Legacy Conversations: Sandy DeCrescent

Sandy DeCrescent with director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams

Legendary music contractor talks her 50+ years career in Hollywood’s film music industry and her long and fruitful collaboration with composer John Williams

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto

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The creation of a film’s musical score involves not just composers, arrangers, musicians, and sound technicians, but a whole slew of industry professionals who take care of many specific components that are crucial for the full success of a film’s soundtrack. One of these essential roles is the music contractor, basically the person in charge of finding, selecting and contracting all the players and musicians who will perform in the orchestra/ensemble for the film’s recording, as per the composer’s specific requests–whom might have written some specific passages in the score with a specific musician, or section, in mind. Taking this very key and delicate role for most of the film scores recorded in Los Angeles in the last 50+ years is the esteemed Sandy DeCrescent.

Sandy DeCrescent is the leading music contractor working in the Hollywood’s film industry. Her impressive resumé includes literally thousands of films, including many of the most beloved and successful ever produced (Jaws, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Avatar). She worked closely for most, if not all, the most in-demand film composers of the last four decades such as Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Alan Silvestri, Randy Newman, Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, and of course John Williams.

Sandy DeCrescent and contractor Peter Rotter during a recording session for James Newton Howard’s ‘Lady in the Water’ in 2006 (Photo courtesy of ScoringSessions.com)

Sandy met John Williams back in the early 1960s, when both were employed at Revue Studios (Universal Pictures’ television arm at that time) under music supervisor Stanley Wilson, a key figure for both her and Maestro Williams. Under Wilson’s tutelage, Sandy worked first as assistant to contractor Robert Helfer, managing musicians and players for anthology series like Alcoa Premiere Theater and Kraft Suspense Theater, but also popular weekly shows such as Bachelor Father, M Squad and Wagon Train. After Helfer’s passing, DeCrescent began to work directly as music contractor and orchestra manager herself, managing musicians for television scores written by a full army of amazing composers (who were all working under the same roof at Universal back then), including Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Quincy Jones, Dave Grusin, Lalo Schifrin. She was the first woman in that role in an era where the industry was dominated almost exclusively by men in virtually every managing position.

A young John Williams and music supervisor Stanley Wilson (right) during a recording sessions at Revue Studios/Universal in the early 1960s

During her work at Universal in the early 1970s, Sandy DeCrescent met a very young Steven Spielberg during the recording of the score for the director’s acclaimed TV movie Duel (1971, music by Billy Goldenberg). They met again a few of years later when John Williams recorded the score for the director’s theatrical debut, The Sugarland Express. Sandy worked with John and Steven virtually on every film they did since then, forming a stupendous team that still goes on nowadays.

John Williams conducts an orchestra of studio musicians contracted by Sandy DeCrescent for the recording sessions of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ (2019) at the Sony Scoring Stage in Los Angeles. Photo © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd.

In the 1980s, Sandy started her own service company and ammassed an astounding line-up of credits that includes almost every orchestral film score recorded in Los Angeles since then. In recent years, Sandy scaled back a lot her workload, but still keeps herself busy whenever composers like John Williams and Randy Newman call her to contract the orchestra for them—in 2019, Sandy worked on Randy Newman’s acclaimed scores for both Toy Story 4 and Marriage Story, and also on Williams’s long-awaited final score for the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J.J. Abrams. Nowadays, she is assisted by contractors Peter Rotter and Timothy Loo.

Sandy DeCrescent greets the orchestra at the start of the scoring sessions for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Photo © Lucasfilm

In this conversation, Sandy talks about her long and illustrious career in Hollywood alongside many great film composers, her first steps at Universal Studios under Stanley Wilson, the challenges of being a woman in an almost exclusively male environment, and her long and fruitful collaboration with John Williams.


Special thanks to Tim Greiving for the help and support. A very heartfelt thank you to Sandy for her generosity and kindness.

Musical excerpts featured in the episode (all composed by John Williams except where noted):

. “Out to Sea” from Jaws (1975)
. Opening theme from Kraft Suspense Theater – Season 2 (1964)
. “Prologue” from West Side Story – Original Film Soundtrack (1961), music composed by Leonard Bernstein; MGM orchestra conducted by Johnny Green
. Opening theme from Bachelor Father – Season 3 (1962)
. Excerpt from “Mr. Lucifer”, Alcoa Premiere Theater (1962)
. Excerpt from “The Deep End”, Kraft Suspense Theater (1964)
. Excerpt from “The Robrioz Ring”, Kraft Suspense Theater (1964)
. Excerpt from “The World I Want”, Kraft Suspense Theater (1964)
. Closing theme from Kraft Suspense Theater – Season 1 (1963)
. “Promenade (Tourists on the Menu)” from Jaws (1975)
. “Main Title” from Take a Hard Ride (1975), Music by Jerry Goldsmith
. “Finale” from Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
. “Sophie and the BFG” from The BFG (2016)
. “Main Title” from Jaws (1975)
. “Main Title” from Catch Me If You Can (2002)
. “I Could Have Done More” from Schindler’s List (1993)
. “The Scavenger” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
. Theme from Sabrina (1995); violin solo by Anne-Sophie Mutter
. “Sea Attack Number One” from Jaws (1975)
. “Sophie and the BFG” from The BFG (2016)

sandydecrescent_illustration GianMariaCaschetto.jpg
Sandy DeCrescent (Original illustration by Gianmaria Caschetto © 2019)

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