Arranging an L.A. Music Career

Dalton Daniel

When Dalton Daniel graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2015, he had a bachelor’s degree in music composition, but no job. So, he went straight to Los Angeles (L.A.) to try to get into the music business.

But it’s hard to break into that competitive market without connections. Fortunately, Dalton’s trombone teacher at Georgia Southern could help.

Associate Professor Richard Mason, DMA, made a lot of friends working in L.A. as a studio trombonist. Mason “had a friend who knew a friend” who worked at Joann Kane Music Service in Culver City. He told Mason they were looking for interns. These interns would work as assistants to the copyists, scanning in old musical scores from the ‘40s and ‘50s for digital archiving.

Daniel was willing and able to do the job. He told the hiring manager about his skills in music notation programs and his experiences as a college musician. He started out as an intern but then began taking on more responsibilities. Shortly, when a full-time position as a music copyist opened up, Daniel got the job. Right out of college, he broke into the music business.

A Musical Occupation You’ve Probably Never Heard of

What does Daniel do as a music copyist?

A music copyist prepares written music for a musician, band or orchestra. A client might need a recording transcribed, and the copyist will listen to the music and write it down for them. Or a composer might want to provide written music for a band or orchestra, and the music copyist will need to write out the music for each instrument.

“The music will come in as a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) file, or as a music notation file, and we turn those into parts and scores. Then we take the printed parts and scores to recording sessions for film and TV shows. Sometimes that means orchestrating. Sometimes that means turning the scribbles they give us into logical parts,” said Daniel.

While in high school, Daniel made the decision to stay in Georgia for college to be near family.

“I was looking at UGA, Valdosta, and actually, for short period of time, I was looking at Georgia Tech to be an engineer. The only one that just felt right to me was Georgia Southern. Where all the other schools just weren’t the right fit for me, it was just a nice friendly environment that just felt right,” said Daniel.

His professors Mason, DMA; Martin Gendelman, DMA; and William Schmid, DMA; greatly influenced Daniel.

“My trombone professor, Dr. Mason, and my composition professor, Dr. Gendelman, were very influential to me. As a composition major I got to study one-on-one with Dr. Gendelman. We were able to exchange ideas. I also took jazz composition and arranging lessons with Dr. Schmid, a trumpet professor. I learned a great deal from him. These professors helped me move along as a musician,” said Daniel.

Prepared for Hollywood Celebrities by Georgia Southern Experiences

Daniel says his experiences while at Georgia Southern helped prepare him for working with high-profile clients in Los Angeles.

“The orchestra conductor at Georgia Southern actually hooked me up on my first big gig. The Atlanta Symphony was performing a concert with Chuck Leavell and Gregg Allman. I wrote the arrangements for the orchestra to play with their band,” said Daniel.

At Joann Kane Music, Dalton has worked on many recognizable films and TV shows.

“One of the biggest ones was the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie. We work on all of John Williams’ scores, like ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and ‘The Post.’ There are just so many that come through here, it’s hard to think of them all. We worked on John Krasinski’s new movie, ‘A Quiet Place,’ ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ ‘Christopher Robin,’ ‘Ferdinand,’ and ‘Ready Player One.’ And then for TV, we work on ‘Family Guy,’ ‘Empire’ and ‘The Simpsons.’

Daniel loves his career.

“There’s something new every day. The music’s just flooding in and out so quickly… I just love doing this kind of work. Really it’s just right for me, you know?”

Georgia Southern had the connections to get Dalton’s Los Angeles musical career going. Indeed, it was the right fit.

— Liz Walker