- Dan Foliart:An Interview with Ron Sadoff
Dan Foliart1's music has been indelibly etched on the landscape of network television, as he celebrates his forty-third consecutive year in the profession. Currently, he is serving his fourth term on the ASCAP Board of Directors. He recently ended his service as president of the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) after serving the SCL for five terms over ten years.2
Beginning at Paramount Studios with then partner Howard Pearl, Foliart has composed for television shows including Happy Days (1974–1984), Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983), Angie (1979–1980), Bosom Buddies (1980–1982), Joanie Loves Chachi (1982–1983), and Brothers (1984–1989). Since then, Foliart has composed the themes and underscores for over fifty television shows including Roseanne (1988–2018), Home Improvement (1991–1999), The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008–2013), and 7th Heaven (1996–2007). Along with three Emmy nominations, Foliart has garnered thirty-four ASCAP Film and Television awards, including sixteen in the Most Performed Theme category.
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A native of Oklahoma City, Foliart had his symphonic work Oklahoma Trilogy performed as part of the state's centennial celebration. While enrolled at Amherst College, where he received his BA degree, he had the opportunity to co-write the song score for GD Spradlin's film The Only Way Home with celebrated Nashville songwriter Tom Shapiro.
Passionate about recognizing the heritage of his chosen field, Foliart was responsible for instigating the Society of Composers & Lyricists Ambassador program, which has honored numerous legends in the music profession over the years. He has served for eleven years on the ASCAP Foundation Board, four years on the ASCAP Nominating Committee, ten years on the Television Academy's Music Peer Committee, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Hollywood Symphony and the Film Music Society.
As scholars delve deeper into the myriad quantity of music composed for television, this bourgeoning field continues to reveal and define its rich history, aesthetics, and its most influential figures. This interview aims to examine and highlight the prolific work and creative process of Dan Foliart, for "family entertainment"—an enduring "genre" frequently neglected in the literature. Over his forty-three consecutive years in the business, Foliart's scores—sixty television shows, consisting of over 1,300 episodes3—have coalesced into a personal voice rooted in popular song and undergirded by an American ethos. His music constitutes a discernable sound for millions of viewers, spread over generations. Grounded in the American popular music vernacular, his signature arises through the transformation of those familiar styles—often comprised of infectious and inviting instrumental textures, and buoyed by inventive arrangements. His use of alternative guitar tunings and incorporating extramusical sounds further individualizes the tenor of his scores. Finally, through Dan's active life within Hollywood's music and film communities—by virtue of his dedicated service as an "industry citizen"—we garner a sense of the person, and a rare glimpse into the personal, creative, and political forces that underlie his career.
What composers or what scores had an influence on you? What were you attracted to as a kid that moved you?
Well, here it's very simple. I grew up in that era where the Beatles4 of course were next to God. I had to be influenced by pop music. If we want to talk about orchestral music here. ….
Well let's talk about both …
My mother was a great pianist, and she was a big influence on my life and continued to be my biggest fan. She watched every single TV show I ever did, I mean every single one, and we'd talk afterwards. She thought I should listen to some classical music when I was growing up as a kid, and so it was Tchaikovsky's5 Pathétique.6 It was Dvorak's7 New World Symphony.8 It was more coming from those kind of works than it was movie scores. I heard one piece, the Grand Canyon...