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May 12, 2011 /   For Immediate Release / Photos attached; high-res available
Media Contact: Marla Carpenter, 336-770-3337,





Eight-Time Oscar Winner, 10-Time Grammy Winner
Will Speak at High School and University Ceremonies on May 28

Composer of Such Disney Classics as ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and THE LITTLE MERMAID

WINSTON-SALEM – Chancellor John Mauceri has announced that award-winning composer Alan Menken will deliver the commencement addresses at both the high school and university graduation ceremonies of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), on Saturday, May 28.

Menken composed the music for such classic Disney films as TANGLED, ENCHANTED, POCAHONTAS, ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LITTLE MERMAID. He has won eight Academy Awards, 10 Grammy Awards, and seven Golden Globes. He is nominated for both Tony and Drama Desk awards for Sister Act, which opened on Broadway last month.

UNCSA’s high school commencement ceremony begins at 9 a.m., and the university ceremony begins at 1 p.m.  Both events are held at the Stevens Center, 405 W. Fourth St., downtown Winston-Salem. Menken will receive an honorary doctorate during the university ceremony.

Chancellor Mauceri said: “Alan Menken is a dear friend and one of the most accomplished and awarded of contemporary composers. His works for Disney classic movies and Broadway are among the world’s most treasured music, loved by generations. Today’s graduating students have grown up listening to and singing his extraordinary music. They consider him a hero, as do I. His name is the one they mention most to me.”

Alan Menken was born in 1949 in Manhattan and raised in New Rochelle, N.Y. The son of a dentist and an actress/playwright, he found his life’s purpose in performing and composing music, but, in a family where his grandfather and most of his uncles were also dentists, the choice to become a composer was not an easy one.  He enrolled at New York University (NYU) as a pre-med student in 1967; however, his attempt to pursue medicine fizzled quickly and he established his lifelong pattern of escaping to a small room with a piano and writing songs.  He graduated in 1971 with less than stellar grades and a degree in Musicology. Now, some 30 years later, he has received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts and a Distinguished Alumni Award from NYU.

Right out of school, Menken composed a rock ballet, Children of the World, the most significant result of which was meeting his beautiful wife, Janis, a ballet dancer. And, as a member of the BMI Workshop, he composed and showcased music and lyrics for numerous original musicals, including Midnight, Harry the Rat, Dear Worthy Editor, and Apartment House (music only). At the same time, he made a living as a ballet accompanist, a composer of jingles, musical director of cabaret acts, and songwriter for Sesame Street.

In 1978 Alan Menken met playwright/lyricist/director Howard Ashman. Their first collaboration was Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, which opened in ’79 to glowing reviews and closed quickly off-Broadway. A revue of Menken’s songs, Patch Patch Patch, was produced that same year, followed in 1981 by a rock musical, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy (libretto by Steve Brown, produced by Michael Bennett and directed by Tom O’Horgan) and Real Life Funnies (lyrics by Menken, produced at Manhattan Theater Club and directed by Ashman).

In 1982 Ashman and Menken wrote Little Shop of Horrors, the highest-grossing off-Broadway musical of all time, the film adaptation of which resulted in Menken’s first Oscar nomination for “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.” Between 1983 and 1987 he collaborated with David Rogers on The Dream on Royal Street; Tom Eyen, on Kicks: The Showgirl Musical; David Spencer on The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz; and contributed to various revues, including Personals, It’s Better with a Band, and Diamonds.  

In 1987 Ashman and Menken went to the Walt Disney Company to write an animated musical based on The Little Mermaid, and in the following two decades Menken went on to compose scores for nine more Disney film musicals: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, NEWSIES, POCAHONTAS, HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, HERCULES, HOME ON THE RANGE, ENCHANTED and TANGLED.  His collaborators included Ashman, Tim Rice, Stephen Schwartz, Jack Feldman, David Zippel and Glenn Slater. Menken has been nominated for 19 Academy Awards, winning eight times. He’s also won 10 Grammy Awards (including Song of the Year for “A Whole New World”) and seven Golden Globes.

In 1994 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was adapted for the stage, with additional songs written in collaboration with Tim Rice, and ran for 13 years on Broadway. That same year, in collaboration with Lynn Ahrens, Menken composed the score for A Christmas Carol, produced at Madison Square Garden for 10 consecutive years. A musical oratorio of King David, with lyrics by Tim Rice, opened The New Amsterdam Theater in 1997, and a sci-fi musical, Weird Romance (lyrics by David Spencer), was produced at the WPA Theater in that same year. A stage adaptation of HUNCHBACK was produced in Berlin in 1998, Der Glöckner von Notre Dame. The Broadway musical of THE LITTLE MERMAID opened in 2008 and earned Menken his second Tony nomination for best score.

His film scores include LINCOLN, LIFE WITH MIKEY, THE SHAGGY DOG and NOEL and he contributed songs to HOME ALONE 2 and ROCKY V.  Upcoming in summer 2011 will be a new song for the Marvel Studios release, CAPTAIN AMERICA.

Menken’s gospel musical, Leap of Faith, premiered in Los Angeles in 2010. And he has just been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards for Sister Act, which opened on Broadway in April 2011. Still to come are stage adaptations of ALADDIN, NEWSIES and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Recent honors have included induction into The Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.


MEDIA: The UNCSA commencement ceremonies are not open to the general public. Family and friends of graduating seniors must have tickets to enter the Stevens Center. However, tickets are available for media representatives. Please call 336-770-3337 or email carpem@uncsa.edu by May 26 if you are interested in covering the event.


Note: Photo of Alan Menken and John Mauceri when they performed together at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo by Betty Mauceri.