Music professor composes original scores for film, TV

By Allen Jordan

When it comes to following a dream and doing what he loves, Oakland University Music, Theatre and Dance Professor Terry Herald has always followed his own beat.

Herald first fell in love with music at age 11, latching on to the British Invasion after the Beatles’ famed performance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

“When I heard it, I thought to myself, ‘this is pretty cool and different’,” Herald said. “So eventually, I became interested in playing guitar and started there.”

Playing the guitar stuck, and at 16 years old, Herald built his first guitar, which became one of many over the years. Coming up with the idea of amplifying a classic guitar eventually turned into a long-standing joint venture with Grammy award-winning guitarist Earl Klugh.

Finding his calling

Herald said marine biology was his original choice as a major out of high school before switching to classic guitar.

“I figured marine biology wouldn’t get me to where I wanted to be in life, so when I learned Wayne State had a classic guitar major, I immediately fell in love,” Herald said.

While at Wayne State, he changed his major to music theory in a decision that he said helped him become more well-rounded in the world of music.

“I wanted to expand my background in the field of music and only knowing classic guitar wasn’t going to give me the skills that I looked to obtain,” Herald explained when talking about expanding his background.

“I didn’t just want to know one thing,” Herald said. “There was no way I was going to be able to find a job without knowing more than just how to play a instrument.”

Composing music scores

While at Wayne State, Herald was under the guidance of Professor Al Yungton, whom he credits as a mentor. After Yungton retired, he asked Herald to collaborate with him in composing music scores for theatre and film.

Their first major project together was a PBS documentary special called “Air Force One: The Planes and The Presidents.”

Terry contributed some original themes to the project but it was not until the producer, Elliott Sluhan, decided to film a new, longer version of the documentary that Herald took on the position of lead composer on a project.

He composed 90 percent of the new material and conducted the 40-piece orchestra that recorded the new score. They laid down 43 separate pieces of music in four hours in the Duns Scotus Chapel in Southfield.

Herald continued to compose for film with his favorite project to date being “Journey to Justice” in 2004, about a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany and returned as an interpreter working at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials.

“That one resonates so much because it was a real challenge for me being able to match the music with the emotions of the film, which ran very deep,” Herald said. “The producers gave me free rein over what I wanted.”

Oakland and beyond

Today Herald is represented by Radical Entertainment, which is one of two companies supplying music to NBC Sports.

He is currently on staff at Oakland, where he engineers all sound recordings in Varner Hall and teaches courses in the history of film music, sound recording and accepts private composition students.

“The department values Terry most for his kindness, congeniality, flexibility and willingness to step up whenever needed,” said Jackie Wiggins, professor of music education and chair of the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance at Oakland University.

Aside from teaching at Oakland and heading a publishing company, Herald continues to explore his creative side and builds and designs microphones in his spare time.

“Just like with the guitar, I wanted to make the perfect tool when it comes to music,” Herald said. “All of these ventures I consider a challenge to perfection.”