Before earning an Emmy nomination last week for her work on the series finale of Once Upon a Time, Cindy O’Connor began her career as a musical theater composer…well, actually it goes back further than that. Her parents love to regale their friends with stories of Cindy composing at the age of 5, writing song on her keyboard called “The Aku-Aku Foot Disease” while her family was living in Japan. It all began there. Flash forward to 1993, writing the music for All That He Was in collaboration with Larry Todd Johnson where she won the National Playwright Award and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for New Play. The darkly comic musical, about one man’s struggle with AIDS where the deceased functions as host and narrator, invisible among the friends and family assemble to pay him final respects, has since been produced in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and several theaters across the US.
O’Connor worked from the ground up in television and film, with Emmy-winning Oscar-nominated composer Mark Isham taking her under his wing. The two have collaborated for over a decade and share that 2018 Emmy nomination with Michael D. Simon. Throughout her musical career she’s worked on the Oscar-winning film Crash, Blade, The Conjuring 2, The Black Dahlia and as the composer for shows like The Black Donnellys and the television adaptation of Crash.
I chatted with Cindy about her first Emmy nomination (and being the only female nominated in the Music Composition categories), jamming with Pat Benatar and the importance of advocacy for women composers and in the film and television industry. She’s also a member of the Alliance of Female Composers. On September 4th she’ll be a part of KCRW Presents The Future is Female: A Concert Celebrating Female Composers at The Wiltern in Los Angeles that will also include Tamar Kali (Mudbound) and Ronit Kirchman (The Sinner), both featured in 5 Female Composers You Should Know. Tickets are available here.
Here is my interview with Emmy nominee Cindy O’Connor.