Steve Dorff At USC: A Master Class in Versatility

(left to right) SHOF Board member/West Coast Committee Chair Mary Jo Mennella, SHOF SVP Mike O'Neill, SHOF President & CEO Linda Moran and Steve Dorff, (Kneeling)SHOF West Coast Committee Events Director Barbara Cane, USC Thornton School of Music’s Chris Sampson, SHOF Board Member Evan Lamberg, (front) SHOF West Coast Committee Members Rebekah Alperin, Mike Todd, and (back) Donna Caseine; Alison Smith; and SHOF West Coast Committee Member Michael Pizzuto (photo by Isaac Lee)

The Songwriters Hall of Fame family descended on the USC Campus on Friday April 12th as the Carson Television Stage rocked with emotion celebrating SHOF Inductee Steve Dorff.  The triple threat chart-topping songwriter, TV composer and Film scorer enthralled a full house of students with anecdotes from his illustrious career and now author of his recent book release, “I Wrote That One, Too……”

After USC Thornton School of Music’s Chris Sampson introduced SHOF President & CEO Linda Moran, she said that the members of the SHOF West Coast Committee’s efforts are all due to their passion and dedication to songwriters and pointed out the members in the audience: Rebekah Alperin, Barbara Cane, Donna Caseine, Mike Todd and Michael Pizzuto, along with SHOF Board members Evan Lamberg, President of Universal Music Publishing NA and Mike O’Neill, BMI's President & CEO. She said that under the leadership of SHOF Board member/West Coast Committee Chair Mary Jo Mennella and Sampson, the SHOF/USC Thornton Master Sessions have become the flagship program of the organization and none of it would have been happened if Barbara Cane had not forged the relationship between the SHOF and USC Thornton School of Music’s Contemporary Music Program seven years ago.

Moran continued with a presentation honoring the achievements of SHOF West Coast Committee’s Events Director Barbara Cane, who was surprised with a video tribute from David Foster and a Certificate of Appreciation from SHOF by Moran and Mennella for her commitment to the USC program. Chris Sampson, USC’s Vice Dean of the Pop Music Forum, glowingly acknowledged Cane’s longstanding commitment to the USC students and how the SHOF Master Session program has become a significant component of their curriculum.

SHOF Senior Vice President Mike O’Neill began the program by congratulating Cane (a longtime BMI executive) and introducing BMI writer Steve Dorff with a magnificent and meticulous recital of his professional credits and multiple talents including writing hits for superstars, scoring films for A-list directors such as Clint Eastwood and scoring Murphy Brown and other television series. 

Dorff emphasized several key themes throughout the day including gratitude, loyalty and the 4 T’s that have guided his career... Talent, Tenacity, Timing and Too Dumb to get into another business!!  Expressing gratitude for the many artists, key collaborators and session musicians who have been instrumental in his success, Steve spoke of the early break he received from legendary music publishing executive Bill Lowery in Atlanta.  After a successful run writing songs, his relocation to Los Angeles enabled him to continue to write hits, while pursuing his desire to score films. Always visualizing a score in his mind to all of his life experiences, he’s combined imagery and composition into his formula for success.  Dorff attributed strong and lasting bonds with Warner Bros. film music executive Gary LeMel and Warner Bros.TV exec Doug Frank that led to an extensive resume of films that yielded hit end title songs such as the George Strait’s #1 hit, “I Cross My Heart” from the film, “Pure Country.”

Sampson added, "The Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions have provided amazing role models for these students and Steve is no different. You could tell that his ability to be equally successful as a hit songwriter as well as film composer was inspiring to the students!"

After a Q & A in which several students received signed copies of Dorff’s book, the students then thanked Dorff with outstanding performances of “Every Which Way but Loose” (performed by Erez Potok-Holmes ),  “I Just Fall In Love Again” ( performed by Liza Kaye and Jordyn Warren) and “Hypnotize the Moon” (performed by Zander Hawley, Ayoni Thompson and Robert Sanders).

Following Sampson’s closing remarks, the session ended with Moran spontaneously standing up to address the students, enthusiastically stating, “This afternoon has been absolutely overwhelming! It is exactly why we here from the SHOF do what we do! It takes 20 years of writing hit songs to be inducted into the SHOF and I have no doubt that in a couple of decades a number of you will qualify for induction!"