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Saturday, October 16, 2021

UC Davis alum Evan Monheit soars as film composer

Evan Monheit did not major in music when he attended UC Davis. However, after he graduated in 2004 with a degree in communication, he took the proverbial leap into Hollywood and has succeeded where so many have failed, simply by doing what he loves.

This self-taught pianist and Davis native has lately started his own music production company, called Evan Monheit Productions, in which he freelances writing compositional pieces for film, trailers and commercials

If you ask Monheit when he first fell in love with music, he will tell you it was always part of him and his family. His mother, a piano teacher, made him start taking piano lessons at the ripe age of eight.

“I hated them because I really just wanted to play it, not learn it. I pretended to sight read, I have a good ear for music, and after I stopped taking lessons I just sort of self-taught everything else,” Monheit said.

But the road to the lifestyle of the rich and famous did not seem within reach.

“I did not think that music was a viable option for my career. But I moved to L.A. to break into the industry somehow, and ended up at a temp agency,” he said.

After a slew of administrational jobs, including horror stories that resemble the exploits of Entourage’s Ari Gold, Evan experienced the best thing that could ever happen to him: he got laid off.

“I had a month where I was able to de-stress and think about what I wanted to do,” Monheit said. “I decided to set goals for myself, not too narrow, but to do something that I love, and I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted to be passionate about it.”

One night at a party, he met a trailer editor for Mojo, a trailer distributing company, who asked him to write a piece of music for the trailer he was working on. The editor’s boss happened to in the room as he listened to Evan’s piece, and loved it. His music was featured in the trailer for the movie Orphan.

“As soon as that was a set thing, I knew this was a sign I was on the right path, so I started my own company,” Monheit remembered.

After his first success, Evan went on to write music for more Warner Bros. films, including White Out and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

To add to his already incredible luck, Monheit soon met film composer John Ottman (Valkyrie, Gothica, X Men 2) and entered into a mentorship with him that proved to be a rich experience.

“He gave me this really juicy, big action scene in the movie The Resident, with Hilary Swank, to compose for, and helped me through the process,” Monheit said.

Even though he hasn’t reached his all time goal of composing a full-length feature film, Monheit feels confident that he can achieve this before he’s 30.

Recently, Monheit, who is also an avid singer, returned to Davis to judge Davis Community Idol, a talent competition held at Davis High School. He thought he surprised contestants with his honest critique.

“Most of the competitors were a lot older than me, and have been on the scene for years, and were probably expecting me to just sit back like a hot shot. I gave them honest, constructive criticism, and I think that really shocked them,” he said.

While attending Davis High School, Evan participated in many school productions and choir, which was where his passion for music manifested itself.

While in Davis for the Davis Idol competition he also guest lectured to high school and UC Davis students.

“I really want to inspire them to stay in music. That really meant a lot to me. I really do want to have a great relationship with Davis, and somehow give back,” he said.

Dr. Karen Gardias, Davis High School’s teacher in AP Music Theory and choir remembers Evan as a good student.

“He was very conscientious and so enthusiastic about music, drama and theater in general. Just what you’d want in a student.” Gardias said.

She said his experiences in high school have helped him succeed professionally.

“It inspired him. He won a solo vocal competition and I think it was helpful for him to gain some confidence and a way to recognize that he had some talent and he should move forward with it.”

During his visit to Davis, Evan lectured one of Gardias’ classes.

“He gave a passionate speech about if you love something you should go for it, he took the big plunge and it made a huge difference in his life,” she said.

In addition to talking to the class, Evan has also offered to write some compositional pieces for the choir to perform.

“It’s so exciting to see someone who isn’t egotistical in the music industry, in the position he’s in and he’s still giving back. I think it’s just fantastic,” Gardias said.

Amelia Triest, a lecturer in music theory at UC Davis, remembers Evan as an extremely ambitious, yet engaging student.

“He was a student in my first-year musician class in 2002, and he proved to be extremely capable and enthusiastic with very good musical instincts,” Triest said. “He was unbelievably friendly and nice to all his peers and that has not changed at all.”

It’s his ability to connect with people that Triest feels has been the source of his success.

“It’s very helpful for making connections in L.A., but its not just your musical capabilities but also your ability to work with other people, because it’s a collaborative art,” she said.

With that, Monheit was not only able to pursue a career in music, but accomplish something very few can.

“Evan is a great example of perseverance and going after what you really want to do – your dream,” Triest said.

BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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