music shaped his life from an early age; there was always music on in his house and his grandma’s house. His grandma was a voice teacher and insisted that all her grandchildren learn a musical instrument. “Becoming a musician was natural for me, especially since I wasn’t an athlete,” Rob joked. He admitted that it was an effort to learn to read music and study formally, and he wanted to play music his own way.
After attending Boulder’s September School, Rob moved to Oregon. His friends created a film called “Westender,” in which he had a small role and scored the music. It went to the Seattle Film Festival and he met Mychael Danna, a Canadian composer, who became his mentor. He shared a funny story of how he moved to LA to become Mychael’s assistant. While his first few work assignments involved buying office supplies and furniture, they went on to score “Life of Pi” and other movies together.
In addition to composing the score for films including “(500) Days of Summer,” “Moneyball,” “The Spectacular Now,” and “The Way, Way Back,” Rob scored the global ad launch for Apple’s iPhone 5 and provided the iconic piano melody for their “Everyday” campaign. Rob said that years ago when the first iPod commercials were on, he dreamt of doing work for Apple because he thought their ads were so cool. Not only did that dream come true, but the job led to more work. Actor and director Zach Braff saw the ads, Googled to see who the composer was, and contacted Rob about scoring his movie, “Wish I Was Here,” which was released last summer.
Rob gave the audience a taste of his work environment and schedule. He works out of his garage, but before you feel sorry for him, he has a high-end piano, mini keyboard built into his desk, a large computer monitor, 65-inch TV screen, and surround-sound speakers. He also has a hot tub and swimming pool to relax in, when his schedule allows. “I wake up between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m., exercise, and have a green drink to start the day,” Rob explains and then Ron jokes that he would fit right in living in Boulder. He often works until 10:00 p.m. or later, between composing, attending meetings, and answering emails.
Reel Hope guests then got a real treat; Rob brought his keyboard and laptop to give a demonstration of how he works. He played a scene from “Wish I Was Here” without music (the way he gets it from the studio) so the audience could see how it feels without music. Then he played the clip with his music in it. He showed us how he scores music on his laptop and then experimented with different kinds of music to show how it changes the scene and brings up different emotions.
After taking a few questions from the audience, he ended with a story that sums up his personality and attitude. When he was living in Eugene, Oregon, Rob wanted to be a waiter at a high-end restaurant where he thought he could walk in with no experience, work weekend shifts, and make great tips. However, the only way he could get a job there was to be a janitor on the night shift, so he took it. On one of his first shifts, the vacuum was broken and he had to clean the kitchen on his hands and knees. His stepdad’s words of wisdom to do the best he could no matter what the situation stuck with him and rang in his ears. He decided to be the best janitor he could and worked his way up to dishwasher, waiter on the patio, and eventually waiter on Friday and Saturday nights making good tips. He reminded the audience that “the cream rises to the top” and he used that attitude and perseverance to get where his is in his music career.