Composer Walt Ribeiro is Changing the Orchestral World
Walt Ribeiro is a New York City based composer who arranges pop and rock songs for orchestra with his aptly titled company, For Orchestra. Walt has been featured in Princeton Business Today, Mix Magazine, Lovelyish, Perez Hilton and even has a blazer dedicated to him on ModCloth. Walt recently gave me the DL on what’s next for him and For Orchestra.
How did you get started arranging pop and rock songs for orchestra?
There was a Brooklyn-based musician named Jonathan Coulton who had a remix contest and I arranged one of his pieces for his community and they loved it and asked for more. Then it hit me – what if I arrange other musicians’ work? I then branched out and started doing Lady Gaga, MGMT and others, and grew from there.
How long has For Orchestra been around, and how have you seen the response change over the years?
I’ve been doing For Orchestra since 2009 and over the years, I’ve noticed that response has grown exponentially. The hardest part was getting the momentum, which took years. I’ve seen the response change dramatically in the last several months, I think largely due to the social networking landscape evolving from being more one-sided and marketing-based to an interactive community where people can be part of a conversation. This has helped my company in creating a tight family rather than an uninvested consumer base.
How do you decide what songs you will arrange and what have been a few of your favorites?
My community’s suggestions are most important to me, but I also look at charts and my own gut instinct of what will sound good when it’s arranged for orchestra. I enjoyed arranging Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O Mine,” as well as Oh Land’s “Sun of a Gun.” I’ve also arranged Wilmington, DE based The Spinto Band’s “Oh Mandy,” as well as some throwbacks like Bon Jovi [“Living On A Prayer”] and A-Ha [“Take On Me”]. My favorite is Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World” because it has a dramatic and epic feel to it and I really enjoyed the brass writing I did to make it sound dark.
You’re based out of NYC. How do you see For Orchestra incorporated in the NYC music scene?
When I attend events like CMJ, and other similar events throughout the country I notice there’s no orchestra presence, which bothers me. For events to feature new music, art, and comedy, especially here in NYC where the innovative and avant garde is celebrated rather than shunned, I’m constantly reminded how the orchestra lacks new music, new ideas, and new audiences.
What’s next for Walt Ribeiro and For Orchestra?
Besides releasing a new orchestral piece each week, I’m currently working with NJ-based band Saves the Day whose new album is set for release this fall, and I’m continuing to work with schools and orchestras for live performances. I also have a Pandora channel launch coming up in July 2011, and I’ll continue to grow my catalog of songs in order to create change and interest within the orchestral world. Ultimately, I see For Orchestra contributing to the change in the musical landscape to make orchestral and classical music as prominent as other genres, like bluegrass or jazz.