Alumni Spotlight: Julie Giroux
April 21, 2023
LSU alumna Julie Giroux is a three-time Emmy Award-winning composer who continues to make waves in the world of music composition. Graduating from LSU in 1984, Giroux was the first female composer inducted into the American Bandmasters Association in 2009 and is a member of ASCAP, The Film Musicians Fund, Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma and more. As she returns to Baton Rouge for a composition residency with the LSU Department of Bands, we caught up with Giroux for a quick interview!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: Baton Rouge is a long way from Massachusetts! What led you to come study here at LSU?
My father was in the Air Force. My young journey was New Bedford, Massachusetts to San Fernando Valley, California, to Mesa, Arizona, to Camden, Arkansas, to Harmony Grove Arkansas, and finally Monroe, Louisiana. I graduated high school from Ouachita Parish High School.
I had scholarships for quite a few places, but there was an opportunity at Baton Rouge to audition for the Baton Rouge Symphony. I auditioned for third horn with the Symphony, and won the position. I also played horn in the faculty brass quintet. LSU made it possible for me not to only just get a degree, but also have years of experience playing professionally. Had I gone to Juilliard, I’m not sure I would’ve gotten any professional experience. LSU led me to where I am now, so in the end, it was the perfect choice.
Q: You began playing music and even composing at a young age. Did you always know that music composition was what you wanted your career to be in, or did that evolve over time?
I had no idea that I was going to be a composer, or make it as my living. To be honest, I didn’t think anybody made a profession as a composer when i was growing up. I just enjoyed composing. Even though I was writing music starting around three or four years of age, and all the way through college, I still didn’t think I was going to go into it as a profession. I majored in horn performance and playing horn in a major was my goal.
Through my connections with the Baton Rouge Symphony, I landed the job orchestrating for the ESPN mock Olympics my senior year at LSU. Bill Conti had been hired to write the theme music and conduct his music but that was all he agreed to. All the other music provided during the open ceremonies ended up being my job. Meeting Bill Conti changed my life. He worked with me on how to conduct an orchestra that also had a rhythm section component. I had not taken any conducting classes because again that wasn’t what I thought I was going to do with my life.
His wife, Shelby was also with him, and in the course of a week, we became great friends. Bill was extremely complementary of my arrangements. His tips on conducting that type of group were priceless. I had never conducted anything before then besides my bathroom mirror. My conducting debut was conducting the Baton Rouge Symphony in the end zone of Tiger Stadium accompanying the Rolling Stones on the 50 yard line on live television.
Not long after I graduated, Bill called me. He told me he had a contract to write for a miniseries and could use another orchestrator and asked me if I was interested. I told him absolutely! Three days later I was living in Bill Conti‘s guest quarters and orchestrating for the mini series North and South. LSU, the Baton Rouge Symphony, ESPN, and Bill Conti put me on the path to being a composer. I am lucky to say that I have made a living as as a composer from that day forward.
Q: The LSU Wind Ensemble will perform your sixth symphony, The Blue Marble, to close out their concert season. Can you share with us a little background on how this piece came to be?
Originally my 6th Symphony was going to be about space, and each movement was going to be based on a planet that we now believe could hold life for us. Then COVID-19 hit. After a year of doing nothing but eating Cheetos and playing video games waiting for the world to start back up again, I changed my mind. After so much isolation, I thought it would be better to write music about Earth to remind people of how beautiful our world is, and, despite the pandemic, was still there waiting for us. So then it became Symphony No. 6, The Blue Marble.
The title came from the first photograph of Earth in its entirety from outer space. The photograph was taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972. It is the most reproduced picture of all time. To this day, that photo is a reminder to us all, just how fragile and small our world is within the infinity of space.
Q: Any favorite LSU memories you want to share?
- Playing Pregame with Tiger Band in Tiger Stadium for the first time, and laughing out loud because the crowd was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself playing.
- Frank Wickes and Richard Norem, my band director and horn instructor. Both became two of my favorite mentors and greatly influenced not only who I am as a musician, but as a human being. So much so, that it makes me cry as I type these words. I miss the sound of their voices.
- Hanging out at Poets.
- Complaining about marching band rehearsal in Shipleys Donuts, the same place where we try just to wake up.
- Chimes, both the place and the bells.
- Sleeping on the parade grounds with my horn sitting on my chest.
- Doing marching band uniform inspections.
- Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church.
- Hanging out with friends pretty much everywhere on campus. Playing in the Greek Theatre. The smell of the band room and the performance theater.
LSU wasn’t just a university. It played a big part in my life and is a big part of who I am. For that I will always be grateful.
Julie Giroux will join the LSU Department of Bands as composer-in-residence for three concert performances April 25-27, 2023. Learn more at the links below!