music morsels fiorenza April 2007

INDUSTRY PROFILE - Music Supervisor Gary Calamar
by Mark E. Waterbury

Gary Calamar

Although he was born literally in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York, Gary Calamar's main interests as a boy took a decidedly different turn than the iconic local baseball team. "My brother was a serious music fan," Gary recalls. "Not only was he listening to whatever was on the radio, but he was already buying import singles and music magazines. It trickled down to me and I became a huge music fan as well, about as serious as a fan can be at five years old." Raised primarily in Yonkers, New York before moving to California in the late 1970's, Gary notes that even at a young age he yearned to find a career where he could get a lot of free albums and concert tickets. In L.A., he got a job at an outlet of an area record store chain called Licorice Pizza. Continuing to work in retail for a number of years, Gary worked his way up to managing the Licorice Pizza store, and later moved on to the same capacity at a Rhino Records store, and an independent dealer called Moby Discs. "I made the rounds doing record retail, which I loved doing. I had long since decided that the music profession was what I wanted to do and it was working well for me."

Beyond his work in record stores, Gary decided to take a shot at artist management. He began working with a local band called The Balancing Act.  "I just learned management by doing. I started making phone calls and booked the bands I worked with at clubs and just took what I thought were the natural steps for bands to try to make it. I didn't really have any ultimate goals except to put one foot in front of the other and see where it took us." The Balancing Act achieved some minor success in the early 1990's releasing a few albums on IRS Records. It was also around this time that Gary decided to do some volunteer work at one of the larger and better known NPR radio stations KCRW in Santa Monica. "I was recently laid off from the Rhino Store, and from working there, I became aware of KCRW. It seemed to be a natural progression that while I was between jobs I would volunteer at the station. So I got my foot in there and found out it was a great place to be." Gary ended up managing the music library at KCRW, as well as deejaying the appropriately named "Red Eye" show from one to five AM on Sunday mornings. Eventually Gary landed his own show titled "The Open Road" with a more prime time slot of nine to midnight on Sunday evening.

While working at KCRW, Gary's music career found another path. The music director Chris Douridas was also a music supervisor, obtaining music for film and television. Chris worked with some huge projects including "American Beauty" and the second Austin Powers movie. "It seemed like something interesting to do and I got the bug," Gary recalls. "So I started taking some classes and meeting more people, and eventually, I started getting some work in it." Through his connections, Gary met up with noted music supervisor G. Marq Roswell. Together, they handled music supervision for "Varsity Blues" and "Slums of Beverly Hills." "It was very exciting to work with (G. Marq Roswell) on projects of that level right out of the gate. Even though I didn't know the music supervision world very well, Marq taught me quite a bit and was very generous to let me have the co-supervising credit with him. He definitely saw some value to having me on his team. I learned all the ins and outs from him. There is a lot more to it than just loving music. You have to stay on top of the music scene and not just lock yourself into one type of music that may be your favorite. You have to find what is best for the project and know how to collaborate well with your directors, producers and composers. You have to be as smart and creative as possible."

After working on the two projects with Marq, Gary earned the chance to supervise the movie "Panic" by himself. After that movie, Gary decided to work with another friend of his Thomas Golubic. They were asked to go to a meeting about a new series being developed for HBO. "I saw the pilot episode and read the scripts. I was very excited and had a feeling that this was going to be a successful show," Gary notes. "HBO had some great shows so I was very optimistic about it." Gary's feelings were proven correct as the show "Six Feet Under" became one of the more popular shows on the cable network during its five year run. It won an Emmy and several Golden Globes among its dozens of nominations, including two Grammy nods for the soundtracks. It also helped put Gary and Thomas' names and the name of their new company Super Music Vision on the map in the music supervision community. "It was great working with these people because they were really talented and really creative. It was also a great training ground for Thomas and myself. We knew music supervision, but working with these folks for five years, we really were able to hone our craft. It was a great kind of canvas to use for music knowledge."

After "Six Feet Under" ended, Gary struck out on his own again, naming his company Go Music. He stayed with cable pay channels, working with the Showtime programs "Weeds" and "Dexter." Then in early 2007, Gary added a huge name to his resume when he began working with the highly popular Fox medical drama "House." Obviously his work with the shows keeps him very busy, although he still deejays "The Open Road" on KCRW.  At some point, Gary may want to try to produce a music-related documentary. Whatever else he may try to do, if it involves music, there is a guarantee that Gary will love doing it because it is obvious that is where his passions lie. "I have found that I love all aspects of the music business. I loved doing retail and I love KCRW because I don't have to get approval from everyone else or answer to anyone for the music I use. I love doing the music supervision. I enjoy finding great music. There is an epiphany sometimes when you put a great song in a great scene and it just works. You can see it, you can feel it, and it adds another dimension to the scene. I have been very fortunate to work on some high quality projects and am trying to do my part to keep that high quality high."


Gary Calamar's advice for musicians: "The business is fun and creative, but you need to also make connections and network. The old adage of who you know is very essential in this business. As music supervisors, we get a ton of music sent to us, and realistically, we don't get to listen to everything sent to us. So some music rises to the top of the pile by word of mouth or getting good press or an interesting CD cover, whatever it happens to be. So you need to make connections and be smarter than the average musician as far as getting your music to the music supervisor is concerned."
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