Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Music

Virtual tour screenshot

Dr Ian Sapiro

Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Music, and Taught Postgraduate Tutor

0113 343 2418

School of Music, Room 2.09

Office hours: Tuesday 4-5pm

PhD, M.Phil, MMus, BA, PGCLTHE (all Leeds)

Ian Sapiro works principally in film music, musical theatre, orchestration and the overlaps between them. He is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications.


Ian began his musical studies at Leeds in 1997 and has since gained an undergraduate degree, postgraduate qualifications in composition (MMus 2001, M.Phil 2005), and his PhD (2011), which investigates the role of the orchestrator in the contemporary British film industry. The thesis exposes the diverse nature of the role in the UK and challenges widely held assumptions about the linearity, compartmentalisation and global uniformity of film-score production processes. It also provides new definitions for ‘orchestrating’ and ‘arranging’, and presents a new non-linear conceptual model of the film-score production process, the first of its kind.

Ian is active as a conductor of musical theatre productions, and is musical director for Bradford Youth Players (Act 2) and Buttershaw St Paul’s AODS, Bradford. He has also conducted musicals and concerts in Leeds, Guiseley, Halifax and Dewsbury.

Research Interests

  • Film music, particularly film-score production process, and especially the orchestration of film music
  • Musicals and musical theatre
  • Orchestration and Arrangement
  • The overlaps between these areas

Film Music and Film-Score Production Processes

Ian has completed a monograph on Ilan Eshkeri’s score for Stardust for Scarecrow Press (publication in July 2013). The composer and orchestrator granted him privileged access to materials from the film-score production process including demos, sketches, scores and logs of recording sessions, and he also interviewed the composer and key members of his team in the course of the research. His current film-music project develops his thesis research through a critical interrogation of film-score orchestration in America, the result of which will be a book published by Routledge. He interviewed a number of leading UK-based film-score orchestrators and composers in the course of his doctoral research, and is currently developing a similar network of professionals in America to be interviewed for his book.

Ian has undertaken a significant amount of archival film-music study alongside Professor David Cooper drawing on the unique resources held in the Trevor Jones and Michael Nyman Archives at Leeds, which include session recordings, spotting notes and other documentation relating to the film-score production process. He has published on the working practices of Trevor Jones and Michael Nyman alongside Professor Cooper, and has also published on Michael Nyman’s collaboration with film-maker and director Peter Greenaway.

Musicals and Musical Theatre

Musical theatre is both a research and teaching interest and an area of practical application for Ian. He has writen a book chapter on the relationship between the British musical and the pop music industry in the 1960s to the 1980s, and is currently working on chapters for two books on stage to screen adaptations, one focused on Annie, and the investigating Les Miserables as a screen musical. He is also an active conductor and musical director, which affords him opportunities to apply his knowledge of musicals in a practical context, and he is keen to explore the relationship between theory and practice in musical theatre.

Orchestration and Arrangement

Often misrepresented as the same thing, Ian is very interested in approaches to, and the practical application of orchestration and arrangement. He has created new definitions of the two processes as they relate to film music, and is an active orchestrator and arranger of music himself.


Current Modules

  • MUSS1324/MUSS2311/MUSS2324/MUSI3320 Ensemble Performance; choral director semester 1
  • MUSS2721/2722 Music in Context; introductory lectures on poster presentations
  • MUSS2820 Music in Practice; module leader and tutor for a topic on film-score creation and production
  • MUSS3140 Dissertation; supervising topics mainly in the areas of film music and musical theatre
  • MUSS3235 Applied Project; supervising practice-led projects in the areas of film music and film-score creation
  • MUSS5134M Individual Project; supervising projects in the area of film music, linked to other teaching
  • MUSS5162M Dissertation; supervising topics mainly in the areas of film music and musical theatre


  • Taught Postgraduate Tutor
  • Administrative Systems Officer
  • Member of School Workload Group



  • Sapiro IP (2013) Ilan Eshkeri's Stardust: A Film Score Guide. Scarecrow Film Score Guides. Scarecrow Press.

  • Cooper D; Fox C; Sapiro I (eds.) (2008) CineMusic? Constructing the Film Score. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Sapiro IP Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary Film Industry. Routledge. (Submitted)

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro IP, Anderson L The Screen Music of Trevor Jones: Technology, Process, Production. (In preparation)

Journal articles

  • Cooper, Sapiro, Anderson L, Hall S (2015) “Digitising, Organising and Managing Audio-Visual Materials: The Trevor Jones Archive”, The Journal of Film Music. (In preparation)

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro IP (2011) “A Source-Studies Approach to Michael Nyman's Score for The Draughtsman's Contract”, Journal of Film Music. 3.2: 155-170.

    The composer Michael Nyman has donated a unique collection of his original sound materials and other documentation to the University of Leeds on long-term loan for scholarly investigation. There are more than 500 individual items in the archive, which includes film, television and concert music, as well as associated items of paperwork, and the films directed by Peter Greenaway feature strongly in the collection. Evidence for the underlying creative processes in film composition can be found within the source materials which include the source recordings and stereo mixdowns of cues, materials often disposed of by film and television companies after a film’s release or TV programme’s broadcast. This article questions the extent to which the surviving audio and supporting documentary materials reflect the development of the score and the relationships between Nyman’s music and Greenaway’s images as exemplified in the non-mainstream film The Draughtsman’s Contract.

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro IP (2006) “Ethnomusicology in the Laboratory: From the Tonmesser to Digital Melography”, Ethnomusicology Forum.


  • Sapiro IP (2012) “The Filmmaker's Contract - Controlling Sonic Space in the Films of Peter Greenaway”, In: Wierzbicki J (eds.) Music, Sound and Filmmakers: Sonic Style in Cinema. Routledge Music and Screen Media Series. Routledge. 151-164

  • Sapiro IP, Cooper D (2008) “Spotting, Scoring, Soundtrack: Trevor Jones's Score for "Sea of Love"”, In: Cooper D; Fox C; Sapiro IP (eds.) CineMusic? Constructing the Film Score. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Sapiro IP Beyond the Barricade: Adapting 'Les Misérables' for the Cinema. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press. (In preparation)

    While movie musicals have had something of a renaissance since the turn of the twenty-first century, there have been relatively few adaptations of stage musicals compared to made-for-screen offerings in this period. Stage-to-screen adaptations such as 'Chicago' (2003), 'Hairspray' (2007) and 'Mamma Mia!' (2008) have been commercially successful, but others including 'Rent' (2005) 'The Producers' (2005), and 'Rock of Ages' (2012) have cost more than they grossed, demonstrating that converting Broadway longevity into Hollywood profitability is not always a simple task. Even 'The Phantom of the Opera' (2004) lost money in America, though its worldwide takings ultimately resulted in it doubling its original production costs. Decisions taken regarding the narrative content and structure, the inclusion, omission and addition of songs and musical numbers, the balance of singing and speaking, and the casting of lead and supporting characters all impact on a stage-to-screen adaptation. Additionally, such products have a broad range of potential target audiences including fans of the original stage musical, the performers, and the music, as well as the general cinema-going public. This chapter takes Cameron Mackintosh’s film of 'Les Misérables' (2012) as a case study, a picture that achieved financial success despite receiving mixed reviews from audiences and critics. Some of the underlying issues involved in transferring this stage musical to the screen will be evaluated to assess the impact of decisions taken by the creative team on the production and reception of the film, and on the processes of stage-to-screen adaptation in the twenty-first century more broadly.

  • Sapiro IP “You will know that she is our Annie: Adapting a Broadway Classic”, In: McHugh D (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Musical Theatre Adaptations. New York: Oxford University Press. (In preparation)

  • Sapiro IP “The Pop-Music Industry and the British Musical”, In: Jubin O; Gordon R (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. (Submitted)

  • Sapiro IP “The Orchestrator and the Film Soundtrack: An Interview with Matt Dunkley”, In: Kulezic-Wilson D; Greene E (eds.) The Integrated Soundtrack. (Submitted)

  • Sapiro IP “Craft, Art or Process: The Question of Creativity in Orchestration for Screen”, In: Mera M; Sadoff R; Winters B (eds.) Screen Music and Sound. (Submitted)

Conference papers

  • Sapiro IP (2016) ‘You Will Know that She is Our Annie’: Comparing Three Screen Adaptations of a Broadway Classic. Music for Audio-Visual Media II

  • Cooper D, Sapiro I, Anderson L, Hall S (2015) 'A Very Smooth Transition into the Industry': Trevor Jones's Score for 'The Black Angel'. Music and the Moving Image

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro, Anderson L, Hall S (2014) Sharing sonic space: the relationship between pre-existing and original music in Brassed Off and Notting Hill. Music and Screen Media Conference

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro, Anderson L, Hall S (2014) ‘Simple, Medium, and Shebang’: Trevor Jones and the Development of the Toolkit'. Music and the Moving Image IX

    With a career spanning over thirty years, Trevor Jones is regarded as one of the film industry’s most distinguished composers. In the late 1980s Jones developed what he terms “toolkits”, collections of bespoke musical sounds used to augment the sonic palette of a film score, and to suggest particular soundscapes and atmospheres. These toolkits occupied a unique position in the production process, straddling the stages of composition and orchestration, and somewhat blurring the boundary between musical score and sound effects. Jones utilised toolkits in a series of films released between 1987 and 1993, including Angel Heart (1987), Mississippi Burning (1988), Sea of Love (1989), Freejack (1992), and In the Name of the Father (1993). He continued to develop and refine the toolkit concept through these projects, and there is a notable shift in its application from directorial resource to creative compositional tool across this period. We draw on unique archival materials held at the University of Leeds to discuss the initial inspiration for toolkits and to investigate case studies of their applications across films. Track sheets, multi-track recordings, sketches and full scores offer significant insights into the use of toolkits in the composition and orchestration of Jones’s scores from the late 1980s and early ’90s, allowing a thorough evaluation of their evolving role and function over a seven-year period.

Conference presentations

  • Sapiro IP (2016) Do You Hear the People Sing? (Ab)Using Music and Technology in 'Les Miserables' (2012). Music and the Moving Image XI
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/100868/

    Tom Hooper and Cameron Mackintosh’s cinematic adaptation of Les Misérables (2012) opened to mixed reviews from critics and the public. While Kenneth Turan’s LA Times write-up praised Hooper for “finding ways to magnify the musical’s ability to create those waves of overwhelming feelings in an audience”,1 Todd McCarthy, writing in The Hollywood Reporter, instead viewed it as “heavily, if soaringly, monotonous”.2 Singing was a central focus for many reviews, particularly the casting of the show and the process by which the songs were performed and recorded. Indeed, while Les Misérables was by no means the first, or even the first contemporary film musical to feature sound recorded live on the set, this apparently novel approach to vocal performance was much publicised in the lead up to the film’s release. However, despite all of this exposure, the impact of the musical and technological decisions on those working behind the scenes remains unclear. The project’s team of music editors were left with the significant challenge of creating the soundtrack using the shot footage, and to do so they had to overcome a range of issues not usually encountered in films including matters of musical and performative continuity such as phrasing, dynamics, intonation and diction. The decision to cast mainly (Hollywood) actors rather than (Broadway) performers resulted in sometimes questionable vocal performances, that also served to force the music team to operate outside of their normal practices in order to fully realise the sound world of the film.

Internet publications

  • Cooper DG, Sapiro IP (2005) The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (Website). None.

    Website associated with the book The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland. Contains original piano accompaniments.


  • Sapiro IP (2010) Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Orchestra.

  • Sapiro IP Chatzi Kaddish. (Unpublished)


  • Sapiro IP How do you Create a Film Score?.

Research Projects & Grants

Awards Received

  • 2013-16 AHRC: The Professional Career and Output of Trevor Jones (PI Professor David Cooper, CI Dr Ian Sapiro)
  • 2011 Royal Musical Association
  • 2010 Royal Musical Association
  • 2009 University of Leeds, Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts
  • 2009 Music and Letters Trust

Contributions to Successful Applications (where not named in the application)

  • 2008-12 AHRC Research Grant: Nineteenth-Century String Editions (PI Professor Clive Brown)
  • 2008-09 British Academy Small Research Grant: A Digital Archive of Film Music by Michael Nyman (PI Professor David Cooper)
  • 2005-06 AHRC Small Grants in the Creative and Performing Arts: A Digital Archive of Film Music Materials by Trevor Jones (PI Professor David Cooper)

Research Centres & Groups

Founder Member of the British Audio-Visual Research Network (BARN)

PhD Thesis

‘Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary British Film Industry’

Supervisors: Prof. David Cooper and Prof. Derek Scott

Investigations into the processes of film-score production are usually centred on the composer, and focus principally on the American film industry based inHollywood. While such an approach may be understandable given the large volume of contextual information available in the general film-music literature, the prevalence of this line of enquiry has led to assumptions about film-scoring processes which may not hold true in other branches of the industry, or when scrutinised from different perspectives. Accordingly, this thesis breaks away from the normal starting point for a process-based evaluation of film music. The research area is shifted in terms of both protagonist and location, the investigation instead focusing on the role of the orchestrator in the contemporary British film industry.

As a member of the composer’s support team, the orchestrator is often overlooked or merely mentioned in passing in much of the published literature, despite composers often stressing the value of such personnel. The current author conducted interviews with ten orchestrators and composers currently active in the British business to generate primary evidence of theUKfilm-score production process, and provide proper clarification of the role of the orchestrator in this industry. When considered alongside the existing scholarship, this testimony also enables a re-evaluation of film-score production processes in a non-Hollywood context.

Additionally, this research attempts to properly establish the differences between orchestration and arrangement, a terminological minefield which permeates much of the film-music literature and has significantly hindered understanding of the role orchestrators and arrangers play in the production of a film score. The findings of the thesis also provide the basis for a new, non-linear model of film scoring, which more accurately situates orchestration and arrangement within the process, and reflects the complex inter-relationships between the various aspects of score production.

Professional Practice

Conductor and Musical Director

  • Devonshire Hall Music Society (orchestra and musical theatre productions), Leeds (1998-2002)
  • Leeds University Union Music Society Chamber Orchestra (2000-01)
  • Headingley Amateur Operatic Society, Leeds (2000-02)
  • Buttershaw St Paul’s Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, Bradford (2002-present)
  • Leeds University Union Music Society Symphonic Wind Orchestra (2003-04)
  • Bradford Youth Players (2004-present)
  • Dewsbury Collegians (2008)
  • Halifax Light Opera Society (2008-10)
  • Guiseley Amateur Operatic Society (2009, 2015)
  • Aireborough Combined Societies’ Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert (2012)
  • ‘Leeds in Harmony’: United Hebrew Congregation Choir and Leeds University Union Music Society Chamber Orchestra (2012)

Public Engagement/Impact/Knowledge Transfer Activities

  • Programme notes for musical theatre productions (2006-present)
  • Host of a session, ‘Soundtrack – Music in Film’, at the Filmmakers’ Weekend, part of the Bradford International Film Festival, National Media Museum, Bradford (20 April 2013)

© Copyright Leeds 2016