Antony John Ph. D. '02

Adding an original element
Writer: 
November 30, 2005

Beyond Wedding March: John, left, and Odom

Beyond Wedding March: John, left, and Odom. Chris Hildreth

Antony John is not one for bridal registries. Rather than supply a bride and groom with a gravy boat or place setting, he prefers to put pencil to paper and write a wedding song for the new couple.

After presenting several such gifts to friends, the thirty-two-year-old John last year built a business around his compositions and began accepting commissions for his work. His website, WeddingCompositions.com, now draws interest nationwide and from as far away as New Zealand and was featured in the June-July 2005 issue of Modern Bride magazine. "There's a growing interest in commissioned music as being one aspect of wedding planning that has not been explored previously," he says.

Royal weddings in his native England traditionally provided a chance for composers to show off new work, John says. But most couples can't afford to hire a musical ensemble to play at their wedding--let alone pay for an original composition--and so a church organist playing Wagner's "Bridal Chorus" (better known as "Here Comes the Bride") has become the staple processional.

John says he can put together a one-minute wedding march for a string quartet for about $300. Talking with brides to learn their musical tastes--grooms are seldom interested in attending to details of the wedding plan, he says--is the most involved part of the process. After that, he usually scores the processional within a couple of days. To make each composition as personal as possible for a couple, he has incorporated into the final works everything from classical pieces to Norwegian folksongs that were hummed to him over the phone.

Daniel Sorin '96 says that the processional John composed for his 2003 wedding included the opening bars of a Mozart clarinet concerto that he is fond of and a snippet of the television theme song to Xena: Warrior Princess, which his wife likes. She was so thrilled with the end result that she convinced John to form Wedding Compositions and now helps run the business. "Our composition will never be played at another wedding, which added a special element to our ceremony," says Sorin, an assistant professor in the Pratt School of Engineering. "It was nice that our friend was able to contribute to our wedding through more than a typical gift."

John has been composing almost since he picked up his first musical instrument--the piccolo--at age ten.

"I really wanted to know the nuts and bolts of music," he says. "The academic side to it is a nice foil to the creativity involved in a straight performance."

Although he says he is committed to "producing music that has a social purpose," he doesn't want to be pegged solely as a wedding composer. And so he also scores music for short movies and teaches a film music history course at the Pacific Northwest Film Scoring Program in Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Audrey Odom '96, M.D./Ph.D. '03, a pediatric resident at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, and their infant son.

Composing a processional for his own wedding in 2001 was probably John's toughest assignment. "I knew very well what her tastes were, and if I strayed even slightly from that, I knew I would hear about it for a long time," he says with a laugh.