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David Friedman

Music alumnus releases debut album

young man with short hair, trim beard, short-sleeved blue shirt, arms crossed standing indoors smiling
Paul Humphrey (BA ’14) at the Lorton Performance Center

At the end of May, music alumnus Paul Humphrey (BA ’14) released his debut album. “A Window In” comprises seven compositions, which Humphrey wrote and performs on piano. Recorded at the famous Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles and produced by J.B. Cook, the collection weaves together several genres, including classical music, jazz, cinematic music and even some Americana.

Humphrey notes it was the COVID-19 pandemic and attendant lockdowns that gave him the space, time and focus the album required: “I spent so many days and weeks alone at home that I found myself pushing a lot of half-finished projects closer to completion, including the music that became ‘A Window In.’”

This album marks a return to roots for Humphrey, as classical piano was his first instrument. During much of 2020, he spent hours and hours each day at the piano developing and refining his music. “The title of my album reflects what the process and the result mean to me,” said Humphrey. “These recordings really are a window in to who I am as an artist alone with an instrument. As a solo instrumentalist, you’re vulnerable and exposed. I often found the experience nerve-wracking, but it definitely spurred me on to produce and release as much as possible more of my own original music.”

Music man

While Humphrey was working on “A Window In,” he was fortified by both his upbringing and university education. Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, Humphrey and his six siblings were home-schooled with a curriculum grounded in the fine arts. “Music was an essential part of our development,” he recalled. “I’m the only one of my brothers and sisters who pursued a professional career in music, but all of us play multiple instruments.”

older gentleman in a blue shirt standing beside a younger man in a blue shirt in front of a grand piano
Joseph Rivers and Paul Humphrey

At The University of Tulsa, Humphrey maintained his passion for and involvement in musical performance. As a School of Music student, he deepened his prowess on the guitar under Jim Bates’ instruction. For four years, he also played that instrument in TU’s jazz guitar ensemble, jazz combo and the jazz big band, directed by Professor of Music Vernon Howard.

During his junior and senior years, Humphrey branched out and began taking film scoring courses with Joseph Rivers, the J. Donald Feagin Professor of Music and Professor of Film. “Dr. Rivers helped me realize I wanted to pursue a music career in production and composition, particularly film music composition. I doubt I would be in the music industry today if I hadn’t taken his courses.”

Rivers says he quickly recognized Humphrey’s “talent for scoring music for film and his ability to compose just the right music for a scene and to arrange and produce it in an effective way. Paul has an innate sense of musicality, both as a performer on guitar and piano and as a composer. I am proud of him and impressed with his accomplishments, and I have no doubt he will further distinguish himself and accomplish great things into the future.”

“Don’t be a lawyer.”

Despite his musical talent and passion, Humphrey came exceedingly close to taking an utterly different route after graduation. “I had actually taken the LSAT exam twice and was all set to head off to law school,” he noted. “I felt overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of going all in with a music career, and a legal career seemed like a more prudent choice.”

During Humphrey’s final semester, however, he had the good fortune to meet and learn from David Friedman, a renowned composer for film and theater who was guest lecturing in the School of Music. During Friedman’s final day on campus, he was present for one of Humphrey’s live recording sessions with the TU orchestra. Humphrey recalls: “David was impressed by the music and the fact I kept my composure with the orchestra, despite being terrified! He kindly pulled me aside afterward and said, ‘Don’t be a lawyer.’ That was a major confidence boost for me. Ever since then, David has remained a mentor and friend.”

Paul Humphrey on paths, peers and becoming a better artist

  • No two paths in this industry look alike. It’s a difficult road with exciting highs and devastating lows, but through perseverance your own path begins to take shape. And it’s not going to look like anyone else’s.
  • Your peers are not competition; they are your friends. All my major film credits came from friends pointing me in the right direction or offering me a helping hand. Talented, genuine people in the music industry help each other out.
  • My learning didn’t end after graduating from TU or the PNWFS. It’s only by trying to get better at what you love to do as an artist that you’ll chart a path to your personal success. One step does lead to the next!

Head west!

Through his time performing in ensembles as well as his theory and ear training courses, Humphrey began developing his artistic voice as well as an understanding of how to arrange music within an ensemble. “At the same time, my film scoring courses and the top-grade equipment in TU’s film scoring labs gave me the resources and technical skills necessary for learning how to produce the ideas I was composing and arranging,” he said.

Fortified by that training and emboldened by Friedman’s counsel, Humphrey applied and was accepted to the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program (PNWFS) in Seattle, which is run by Hummie Mann, a two-time Emmy-winning composer. After graduating with a Master of Music degree, Humphrey moved down the coast to Los Angeles.

For the next five years, Humphrey deployed his musical expertise on a variety of films, video games and television shows, including for Netflix and the Lifetime Channel. He also assisted other composers and did some teaching, including periodically back at TU, where he would share his film music industry insights with composition and film scoring students.

Living back on Tulsa time

black and white photo of a young man seated on a piano bench playing a grand piano
Paul Humphrey in the Meinig Recital Hall

Humphrey returned to Oklahoma 2021 as part of Tulsa Remote. Having spent the first year developing and launching “A Window In” to great acclaim, Humphrey is now hard at work on three further projects.

All three of those endeavors are with Jorge Salmay, whom Humphrey met while they were PNWFS students. Salmay also moved to Los Angeles after graduate school, and he and Humphrey worked together there on several projects as musicians and composers. Currently, the duo are collaborating on the score for a documentary film and putting together an album of original orchestral pieces they plan to record in Budapest later this year.

Salmay is also helping to orchestrate Humphrey’s debut singer-songwriter collection, which will include some of Tulsa’s best musicians. The producer for that venture is again local audio engineer and producer J.B. Cook. It is set for release in spring 2023.

If music is your passion — or even if you just want to add some delightfulness to your life — consider pursuing a major or minor with the TU School of Music.

The sound of one heart beating

Printed words Listen to My Heart Songs of David Friedman surrounding drawing of a red heart and musical notesFrom New York to Hollywood, David Friedman has done it all, including serving as music director for the Broadway productions of Beauty and the Beast and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and as arranger and conductor for several animated Disney films, such as Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. As if that were not enough, Friedman has written songs for Diana Ross, Barry Manilow, Petula Clark, Leslie Uggams and more.

For four nights this spring – April 29-May 2 – The University of Tulsa Department of Theatre & Musical Theatre staged a virtual production of Friedman’s Listen to My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman. Based on his songbook collection of the same name, this musical revue extravaganza debuted in Manhattan at Upstairs at Studio 54 in October 2003.

TU’s airing of Listen to My Heart was directed by Machele Dill, the director of TU’s musical theatre program. “David is a dear friend of mine and kindly allowed us the rights to produce his wonderful musical,” Dill noted. “I did this show 15 years ago with David and I’ve toured with it. In fact, this show was how I got my Actor’s Equity Association card.”

As they prepared for opening night, Dill and the student actors referred to Friedman as “our artist-not-in-residence.” Not only did Friedman provide virtual coaching for the students to help them get ready, he even did a few numbers in the performance itself.

screen shot of two women and one man singing
Olivia Mack, Aden Basco, Elizabeth Fankhauser

“An incredibly unique experience”

Emily Jane Peterson and X’Zauvea Gadlin were two of the cast members. Peterson is a senior majoring in musical theatre and completing a minor in creative writing. For this production, Peterson performed several songs, including both group numbers and solos. Gadlin, a junior double-majoring in history and education, with a minor in African American history, performed as one of the voices inside Friedman’s head. He had four solos and took part in a number of group songs.

screenshot of nine students surrounding a man with grey hair
Top row: Nicholas Kozar Mueller, Emily Peterson, Evan Moorehead; middle row: Prudence Lloyd, David Friedman, Elizabeth Fankhauser; bottom row: Aden Basco, X’Zauvea Gadlin, Olivia Mack, Bryson Miller

While Peterson was initially a bit skeptical about a song cycle for the spring musical, hearing the Listen to My Heart soundtrack quickly banished her reservations. “I immediately fell in love with several of the numbers,” Peterson recalled. “Specifically, ‘My Simple Wish’ and ‘As Long as I Can Sing,’ which I was lucky enough to get to perform.”

Unlike Peterson, performing in Listen to My Heart was a new experience for Gadlin. “I had never done anything quite like this before,” he commented. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a quality performer, someone who would make the show worth watching and enjoying.” But apart from the rehearsals and the recordings, Gadlin found that “it was the time I spent hanging out with the cast and everyone else in the Department of Theatre that made being involved with this show so memorable. Taking part in the spring production enabled me to meet a group of people who accept each other and support each other. I’m forever grateful for that.”

For Peterson, a highlight was the opportunity to work one-on-one with David Friedman. “This was an incredibly unique experience to get to talk directly with the mind behind the show and discuss with him exactly how I could best bring the characters that he had created to life. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to take my experience with live theatre and learn how to adapt it to the camera and recording studio.”

Keep performing

screenshot of four students
Top row: Evan Moorehead, Emily Peterson; bottom row: Bryson Miller, Elizabeth Fankhauser

After graduation, Peterson is looking forward to a technical theatre internship with the Broadway in Bixby Bootcamp, teaching students the ins and outs of tech theatre. “I have no doubt that theatre will always be a part of my life, because theatre, for the most part, is my life,” Peterson said. “My goal has of course always been to perform on a Broadway stage, but I’d be happy to just be able to perform and make theatre happen for as long as I can.”

Meantime, Listen to My Heart clearly planted a performance seed in Gadlin’s heart. While he hopes to become a teacher/football coach at a high school back in Texas, “I would love to keep performing in whatever capacity that could be. One thing I do know is that this show won’t be my last time on stage, God willing.”