2007: Jefferson Health Theme
on July 17, 2017
  • original music

I've had the opportunity to write for many of the Delaware Valley's top healthcare providers, including scores for Abington, Einstein, and Kennedy hospitals as well as previously discussed themes for the Temple and Cooper University Health Care systems. Several of these compositions enjoyed extended runs, but the one that wound up receiving the most airplay was a theme for Jefferson Health that began as a score for a single TV spot in 2004.

That spot, titled "Elizabeth," arrived from NFL Films with a phone call from Matt Caspari, Creative Director of the Wilmington-based agency Caspari McCormick. The direction he provided was intriguing: the spot had an intimate, Malick-esque quality, and he wanted the score to be ethereal, "somewhere between sound design and music." He informed me that at least one other composer would be pitching a demo, and that the winning track would be chosen in consultation with the in-house marketing team at Jefferson.

I began as usual by watching the ad repeatedly, taking note of its narrative arc, tone, and pacing. I then began improvising on piano and quickly found the simple, ti-do-fa melody that seems to sing "Jef-fer-son" at the open and close of the spot. This established bookends for a dreamy adagio in which piano, acoustic guitar, and 'cello explore additional three-note motifs over an ephemeral bed of breathy synth sounds. Jeff Kay handled the guitar lines beautifully, and Tony Pirollo delivered a sensitive and heartfelt 'cello performance. Though I was pleased with the result, I never intended it as a theme that would have a life beyond this one ad.

When I learned a few days later that my score had been selected I had no idea that I would wind up adapting and reinventing it for virtually every ad that Jefferson aired over the next decade. The first few were much like "Elizabeth," but Matt soon began sending over spots that had very different musical requirements. The challenge became taking the melodic motifs from "Elizabeth" that signaled "Jefferson" and setting them in whatever musical style was appropriate for each ad. One of the more interesting reimaginings was necessitated by a 2006 TV spot featuring Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Matt wanted to hear a heartbeat throughout the spot, and this became the foundation for a rhythm track comprised of weight room sounds that I sampled and played back from a keyboard. Once this "groove" was in place, I adjusted the familiar melodic elements to fit the tempo and added some sound design for dramatic effect.

My favorite reinvention of the theme was originally created in 2007 as the underscore for a single TV spot, but later became the theme for a series of lighthearted Jeff Now ads (heard repeatedly during Phillies broadcasts). Matt's clever, whimsical banter made the jazz setting a no-brainer, with Jeff stroking the Freddie Green-style rhythm guitar part and trading Jefferson licks with popular local band leader Kenny I on violin.

Another interesting variation came about in 2010 when Jefferson opened new facilities at The Navy Yard. The radio spot Matt scripted featured a drill instructor calling cadence as troops marched to a military band playing the Jefferson theme. Baker's Rick DiDonato recorded the call-and-response vocals, so my job was to add the marching effects and music. Since the marching would dictate the tempo, I began by sampling a variety of footfalls and placing them against a click track that was close to the cadence of the vocals. Rick & I then fine-tuned the vocals to fit the marching, and I wrote a military band arrangement of the Jefferson theme with Skip Spratt on clarinet and piccolo, Dennis Wasko on trumpet, and Paul Arbogast on trombone.

My ten years working on Jefferson ads were an absolute pleasure. Matt is an incredible talent who consistently brings fresh ideas and challenges, and the steady hand of veteran broadcast producer Pat Cannon ensured that production always went smoothly. Most importantly, the in-house marketing team at Jefferson--affectionately dubbed "the Jefferson ladies"--was unfailingly supportive. They were the first to recognize that my music had become a sonic identifier for their brand, and saw the value in staying with it year after year. Many clients have since asked me to compose something that will have a mnemonic effect "like the Jefferson theme"; I tell them that the secret is not so much in the composing as in the advertiser's willingness to commit to the music the way Jefferson did, because repetition is ultimately what makes any music "stick."

Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.