It’s not unusual to walk out of a movie with the melody of a film score stuck in your head.
The man involved in many of these instrumentals is Tom Boyd, a USC alumnus who has become one of the most well-known oboe players in the world. His playing is featured in a staggering 1,400 movie tracks, including Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones, Titanic and, most recently, Big Miracle.
By performing in a program of movie music with an ensemble of five musicians, called the Hollywood Soloists, Boyd has managed to bring cinematic music out of the studios and into the public eye.
Boyd, along with Sandy Hughes, Steve Dress, Bryan Pezzone and Patricia Garvey-Rynearson, will perform myriad classic compositions such as E.T., Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather and Star Wars, at USC’s United University Church on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“We bring the cinematic melody out into the public so that they can actually say, ‘Wow, this is really cool,’” Boyd said. “People don’t realize the impact that music has on their inner soul.”
Boyd began his music career as a clarinet player in elementary school, which led to him volunteering to play the oboe for a school concert.
“Extroverted Tommy raised his hand and said that he would take the instrument home to practice and learn all of the fingering for the oboe,” Boyd said.
As a 15-year-old L.A. native, Boyd played in community orchestras in Brentwood, eventually getting accepted to study at The Juilliard School in New York. He dreamed of performing in an orchestra and had no hesitation when he began auditioning. In 1972, Boyd arrived at USC.
After attending USC for one year, Boyd acquired the principal oboe position in The Honolulu Symphony, leaving college just one semester shy of graduation. He played there for a decade, surfing during the day and donning a suit to perform at night. He then returned to Los Angeles, and by the time he was 31 years old, he had played in his first feature film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
“Music is so important to a movie because, without it, there is no tension, no anticipation and no emotions that come to the surface,” Boyd said. “All you’re seeing are some very famous actors act really well, but the emotional impact is created by the music.”
Recording a composition for a film is a long process, but one that Boyd enjoys. The film to be scored is often shown out of context, starting with the end credits and moving onto the middle part — or vice versa. There are times when Boyd does not even realize the extent of the role he plays in the film’s score.
“When I see it in the movie theater, I realize that I was the lead guy that played all of these songs for this movie,” he said.
Yet even after the launch of his career, Boyd remembers the school that supported him and takes time to give back to the USC film scoring students and department with constant encouragement.
Salpy Kerkonian, USC alumna and organizer of the concert, describes Boyd as a genuine motivational force.
“He’s an amazing USC success story. He’s very dedicated and encourages the young composers and film scoring graduates from USC because he knows that they are going to keep music alive,” Kerkonian said.
Perhaps most crucially, Boyd simply wants young adults to share the passion and enormous joy he receives from music.
“Music brings a lot of excitement to the table,” Boyd said. “I want students to realize this when they come to the concert.”