The Young Israeli Composer Who Already Cracked Hollywood

Still in his 20s, Israeli composer Haim Mazar is is at the start of his career as an independent composer, but has secured some big gigs in the movie and TV industry.

Uri Zer Aviv
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Uri Zer Aviv

Composer and pianist Haim Mazar is not yet 30 and has already cracked Hollywood. While working on the soundtrack for "The Iceman," a thriller starring Chris Evans, Winona Ryder, James Franco, Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer that is scheduled for release next year, he has a steady gig writing the music for the popular MTV reality "Teen Mom."

In a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home, Mazar says he "discovered jazz, groove and funk" during high school, in the music track of Kfar Sava's Katznelson school. "Suddenly I met non-geek musicians, instrumentalists with broader musical influences than Chopin and Mozart," he recalls.

Mazar learned to play piano as a child, at the Givatayim Music Conservatory. After spending his military service in army entertainment troupes as a keyboardist and musical arranger he went on to study at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat Hasharon. While on the school's exchange program with Boston's Berklee College of Music, Mazar's career changed direction thanks to a stint in the college library.

"I gained access to unfamiliar musical worlds, to an endless number of recordings, books and DVDs. They have every article ever written about music," he says enthusiastically. Among Mazar's library finds was an introduction to composing for films. "I realized that this was where I wanted to focus," he says.

When he delved more deeply into the field he was surprised to discover that the best orchestras in the world, such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, had played on the soundtracks of some of his favorite movies. Mazar says film work allows the composer to experiment a wide range of musical styles, in accordance with the character of the movie, "from a Holocaust film to a comedy," as he puts it.

After graduating he stayed at Berklee for another year, "to work and to improve my performance skills," and then moved to Los Angeles. "The transition to the city was quite frightening, but also unavoidable. He lived with roommates and examined his options. "I could either compose for free, in the hope that the director would become famous and take me with him, or be an assistant to a famous composer and become part of the profitable industry." (Composers of blockbusters earn half a million dollars and more for work that takes three to four months. )

Mazar chose the second option. The dean of Berklee introduced him to John Frizzell (whose credits include composing music for the films "Alien Resurrection," "Bevis and Butthead Do America" and the animated television series "King of the Hill" ). "When Frizzell called and asked if I wanted a job interview with him I thought I was being punked," Mazar says, adding, "He had the voice of a boy."

Frizzell offered Mazar a challenge: to write a film soundtrack in five weeks. "I didn't sleep the whole time," recalls Mazar. "Although I was yelled at a lot I also learned a tremendous amount." Mazar passed his trial by fire and worked for Frizzell for two years. One of their joint projects was writing music for an episode of the U.S. version of "The Office." Mazar says that over time Frizzell gave him more authority. "At first I was more like his secretary."

Frizzell also helped him to find his place in the industry. "He called the producers of a movie to recommend me. He told them I would record in his studio, under his supervision, and if they weren't satisfied he would compose instead of me, free of charge. At the same time Frizzell warned me: If you screw up this is your last opportunity in Los Angeles."

Mazar is at the start of his career as an independent composer. He already has ambition, connections and musical talent.

Haim MazarCredit: Courtesy of Haim Mazar



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