Santa Rosa native Jonathan Beard makes music for the movies

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When Jonathan Beard does his job correctly, you may not even be aware of his work. But it will affect you just the same.

The 39-year-old Santa Rosa native orchestrates and composes music for TV, movies and video games, from “Handmaid’s Tale” to “Deadpool” to the video game “Star Wars: Battlefront.”

His mission: to enhance the action and heighten emotion, without distracting or overpowering viewers. It’s a careful balancing act.

“If I do it wrong, the audience will think it’s being told how to feel,” he said from his Santa Monica home studio, a few blocks from the beach. His proximity to Los Angeles allows him to work closely with the entertainment industry.

“When composing, my job is to collaborate with the director to help deepen some of the meaning of what’s going on in the film. In the world of media, you need to be a collaborator.”

Collaboration like this doesn’t mean Beard’s work isn’t creative. Take the combined orchestral and electronic musical score Beard composed for the faith-based independent film “Heavenquest: A Pilgrim’s Progress,” released in January and based on the 17th century allegory “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”

“The score works within the film as background, but I still feel it’s enjoyable on its own merits,” Beard explained.

“I am striving to create music that can be successful on its own.”

He’s about to test that point with the release of the original soundtrack for “Heavenquest” on March 17 on digital outlets like Apple, Google Music and Spotify.

Bring life to music

Beard’s other original film scores include music for the post-apocalyptic thriller “What Still Remains” and “Frank Vs. God,” about a lawyer who sues the supreme being.

As an orchestrator, he brings life to music by other composers by choosing which instruments will play which parts and integrating the pieces into a cohesive sound and mood.

Beard and his business partners have collaborated with Dutch composer and DJ Junkie XL on “Deadpool” and composer Bear McCreary on the thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane.”

Beard’s resume isn’t limited to movie work. He co-created the oratorio “The Passion of Anne Frank” for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. And his score for the theatrical version of “Driving Miss Daisy” won recognition from the NAACP.

Hometown to Hollywood

Having his music and orchestrations featured on the big screen marks a long journey for Beard, who, as a youngster, played cello in the Santa Rosa Symphony youth orchestra.

Beard finished Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa in 1999, then took his classical music training with him to Stanford, where he majored in musical composition, then UCLA, where he earned a master’s degree.

His professional work has taken him beyond his classical training into electronic music and back to academia. In 2011, he joined the faculty at UCLA, where he still lectures on electronic music composition and music technology in the Herb Alpert School of Music.

“As an orchestrator and composer, I find a knowledge and understanding of electronic music is an essential part of the job,” he said. “I enjoy creating new sounds you can’t get from acoustic instruments.”

After 15 years in the Los Angeles area, Beard co-founded Tutti Music Partners last year with Edward Trybek and Henri Wilkinson, forming a company of creative talents that can orchestrate and prepare work by other composers for the screen.

“We were already calling each other for help on projects that were coming our way,” Beard said of the trio’s decision to band together. “Now we’re able to work together to meet tight deadlines.”

Range of credits

The firm’s credits include the horror film “Us” from last year, the long-running Marvel Comics hero TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and the online TV “Star Wars” spinoff series “The Mandalorian.”

Beard considers orchestration work every bit as challenging and creative as composing his own music. It’s also an opportunity to get in on some high-profile projects.

“On the orchestration side of our business, I get to help create music for some of the bigger studio films,” he said.

He and his Tutti Music Partners team also have worked in film with Kris Bowers on “Green Book” and Heitor Pereira on “Despicable Me 3.” For the popular “Handmaid’s Tale” TV series, the group collaborated with composer Adam Taylor.

When Beard and his partners take on the job of orchestrating another composer’s score, that includes finalizing the instruments needed and deciding which parts each instrument will play.

“Some composers will give us an extremely detailed score for us to basically transcribe to another medium,” Beard said.

“Others will sketch out some of the passages with gaps for us to fill, with or without instructions.”

The media technology explosion of recent decades has opened up opportunities that go beyond live theater, movies and TV, giving Beard the chance to work on the composing teams for video games, including “Star Wars: Battlefront” I and II.

Having created a niche himself in an extremely competitive field, Beard remains modest and somewhat surprised by his own success and how far he has come.

“I started playing the cello when I was 6,” he said, “and now I feel very lucky to be where I am.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or On Twitter @danarts. When

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