I hadn’t paid much attention until a classmate made note of it on facebook, but Pierre native, and fellow 1984 Riggs High School graduate Calvin Jones, a professional pianist & music producer by trade contributed a portion of the soundtrack to Dinesh DeSouza’s recent movie, 2016.
Hey – 2016? I’ve heard of that movie. According to Wikipedia:
Through interviews and reenactments, the film compares the similarities of the lives of D’Souza and President Barack Obama as D’Souza presents his theory alleging that early influences on Obama are affecting the decisions he makes as president.
Not bad. Not bad at all. After I noticed it, via facebook, I sent Calvin a note, and he was very gracious, and took some time to talk about his experience working on the movie.
PP at the SDWC: Calvin, I’ve followed your work some, but I hadn’t realized you had entered into working on Movie Soundtracks.
CJ: Yes, well I’ve been composing and producing for soundtracks for about 20 years. Most of my work was for man who created my first album covers, Jim Hanon. He was art director and created many ads and films and asked me to create the music for them. As a result, I’ve worked for many different clients from McDonalds and Hallmark to Right to Life, Life Athletes, Promise Keepers, Mel Trotter Ministries and so many others.
As he transitioned to short film and feature films the projects became larger. I was asked to contribute music to “Little Town Of Bethlehem” where I did additional production and some sound design along with original tracks. I loved doing this project.
I got to spend many weeks creating a no holds barred Lord of the Rings epic track that not only was the score for some footage of violence but also ended up being edited and used as the trailer for “2016: Obama’s America”! It was over 200 tracks in the mix down, over 70 of them were drums.
Anyway, I guess they liked what I created so in January 2012 Jim asked me to do the soundtrack for this film. Some guy named Dinesh D’Souza who had written a New York Times bestseller was doing this documentary. He didn’t tell me at first who I was working for. Maybe that was good or I might have been nervous about sending them tracks! Well about 3 months in I had just sent them a track when Jim calls up and tells me everyone is loving the tracks and by the way, did I know that I was working for producer Gerald Molen, producer of “Braveheart”, “Schindler’s List”, “Jurassic Park”?
So I thought “wow” that is awesome but still had not grasped where this was going, all though I probably should have.
Well, we were working night and day. I was basically doing all the music myself with a couple of cues outsourced and I was working 16-18 hours a day for about 6 months. We were on a deadline to release this in the summer and there were things that didn’t get done the way I would have liked because of the deadlines.
PP at the SDWC: How did you realize how well the movie was being received across the country?
CJ: Well one day in August I’m looking online for movies to see and I notice that my movie is playing in Fort Collins! “2016:Obama’s America” was sold out however all weekend. It ended up setting a new record for per capita per screen. More people filled the available screenings for this movie than any other in history.
It was number one at the box office when it opened and ended up being the second highest grossing documentary ever at $36 million.
PP at the SDWC: You noted that “were things that didn’t get done the way I would have liked because of the deadlines.” Anything you wish you could have done differently?
CJ: Well one of the things about the music I wanted to change was to record it all with live orchestra. So I had planned a trip to Ukraine as it is an excellent place for doing this type of work. Even though our budget and time was too tight for this, I came over and began working with orchestras in Ukraine. I performed my first concert with a philharmonic in Khmelnitsky Ukraine in March of 2013.
So now I’m living another dream of mine, that of combining the best of my piano compositions with live orchestra and it is stunning. I’ll never forget the first day of rehearsal. I had had 2 flights cancelled and had finally made it to Kiev. I took an overnight train in winter that was probably 90 degrees and I arrived in Khmelnitsky at 6 am in the morning after 36 hours of travel. At 10 am I had my first rehearsal! I was running on fumes then but when the orchestra began playing with me on “Compassion” and the strings swelled, I knew it was all worth it!
PP at the SDWC: What’s in your future after working on this project?
CJ: So now I’m working on different projects including producing an orchestral CD. I will be doing a crowd funding campaign to raise funds for this very soon. Those interested should follow me on Facebook at or email me on my website at http://calvinjones.com/?page_id=11.
As a side note, some of my South Dakota friends will know I was born in Eureka and after moving to Nebraska and back I grew up in Pierre. I performed my debut concert in Pierre and my 2nd concert in Rapid City at the Civic Center Theatre. The video of “Whitewater Chopped Sticks” of this event is on youtube at http://calvinjones.com/?portfolio=whitewater-chopped-sticks-performed-by-calvin-jones.
Some may also have followed the huge win at the Miss America pageant in 2011 when my friend Teresa Scanlan, Miss Nebraska performed a 90 second afterburner version of “Whitewater Chopped Sticks” to become the youngest winner at 17 years old to take the crown! I see this year Miss DC just won with the “Whitewater Chopped Sticks”.
I have been asked to write songs for other contestants as well. This year Abigail Schwartz, Colorado’s Outstanding teen will be performing my new song “Celtic Joy” at the Miss America Outstanding Teen in Orlando coming up July 29th!
Very interesting, and great to see the success of a fellow South Dakotan. Huge thanks to Calvin for the interview!