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Emmy Award–Winning Composer

Emmy Award–Winning Composer

And the winner might once again be … John Henry Kreitler!

In March, he snagged his 17th Emmy nomination in 16 years. “Love Is Ecstasy,” a piece he composed with his writing partner for the daytime drama Passions, received a nod in the Outstanding Original Song category for the 34th annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards, airing on June 15. 

“I feel like I was born with the urge to create,” says Kreitler, who has won 10 Emmys and 10 BMITV awards. Growing up in a musical household helped nurture his natural talent. His mother, Alice Kreitler M.M. ‘58, was a pianist and organist who taught music. He began playing violin in the fourth grade, then learned guitar and “serviceable piano.” He started writing songs in high school. Today he describes himself as a keyboardist, lyricist, and melodically inspired composer.

Studying music education at Lewis & Clark, Kreitler found an excellent music faculty. Later, while working on his master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, he began cold-calling film companies out of the phone book.

“I found an art film producer who had no money, and I had no experience, so we were a perfect match,” says Kreitler.

He soon found documentary, corporate, and commercial work (all of which paid well) and took on two partners: a marketing guru and another composer. The team branched out into television, initially doing daytime dramas, and won their first Emmy for Guiding Light in 1991.

“We thought, ‘Hey, this is a good entry into TV,’” says Kreitler. “And while we moved on to do lot of prime-time and features, we kept in touch with the daytime people because the soaps go on forever–great job security.”

That was a good strategy because Cincinnati’s commercial business dried up a few years later. But in 1997, NBC offered him and his partners the scoring job for its new daytime drama Passions. For the next two years he worked nonstop, often composing seven days a week, and commuted to Cincinnati, where his kids were finishing school. In 2001, his family moved to Los Angeles, and he converted their home’s four-car garage into his recording studio. 

Because of the fast pace of daytime dramas, Kreitler writes scores from scripts before episodes are actually shot. Writing, and rewriting, for films and prime-time shows begins after watching rough cuts with the director and discussing mood, detail, tone, and underlying subtleties.

Kreitler loves working in his studio, where technology gives him access to the sounds of a full orchestra and just about any musical instrument he can imagine. But he also likes spicing things up with skilled musicians, who always bring something fresh to the table.

Kreitler’s range is broad. He’s scored films like Jackie Collins’ Lady Boss and, most recently, wrote three songs for Material Girls, starring Hillary Duff, as well as scoring or contributing music to prime-time shows such as Friends, Law & Order, and Lois & Clark. And he’s written scores for a variety of opera and theatre productions.

“I’ve had the exceptional privilege of composing for, and recording, numerous orchestras from Los Angeles to Prague,” says Kreitler. “And I’ve worked with some of the finest musicians in the world. Lewis & Clark pushed me on my way. The journey has been extraordinary for me.” 

–by Pattie Pace

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