Learning the Score in Eugene

 By Aaron Ragan-Fore Photo by Erin Zysett

These days, alumnus Edgardo Simone, BMus ’82, MMus ’83, is a composer and a successful orchestrator of Hollywood blockbusters.

The path Simone followed to the UO from his rough-and-tumble childhood was anything but smooth—but it was certainly cinematic. After his birth in Southern California, Simone’s family moved around a great deal, first to the San Francisco Bay Area, then later to Missouri. The youngest of three, teenaged Edgardo played bass in his brother’s band—mostly covers of 1960s mainstays the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits.

“I remember being so blown away by that music,” says Simone. “It really turned my life around.” When he wasn’t fending off bullies who tried to beat him up, objecting to his long hair, Simone began playing piano. Inspired by a friend who pursued a degree in music, he eventually applied to the UO.

Simone, who describes himself as “flighty,” never applied to college in his teens, so by the time he reached Eugene, he was a bit older than the average undergraduate Student.

“I was almost thirty at the time, and having to take a health education class,” he recalls. All the same, he says, “I tried to be serious” at the UO. That seriousness made him a natural fan of Wayne Bennett, member of the UO’s conducting faculty, a professor who sticks out in Simone’s mind as particularly influential on his growth as an artist.

“I liked Wayne because he was no-nonsense,” Simone says. 

Finally, serious about something, Simone earned both his UO degrees within two years. Now Simone’s résumé reads like a Variety magazine list of critically acclaimed and top-grossing films. He’s worked as the orchestrator on dozens of well-known movies, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, American Hustle, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the Spider-Man and Men in Black franchises.

A long-running collaboration with composer Danny Elfman has led to work on numerous projects with director Tim Burton, including Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows, and, more recently, Big Eyes and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Simone has won several prestigious awards, including an American Music Center–National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Young Composer’s Award from the National Association of Composers, and a BMI Composition Award.

In 2007, the UO School of Music and Dance named Simone a distinguished alumnus.

Simone has stayed in contact with the SOMD over the years, and in spring of 2015 even hosted the Oregon Wind Quintet in California at the refurbished, Spanish-style 1920s home he shares with his partner, Jean.

“What a joy for me to meet those people,” he says of the wind quintet faculty.

Sounds like a Hollywood ending.