The best advice Norman Mamey ever received was not to do anything the way people expect you to. He has parlayed that knowledge into a successful musical career as a composer, symphony conductor, and motion picture scorer.
The past music director-conductor of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra received a Masters degree in Symphonic Conducting, and received the prestigious Stanley Lebowsky Award also in conducting from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has also been conductor of the San Juan Capistrano Symphony, is currently working in film, television, and recording projects, and has been producer of the Christmas Spectaculars at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles Music Center, and most recently at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.
A native of Los Angeles, Norman’s interest in music began at the age of four, but he did not officially begin piano instruction until the age of 7 1/2 when his hands were large enough for the keyboard. As with all young boys, what started as fun soon became a difficult task. But Norman’s father insisted that he continue to study, and set a very strict practice schedule for the youth: two hours before school and one hour after.
Norman recalls, “I really didn’t like my Dad for making me practice, but after a number of years, I had this incredible discipline and then, he couldn’t keep me away from the piano. However, at that point, Dad felt he had made a major mistake, since he wanted me to be a lawyer.”
At Pepperdine University, Norman continued to participate in student productions as he had at Hollywood High, where he was pianist for Brigadoon, Kiss Me Kate, and My Fair Lady. He won the first prize trophy in Pepperdine’s All-Student Talent Contest and was invited to go on a nine-week U.S.O. Tour of the Far East and the Philippines the first semester after his freshman year. Upon his return, his parents consented to his majoring in music.
Until college, Norman had set his sights on being a pianist, but Pepperdine gave him a chance to expand his abilities when he was named Fine Arts Chairman of the Student Board. He began putting on big shows – as theatrical and outrageous, as he could get away with – keeping consistent with his belief to do the unexpected. As a result, it was natural for him to expand his interests into the areas of conducting and orchestration.
Following graduation, Norman taught at Pepperdine (1972 to 1973) while he pondered an age-old question, “What should I do with my life?” He made a list of people whose work he respected – Michael LeGrand, John Williams, Henry Mancini, Andre Previn, Peter Nero, Peter Matz – and spoke with all of them. Around that same time, he attended a Johnny Mathis concert and was impressed by Roy Rogosin, Mathis’ conductor. Norman’s mother suggested he contact Rogosin to see if he would take him on as a student. He did, and apprenticed with Roy for five years. Norman credits Rogosin with teaching him what the word “music” meant.
Norman’s other teachers include: Edith Knox, classical piano; Paul Smith, jazz piano; Dr. Joseph Wagner, theory and composition; Dr. Albert Harris, composition and film scoring; Lyle “Spud” Murphy; theory and composition; D’Arneill Pershing, Sammy Nestico, and Billy Byers, arranging; Alf Clausen, arranging and film scoring; Dennis Russell Davies, Kresimir Sipusch, Hansel Rayner, Dr. Frederic Zweig, and most notably, Samuel Krachmalnick, symphony conducting; and, Ray George, choral conducting.
However, it was Rogosin who gave Norman his first major break in 1977 by introducing him to Shields and Yarnell. Norman became their conductor when the duo opened for Olivia Newton-John at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Two weeks later, they were offered a CBS-TV variety show. Norman was offered the position of composer and musical director.
When the series ended, Norman continued as musical director for Shields and Yarnell, and added Roslyn Kind (Barbra Streisand’s sister), the Smothers Brothers, Bert Convy, Anthony Newley, and Ted Knight to his client roster. In 1977, he served as conductor for the Prince Charles Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and music director for the CBS Affiliates Dinner. In 1978, Norman’s Twenty-Nine Miles from Boston was the USA’s entry in the International Music Festival in Santiago, Chile. In 1979, he served as musical director for the national company of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. His work on The Magic of David Copperfield television special resulted in an Emmy Award nomination in 1981. In 1983, he was the recipient of the Southern California Motion Picture Council Award.
Since 1976, he has composed, arranged, and conducted for such television shows as The Lemon Tree (PBS), Two in the Box (HBO), Red Skelton’s Funny Faces (HBO), The Muppet Show (syndicated), Christmas at Walt Disney World (NBC), Bob Hope’s 75th Birthday (NBC), The Merv Griffin Show (syndicated), Israel’s 30th Birthday Salute (ABC), The Mike Douglas Show (syndicated), The New Soupy Sales Show (syndicated), and segments of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (NBC) and the ABC/MGM television movie, Beat the Turtle Drum.
For motion pictures, Norman did the orchestrations and conducting for the Paramount film Bonelli, and appeared and played the piano score in Lifeguard. Additionally, he composed the motion picture scores for Man on the Moon starring Jim Carey, and Round Numbers and Satan’s Princess that have been released on Coyote Home Video and Paramount Pictures Video, respectively.
Norman has also guest conducted the following symphonies and choral groups: The Los Angeles Philharmonic (Israel’s 30th Birthday Salute), The Dallas Symphony, The Munich Symphony, The Dusseldorf Symphony, The Burbank Symphony, The Pepperdine University Orchestra and Chorus, The University of Southern California Symphony, The University of California at Los Angeles Symphony, and the Archdiocese Choir of the Antiochian Orthodox Church of North America. He served as choral director of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church from 1972 until 1990. From 1991 to 1996, he was choral director of St. Steven’s Cathedral Choir.
In theatre, Norman was the associate conductor of Jerome Kern’s Leave it to Jane at the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles, for which he recreated the original orchestrations; served as associated conductor for The Boys from Syracuse, also at the Doolittle in 1987; musical director for Charles Strouse’s By Strouse at UCLA; and, musical director for Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along at UCLA in 1988-89. Norman has just completed orchestrations for the new Broadway musical, Another Summer (On Golden Pond), with book and lyrics by Ernest Thompson.
In 1984, Pepperdine University, commissioning its first classical work ever, asked Norman to compose it. He selected The Life of Love, a poem by Kahlil Gibran, upon which to base the music. It had its world premiere in Malibu, California, with 135 musicians in the chorus and orchestra, to a standing ovation by the packed audience and rave reviews.
Norman has been producer, creator, conductor, and arranger for the Christmas Spectacular at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center in 1986, 1988, and 1990. In addition, he wore the same ‘hats’ for the Kahlil Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in October 1991, that starred Melissa Manchester and Norm Crosby.
In 1992, he produced A Luncheon with Milton Berle at the Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, California, and in October, was bestowed with a Special Achievement Award in Music at Rice University. His jazz trio played to ‘sold out’ audiences at the famous Glendale Grill. In November of that year, Mamey conducted the Symphony of the New World Orchestra in An Evening with George Gershwin.
In 1994, Norman produced An Album of Carols for Chorus and piano and completed three cuts for the Red & Stimpy Christmas Album with symphony orchestra for Sony-Epic Tapes and CD’s that went ‘gold.’ He produced The Glendale Christmas Spectacular at the Alex Theatre in December 1994. For Glendale Classic Theatre Company, A Noise Within, Norman scored their production of Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well. In 1995, he wrote the scores for their opening production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the score for Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters, and their last production of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. He recently completed writing Cartoonz for the Sonotom Music Library and the newest Sesame Street album.
Norman has been a professor at Citrus College, Glendora, California, where he was in charge of the Piano and Music Theory programs. Due to his teaching techniques and popularity among the students, he holds the distinction of having had more music theory students than any other instructor in the State of California. Additionally, he has taught musicianship (ear training), counterpoint, arranging, and orchestration at the institution. Privately, he teaches both piano and music theory, symphony conducting, music composition, classical piano, and Jazz piano.
On the personal side, Norman and his four daughters – Joanna, Jessica, Jillian, and Joy – reside in Glendale. He has served and continues to serve the community, helping the boards of the Glendale Hospital Foundation, Glendale Association for the Retarded, American Red Cross, Glendale Kiwanis Club, Alex Theatre Regional Board, Friends of the Glendale Public Library, and as President Emeritus of the Alex Theatre Associates.
Norman’s goals are to continue his career as a symphony conductor, film and television composer and recording artist.