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Alumnus Jamshied Sharifi scores big

It's the movie posters that got to Jamshied Sharifi, who graduated from MIT in 1983. After being buried in the recording and post-production work of scoring the new film, Harriet the Spy, Mr. Sharifi is only now realizing the excitement of having a major motion picture credit.

The Manhattan resident gets a kick out of seeing his name on movie posters every time he takes a walk or rides a subway. "The subway ads are such a part of New York City culture-it's a real street thrill," said Mr. Sharifi.

When he graduated from MIT, music was not yet a recognized major. Mr. Sharifi created his own course of studies, and graduated with a degree in humanities, followed with another degree from the Berklee School of Music. Well-known at the Institute for his skills as jazz pianist, composer and director, Mr. Sharifi was named outstanding jazz pianist at the 1983 Collegiate Jazz Festival at the University of Notre Dame when he performed with the Festival Jazz Ensemble, then served as the FJE's director from 1985-92. In 1991, under Mr. Sharifi's direction, the Ensemble won top honors for outstanding band at the Notre Dame Festival.

Mr. Sharifi acknowledges that his MIT experience helped him make the transition to full-scale film work. "After all the rehearsals with the FJE, my comfort level was very high," he said of working with studio musicians ranging from small ensembles to a 70-piece orchestra.

Mr. Sharifi learned the craft of film scoring through seven years of working as keyboardist and orchestrator with Mike Gibbs, a film composer who had taught at Berklee. Noting his good fortune at remaining on the creative team of Harriet the Spy despite a lack of feature film experience, Mr. Sharifi said, "Hollywood producers tend to see film scoring as a completely independent art form, unrelated to previous experience in other forms of music," adding that those who were most skeptical of his abilities became his biggest supporters.

"The nice thing about film work is that the producers support you very well," Mr. Sharifi said. "If you say you need 60 strings, they hire them." Musical support was not the only benefit. When the score was recorded in London, Mr. Sharifi and his wife, Miyuki Sakamoto, who wrote the orchestrations for Harriet the Spy, were both flown there first-class and booked into a first-rate hotel.

Besides his work on Harriet the Spy, Mr. Sharifi has done arranging and record production work for Japanese and Korean artists, played keyboards with vocalist Phil Hamilton and is currently working on a demo recording for another movie-which he couldn't name-due to be produced in a year or two. Unlike the low-budget, small-scale Harriet the Spy, this next film will be a "big movie," said Mr. Sharifi. His work for television includes music for the British series Mike Gibbs, which ran for two years.

The soundtrack for Harriet the Spy is on Castle Records.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 24, 1996.

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