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Emily Hoch

Music 1040


Alan Menken
For many years this composer has enchanted us with his memorable melodies, weve
welcomed his compositions into our homes with open arms. His distinguished tunes are some of
the most popular songs of all time and they continue to capture the hearts of millions of people
around the globe. Who is the mighty composer you ask? Alan Menken, who is most commonly
known for his massive musical contributions to Disney films. Menken has written some of the
most iconic music of our generation, and he continues to contribute his talents to the musical

Menken was born on July 22, 1949 in New Rochelle, New York to Norman and Judith
Menken. Menkens father was a dentist and his mother stayed home to raise the children. At an
early age he had a great love for music. He loved Beethoven and Brahms, and these two
composers were the primary influences that inspired Menken to study the violin and the piano.
Like most children, Menken wasnt too fond of practicing so he tried to make it fun by making
up his own versions of the songs, and this was how he began composing. In addition to his love
classical music, Menken was also fond of rock n roll and folk music, but above all Menken had

a deep love and admiration for Broadway. Of this Menken said, "Growing up, I was surrounded
by a family that loved Broadway musicals. Regularly, we gathered around my father at the piano,
and as he played and we sang, the house was filled with the sounds of Rodgers and Hart, the
Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, and all the other great
Broadway songwriters. As a child, I was introduced to the power of the American musical
through shows like My Fair Lady, Fiorello, and The Sound of Music".

While attending school, Menken realized his passion was composing. And he wanted to
make a career out of the love, he wanted to be a serious composer. But there was pressure on
Menken to become a dentist like his father. Both of Menkens grandfathers were dentists and
even his uncle shared the profession. At one time Menken stated, I thought this was my fate.
Eventually Menkens love for music and composition cleared away any doubts he had
and he began to actively pursue a career in music. After earning a degree in music from New
York University, Menken studied and worked under Lehman Ingram, the Music Director at the
Musical Theater Workshop. For several years Menken supported himself by writing jingles,
musical directing other peoples shows, and even accompanying ballet classeswhich is how
Menken met his wife, Janis, whom he married in 1971. The pair had two daughters together,
Anna and Nora. Menken also performed original works at various clubs and show houses, he
admitted he hoped to become a singer-songwriter like Billy Joel or Elton John. But as Menken

continued to perform, he recognized he had a great love for writing music as a story. Menken
stated, I realized that I really like the challenge of writing for characters, adapting stories, being
able to write an entire song score. I discovered I had a gift for writing accessible theatrical
material that also had some kind of contemporary thing to it.
After several years of working hard to make it big in the musical theater community,
Menken caught his break with the off-Broadway hit, Little Shop of Horrors for which he was
nominated for the Drama Desk award. This play was later adapted into a popular motion picture
and had a successful run on Broadway. Menken continues to work within and have success in
the musical theater community, but for the last two decades Menken has been scoring numerous
Walt Disney Picture films. Menken wrote the music for the Little Mermaid, The Beauty and the
Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home on the Range,
Tangled, Newsies and Enchanted.

Menken has received dual Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original
Song on four of these projects. With eight Academy Award wins (four each for Best Original
Score and Best Original Song), only composer Alfred Newman and Walt Disney have received
more Oscars than Menken. He currently holds the record for the most wins for a living person
and He was named a Disney Legend in 2001. In addition to these many awards, Menken
received the 2,422nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 10, 2010. In addition to

his many contributions to Disney, Menken has also worked and collaborated on motion picture
scores for Mirror, Mirror, The Shaggy Dog, A Christmas Carol, Home Alone 2, Rocky, Sesame
Street and even Captain America.

Menken continues to tribute to Disney and he also remains active in the musical theater
community. His recent contributions to musical theater are the musical adaptions of Aladdin, the
Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast. And currently
Menken is working on the new musical score for the upcoming television show, Gallivant, a
musical comedy fairy-tale taking place in medieval times.
Clearly, its easy to see that Menken is a musical genius. He is a talented musician and a
gifted composer and he has had an incredible impact on the musical world. Punk rocker, Marilyn
Manson said this of music, Music is the strongest form of magic. And if a musician who sings
about some of the darkest themes recognizes the power that music has on us, it shouldnt be hard
for us to see that Menken has contributed some of the most magical music to our generation, and
for that we should all be grateful.