Arts & Culture Faithful Creativity
Celebrated Film Score Composer Builds New Studio
Returning to Washington after decades in Hollywood, Star Trek composer Ron Jones finds a new “Enterprise” in his studio
By Jeffrey Overstreet | Photos by Garland Cary
In his Stanwood, Washington, studio space, Ron Jones has developed a place where creativity can thrive.
Up a winding forest road near Stanwood, Washington, a man is remodeling his garage. But this isn’t just any garage: It’s 3,000 square feet. And it doesn’t contain any cars.
Welcome to SkyMuse, a new world-class recording studio. And here, at a desk that looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise, we find this studio’s captain: Ron Jones ’76. Jones is the composer of scores for Family Guy, Duck Tales, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Jones’s compositions carry forward a distinctive sound he refined while studying music at Seattle Pacific. Ron Haight ’79, Seattle Pacific University’s director of music technology, played in band and orchestra with Jones when they were students. “I even commissioned him to write music for a group that we were touring with at that time,” Haight remembers. “At SPU, he took seriously his understanding the craft. Even as a student, he was willing to push the boundaries and do things that we weren’t used to.”
For Haight, Jones’ Star Trek score is iconic. “ I watched every single episode during the years that Ron recorded it,” Haight says. “He was great at bringing out themes and leitmotifs for the characters. And he had his finger on the pulse of science fiction, so he gave it a sense of being otherworldly. He writes in 12-tone and aleatoric styles, which can be very strident but also very minimalistic.”
Now, after 37 prolific years in Hollywood, Jones has returned to the Northwest to find a more humane context for creativity. “I’ve been conditioned to work a certain way, under pressure, cranking out a lot of scores in a short amount of time,” he says. “Now I’m adapting to the idea that if there is no deadline, I have to make my own deadline. I need total quiet and concentration.”
The studio is designed to help Jones and future collaborators “boldly go” into new frontiers of creativity and education. In Studio A, you might find him composing at a keyboard, mixing tracks before three iMac screens, or collaborating live with the Berlin Philharmonic who appear on a large screen mounted on the wall above him. Everything from the speakers to the soundproofing panels on the walls are top of the line. He shows no interest in slowing down, even though the large space between Studios B and C are stacked floor to ceiling with file boxes containing approximately 40,000 original compositions dating back to 1979. (“I’ve written about four times what Bach wrote,” he says.)
Cross the parking lot to a bridge that extends into the forest to a bunkhouse, complete with a huge, treehouse-style deck made of local cedar. When Roger Fisher, former guitarist of the rock band Heart, visited, he told Jones that this deck would be his sound stage one day. “He wants the sound of the birds around him while he records.”
Jones hopes SkyMuse will become a place where musicians from around the world can connect to community and creativity. “Most studios are in cities, where it’s very stressful and it’s hard to park,” he says. “When you come out here, you’re in a park. I want musicians to decompress, feel good, go hiking, play softball, lose weight, and discover again why they were making music in the first place.”
VIDEO: Ron Jones explains what it takes to become a successful TV or film composer.