American Youth Symphony Explores Work of Composer Danny Elfman


The three-year Elfman Project kicks off this week with a symposium and concert at UCLA's Royce Hall.

The Elfman Project, a three-year exploration of the work of composer Danny Elfman by the American Youth Symphony, is set to launch May 6 with a free symposium and concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood.

The hourlong symposium starts at 4 p.m. with a discussion of Elfman’s work and includes a live performance featuring music from the 2008 documentary Standard Operating Procedure. Los Angeles Times music critic Jon Burlingame will moderate the discussion, and composer and American Youth Symphony guest conductor David Newman will participate.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. with relevant music from Stravinsky and Bartok performed by AYS and a women’s chorus; the second part of the show will spotlight Elfman’s compositions from the films Sommersby (1993), Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Batman (1989). Newman, who has scored dozens of films during the past three decades, will conduct.

The kickoff events are free but require reservations. A private benefit party will take place between the symposium and concert. Tickets for that event start at $350 a person.

Led by conductor and music director Alexander Treger, the American Youth Symphony is dedicated to the artistic development of a new generation of musicians and to building new audiences for orchestral music. Founded in 1964, AYS has trained more than 2,000 musicians. This season features 100 students ages 15 to 27 from 33 high schools and colleges.

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Elfman’s long career in film and TV dates to the mid-’80s, when he was asked to compose the score for Tim Burton’s debut feature, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. That led to a long working relationship with Burton, composing the scores for most of the writer-director’s films including Dark Shadows, which opens May 11, and the upcoming Frankenweenie.

Elfman, 58, has scored dozens of other films, earning four Oscar nominations and a Grammy for the theme from 1989’s Batman. His television work includes writing the main themes for The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives; he won an Emmy for the latter.

He also fronted the Los Angeles-based theatrical rock band Oingo Boingo, which enjoyed success with such ’80s songs as “Dead Man’s Party,” “Only a Lad,” “Little Girls” and “Weird Science,” the theme from the 1985 film.

Watch a trailer for Dark Shadows, featuring Elfman's music, below.

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.