June 19, 2019

Talking with NPR Theme Song Composer BJ Leiderman

Episode 7:

For over 30 years, award-winning composer BJ Leiderman has enjoyed a multifaceted career as a composer, lyricist, producer, copywriter and voice talent. He is best known as the composer of the themes for Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Car Talk, The People’s Pharmacy, Common Ground, A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! on National Public Radio and Science Friday and Marketplace on Public Radio International.

As Creative Director of BJ Leiderman Music, Leiderman has scored numerous TV and radio commercials and corporate promotional videos for clients including Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, US Air, Corporation For Public Broadcasting, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Chamber of Commerce, General Mills and General Electric. His TV credits include Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, The Annenberg/CPB Project and Christian Broadcasting Network.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • BJ and Bryan conduct their interview walking through nature near BJ’s home in Asheville, North Carolina
  • BJ teaches Bryan how to do a meditative walk in nature, with deliberate walking and careful breathing techniques
  • How BJ contracted Lyme Disease right before traveling to Israel in the 1990s, and how that left him with neurological difficulties that affect his cognitive function
  • How BJ’s neurological problems have made it virtually impossible for him to learn new songs, and how he has learned to work around the challenge
  • How BJ’s 2017 album, BJ, was created and produced, and how he worked with Grammy award-winning artist Bela Fleck on the album
  • BJ plays pieces of his famous NPR theme songs on his hybrid piano, demonstrating his remarkable work
  • How BJ first got involved with NPR in 1977 after submitting a jingle demo cassette to an employee at NPR, and how he was chosen to write the music for Morning Edition
  • How BJ connected with trombonist and arranger James Pugh to collaborate at the request of NPR, and why BJ has such great respect for James
  • Why the on-air radio credit turned BJ Leiderman into a household name, and why a radio credit was worth more to BJ than a screen credit
  • How a friend of BJ’s mother gave him his first jingle-writing assignment, and how writing jingles was an irresistible creative challenge to BJ
  • How the Beatles were a major influence on BJ and his friends when he was young, and how that taught BJ about the key principles of music
  • Why BJ struggled in college and spent more time doing drugs than studying, and how he decided to get into advertising
  • How moving to New York and connecting with other creatives was transformative for BJ, and why he decided eventually to leave New York
  • How BJ was nominated for and won a Clio Award, the advertising equivalent of a Grammy, for his work
  • Why BJ describes having Lyme Disease as a “slow-motion hammer to the head”, and why he struggles with auditory learning
  • How BJ connected with Bela Fleck for his album, and what it was like meeting Bela for the first time
  • Why BJ is disappointed that the dominance of streaming music has damaged the quality of the sound itself
  • Why smartphones have destroyed the quality of phone calls, and why BJ believes we have chosen convenience over quality
  • How BJ spent his life following his interests, and why his philosophy has always been that “life is ludicrous”
  • What advice BJ would offer to a young person entering the adult world, and why learning how to learn is the most important thing that can be taught in college
  • Where BJ tends to spend his time in the community of Asheville, North Carolina

Additional resources:


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