CSUN Alumnus Hal Rosenfeld Inspires with the Beat of a Drum
For California State University, Northridge alumnus Hal Rosenfeld, life came full circle after seeing his name in the end credits at the same movie theater he worked at through high school.
Now a notable percussionist, composer, arranger and orchestrator whose work can be heard in more than 60 films, television shows and video video games — including The Greatest Showman and The Hate U Give — Rosenfeld ’16 (Media Composition) emphasizes that hard work and dedication do in fact reward you.
“This is something I’ve always dreamed of. After overloading myself with internships for a summer, I stayed in Los Angeles, and I heard about the media composition program at CSUN, which is a program training students to essentially do what I want to do,” said Rosenfeld. “I told myself, ‘This is perfect!’ I can learn what I can and work in parallel, which I am very fortunate to have done. I felt that most of my professors were very supportive of that.”
Rosenfeld transferred to CSUN’s media composition program in 2013 after moving from his hometown Boca Raton, Fla., to work in Los Angeles. He said everything worked out due to saying yes to any opportunity that came his way, while concurrently receiving his education at CSUN.
Growing up, Rosenfeld always knew he wanted to be involved with film and television but didn’t have an outlet from the start. He always loved films, video games and music but didn’t know his passions would eventually collide. At 9 years old, after relentlessly asking his parents for a drum set, he finally started his path when he had his first drum lesson.
“My parents had me singing from the age of 3. I was always doing something. I always had too much on my plate,” said Rosenfeld. “I really wanted to play the drums and finally when I was 9, I couldn’t sing anymore and had my first drum lesson. I was enrolled at a performing arts middle school, where I learned jazz and orchestral music at the same time, which is really helpful now.”
Fast forward to today, some of Rosenfeld’s recent work includes playing drums and percussion on the Oscar-nominated film, The Greatest Showman in the song A Million Dreams and the entire underscore. He enjoyed the collaborative and experimental process of recording for the film with director Michael Gracey, along with composers Joseph Trapanese and John Debney.
“It was a reactive experience where I would have the movie in front of me and play, while reading sheet music for the first time,” said Rosenfeld. “When I get called to play for film, sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to play, and that’s what’s interesting for me — the element of surprise.”
Rosenfeld has met many influential people throughout his journey who have helped him continue his goals. Upon graduating from high school, he met Grammy award-winning drummer and CSUN alumnus Gordon Goodwin ’77 (Music), whom he worked with closely on a variety of projects, including performances with his Grammy Award-winning Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.
He recalled assisting Goodwin on a recording session during his second week in Los Angeles, where he walked into the control room at EastWest Studios for the first time and saw the late Phil Ramone, producer for Billy Joel and Elton John, engineering, months before he passed away.
Rosenfeld attributes his success to taking on various roles within music, which taught him skills that surpassed his original plan. In addition to composing and performing, he worked with a musician contractor, taught percussion at a high school and prepared individual sheet music parts for recording sessions and live shows. Later on, he worked as a drum technician for established percussionist Bernie Dresel and studied orchestration with film orchestrator Ladd McIntosh, crediting both as mentors. With his determination combined with technique, Rosenfeld was able to form connections with notable musicians that helped him mold his career.
As an aspiring musician working at movie theaters, Rosenfeld would enjoy watching the credits roll after movies and kept note of the names he would see, hoping one day he might see his own name on the big screen. He always said yes to job opportunities where “one gig led to another” and he continued to make connections in the entertainment industry. Rosenfeld’s credits now include participating in the recent Robin Hood film as a music arranger, and playing drums and percussion instruments on The Hate U Give and A Series of Unfortunate Events, just to name a few projects. He is also the current house drummer for The Daytime Emmy Awards.
Rosenfeld continues to add to his resume with his contributions on Joseph Trapanese’s scores for the 2018 Cannes Film Festival’s award-nominated Arctic, which is “an emotional story about a man lost in the arctic, fighting for survival,” and music-driven nature film, Awaken, produced by Terrence Malick, both set for release on Feb. 1, 2019. He also played drums on the third episode of the Hulu’s series Into the Dark and contributed music preparation services to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 Christmas Concert.
“The fact that I can do what I have always dreamed of doing makes me very happy. This is a career path that is very creatively fulfilling,” he said. “After high school and even after moving to LA, I worked at a couple of movie theaters where I cleaned trash. It was very sentimental for me to go back to the same theater and watch my name on the credits. My goal is to inspire people like that. Anything is possible, if you work really hard, have an open mind and be somebody who people want to spend time with.”