Alumnus Richard Kaufman teams with Stewart Copeland on “Ben-Hur” Production at VPAC

  • Richard Kaufman conducting the Pacific Symphony.

Imagine this: The original Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ on the big screen, with a score composed and performed by Stewart Copeland of The Police and accompanied by the Pacific Orchestra — led by distinguished alumnus conductor Richard Kaufman. A multimedia mash-up, if you will.

These elements will come together under one roof on March 16 at the Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University, Northridge.

“To be performing this at VPAC is incredible because the hall truly is one of the great places to present music anywhere,” said orchestra conductor Richard Kaufman ’77 (Music), a 2012 CSUN Distinguished Alumni Award honoree. “I’ve played a lot of concert halls, and the acoustics and the whole feel of this place really is magical.

“The Ben-Hur film is extraordinary — one of the greatest films ever made, not just silent films. The way the story is told and the visuals and how the music Stewart Copeland created for it [come together] will make this a truly unique and exciting experience for people who love film, people who love silent films, people who love music, and people who love Stewart Copeland and The Police. I feel it will be a unique and remarkable evening.”

The production debuted in 2014 at the Virginia Arts Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where the audience stood and cheered after the first half, Kaufman said. The performance at CSUN, however, has a special feeling, said Copeland, the prolific film composer and dynamic drummer and songwriter for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Police.

“I’ve gone to VPAC just to see Yo-Yo Ma and to attend concerts there,” Copeland said. “This is the hall with the sound, which is very exciting, but most exciting of all is that this is my hometown. We’re going to rock my hometown.”

Copeland and Kaufman developed a friendship when the rock legend worked on some projects with the CSUN alumnus and Grammy Award winner, who at the time supervised all MGM television and animation projects.

Copeland reached out to Kaufman to conduct the Ben-Hur project, not surprising given the maestro’s experience guiding orchestras accompanying live movies. Kaufman has conducted live performances at screenings of classics such as The Wizard of OzVertigo and Pirates of the Caribbean.

What’s the difference here?

“In one word: Stewart,” Kaufman said. “None of the other films I’ve conducted — and there have been a lot of them — have had the composer on the stage as a soloist as well. The idea that this is a silent film brought to life by a brand-new score makes it very unique.”

For tickets to the event, visit



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