ASCAP chief stepping down after 15 years

Marilyn Bergman will continue to serve on board

Marilyn Bergman, who has led ASCAP for 15 years, is stepping down as president and chairman of the board.

The three-time Academy Award-winning songwriter and composer said Tuesday that she will continue to serve on the performing rights group's board. Her successor is expected to be elected at the board meeting this month.

"I am grateful to have had the honor of serving as the president and chairman of ASCAP for 15 years, and am exceedingly proud of all that was accomplished during my tenure," Bergman said. "I will continue to be a passionate advocate for all music creators through my work on the ASCAP board of directors. But in terms of the presidency itself, I see that now is the right time to step down."

Bergman, the first woman to be elected to the ASCAP board, and her writing partner and husband, Alan Bergman, are focusing on a number of new projects.

"Alan has always been supportive of the time that my ASCAP presidency required," she said. "But with so much exciting work before us, I feel it's time that I fully devote myself to my first calling: writing. So I look forward to shifting my energy back to our work, while having the privilege to continue to serve ASCAP and my fellow music creators."

The Bergmans just completed work on Steven Soderbergh's film, "The Informant," with composer Marvin Hamlisch, and are working on two musical theater projects, one with Marvin and one with Michel Legrand.

They are also at work with photographer Joseph Sohm and composer Roger Kellaway on "Visions of America: A Photo Symphony Celebrating the Sites and Songs of Democracy," which premiered Jan. 25 at the Kimmel Center-Verizon Hall in Philadelphia with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

Bergman's 15-year tenure at the helm of ASCAP was marked by a series of achievements that have had a positive and lasting impact on music creators, ASCAP said.

"From the moment she assumed the role of president and chairman of the board, Marilyn worked tirelessly on behalf of our membership to the benefit of all music creators," said ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento said. "She has been tremendously effective in helping ASCAP anticipate the changing needs of our members -- particularly given the immense shifts that have occurred in music, technology and society as a whole over the past decade. I will greatly miss the insights and collaborative spirit that she brought to our working relationship, but I am comforted to know that Marilyn will remain a strong and active presence on our board of directors."

Bergman also has a strong presence on Capitol Hill, where she helped lead ASCAP to several major legislative victories, including the Supreme Court's decision in 2003 to uphold the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which extended copyright protection an extra 20 years, to the life of the author plus 70 years.

Other legislative highlights include helming ASCAP through the modernization of the federal consent decree that governs ASCAP's operations; leading ASCAP's lobbying effort that helped secure the passage and signing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, which brought the U.S. into line with World Intellectual Property Organization treaties and strengthened music copyrights on the Internet; and serving on the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council from 1994-95, at the request of Vice President Al Gore.

Bergman also served two terms, from 1994-98, as president of CISAC, the International Confederation of Performing Right Societies.

Most recently, she played a key role in the launch of A Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers, an ASCAP advocacy and awareness-building initiative designed to remind the public, the music industry and Members of Congress of the central role and rights of those who create music.

Bergman won an Oscar for best score for "Yentl" in 1984 and two for original song: the title song from "The Way We Were" in 1974 and "The Windmills of Your Mind," from "The Thomas Crown Affair," in 1969. She was nominated for an Academy Award 13 other times, including three noms for best songs in 1983.