Women Wonders: Composer Zina Goldrich “Sings Her Own Songs” With Partner Marcy Heisler

Do you want to be a theater actor? Are you a triple threat? Or a quadruple threat? “Un-Block The Music” has written more than once about the torture of auditions. Composer Zina Goldrich’s audition stories are not much better.  Zina is perhaps best known for her work with lyricist Marcy Heisler. However, her work is more than that.

 “I can’t say I began my life thinking I would be a composer,” Zina said. She can sing! Thus, she started out at auditions wanting to perform. She would look around an audition room and think… “’I sing better than most. I can’t act or dance better, but I do know I can write songs better than anybody in the room.’ It quickly became clear to me that I should focus on the thing I was best at, composing.” However, Zina’s performance skills still give her an edge even today. She can perform her own creations as she often does with Marcy. “I don’t have to wait for anybody to create the songs for me. One hand washes the other!”

It was pretty obvious that she loved music by age 3, and Zina started piano lessons at age 5. She has perfect pitch! (As “Un-Block The Music” understands it, if you have perfect pitch, you can sing or play any note on the spot, with no former guiding note.) While Zina moved from New York to Los Angeles when she was 13, she grew up surrounded by jazz musicians. Her dad was a trumpet player who played music to work his way through med school. For 7 years, he played at The Village Vanguard with The Mel Lewis and Thad Jones Big Band. “They have had a very strong influence on my sound,” she said.

Zina’s piano teacher always encouraged her to improvise and write. “I actually started writing songs in elementary school.” When she was 16, she and a classmate wrote a theme song for a TV show. They demoed the song on a Walkman (Remember those???), but didn’t hear anything for months. “I went away to study at Boston University Tanglewood for the summer. I got a call mid-season that they were going to use our song. I had my first professional writing credit when I was 16. That was very encouraging.”

Although Zina worked as a composer/lyricist at Disney for a while, she said, “I hadn’t found a writing partner that I really clicked with. Then, I came back to New York to visit and that’s when I met Marcy.” While Zina participated in the BMI Workshop as Marcy did, they were not there at the same time. The head of musical theater there, Pat Cook, introduced them. “We have been best friends (and collaborators) ever since. We are ying and yang. She is wordy and I am easy going. It’s always fun!”

Of course, a female writing team in the 1990s always begs the question…how did you do it? “Despite the fact there weren’t a lot of women composers to look up to as an example at the time, it just never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why; maybe it was my supportive parents. But when Marcy and I started, it really was hard for women, and we were young. A lot of famous writing teams like Kander and Ebb were still very active.” And, may “Un-Block The Music” mention, most if not all were male writing teams. Young women writers were not sought after.

Zina and Marcy defied the odds. Many women composers start their careers writing for children (“Un-Block The Music” just had this conversation with Ragtime’s Lynn Ahrens too. https://unblockthemusic.blog/2021/03/17/women-wonders-ragtime-seussical-nasrin-lynn-ahrens-forged-ahead-in-theater-never-looking-back/) “Some people think that children’s theater is all you can do.” Although it can be a stepping stone to the “big time,” the duo truly loves writing children’s theater and have the added flare for creating projects adults who will bring their children will enjoy as well. “Our work is not condescending. Writing on both levels is a win win,” she said.

Zina admits that it took a while to get noticed, but then came Ever After with the songs like “Who Needs Love?,” and “Right Before My Eyes.” The show, (with the book based on the movie but written for the stage by Marcy) premiered at the Papermill Playhouse with Margot Seibert. Need I say more? However, for “Un-Block The Music,” it was Dear Edwina that caught my attention. That premiered off-Broadway. One of the show’s standout songs is “Sing Your Own Song”. This production received two 2009 Drama Desk Award nominations, for Outstanding Music (Zina Goldrich) and Outstanding Lyrics (Marcy Heisler).

What’s been going on with Zina during this very long pandemic shutdown? “Before the pandemic, I started writing with David Javerbaum who has won a gazillion Emmy Awards (11 as a writer for The Daily Show). We are hoping to get a reading for our show soon, and start the whole process of bringing it to the stage.”

As for the team of  Goldrich and Heisler? “Un-Block The Music” can’t wait for their return. “We perform together all over the country. It’s a wonderful experience as we certainly know how to express our own songs!”  So stay tuned for dates!!!!

BTW…”Un-Block The Music” had to good fortune to interview Marcy last summer as well. Check it out..

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