Alan Menken and his experiences with ADHD
We all must have heard and seen a lot of Disney movies growing up. Right from The Little Mermaid to Aladdin till the recent ones like Tangled or Enchanted etc. Disney has been a huge part of my childhood and adolescent life. Apart from the movies, I also really loved the songs and the whole process of animated musicals.
But a lot of you are not aware of who Alan Menken right? I mean, in a movie especially an animated one, the story is narrated in the form of art and the process of narration. Music also plays a pivotal role in this huge process. So today we are going through the journey of Alan Menken, a multi award winning composer who greatly composed for the background score and music for the Walt Disney Animation studios.
Who is Alan Menken? The life and journey of the composer
Alan Menken is a legendary composer who has created some of the most iconic and beloved songs and musical scores of all time. His unique voice has captured the hearts of the audiences worldwide for more than 35 years.
He is well known for his music both on stage and screen. His works include collaborating with the Walt Disney Company along several projects like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin etc. along with Broadway musicals like Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors and Newsies. With Eight Academy Awards, Alan has received more Oscars than any other person, with the recipient of several other awards including Golden Globes, Grammys, Drama Desk Awards and a Tony Award.
Alan Menken was born July 22nd, 1949 at French Hospital in New York City, to young aspiring actress/playwright, Judy Menken and boogiewoogie piano-playing dentist, Norman Menken, DDS. He grew up in a home, filled with music and theater (and comedy and drama) in New Rochelle, New York, along with his sisters, Faye and Leah.
Alan’s ambition, from his earliest memories, was to become a composer. Much as he would have expected to become a dentist, like most of the other men in three generations of his family, he was a very ADHD child. Studying was like pulling teeth (no pun intended) and even practicing piano was a trial. Instead of learning pieces, Alan would get the basic idea of a Beethoven Sonata or a Bartok Mikrokosmos and spend the rest of his practice time “faking it”. When his piano teacher, Emily Harris, or his violin teacher, Editha Braham realized what he was doing they wisely suggested that this be encouraged, so Alan began composing, as well as pretending to practice
Upon graduating from NYU, he took a collection of his songs and wrote a rock-ballet for The Downtown Ballet Company, called ‘Children Of The World’. The work itself has mercifully faded into the distant past, but one aspect of that experience became the best moment in his life; meeting a beautiful ballet dancer named Janis Roswick. As of November 26th, 2019, they are together 48 years and married for 47. In the years between graduation and actually earning a living as a composer, Alan worked as a ballet and modern dance accompanist, a musical director for club acts, a jingle writer, arranger, a songwriter for ’Sesame Street’ and a vocal coach. He performed his material at clubs like The Ballroom, Reno Sweeny and Tramps. He showcased material from early musicals like ‘Midnight’ , ‘Harry The Rat’ and ‘Apartment House’. He contributed material to revues like ‘New York’s Back In Town’ , ‘Big Apple Country’ and ‘The Present Tense’. And then he met Howard Ashman. Until working with Ashman, Alan Menken was almost exclusively a composer/lyricist. But starting in 1978, when they met to discuss a musical of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, GOD BLESS YOU MR ROSEWATER, Alan and Howard became a songwriting team.