Herschel Burke Gilbert

Born on April 20, 1918 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Herschel Burke Gilbert began studying the violin at the age of nine, and at fifteen he formed his own dance band, copying arrangements he heard on the radio.  He attended MilwaukeeStateTeachers’ College, studying orchestration and composition with Milton Rusch.  He then studied violin, viola, conducting, and composition at the JuilliardSchool, and also studied privately with Ernst Toch. In 1943 he started arranging and playing viola with the Harry James Orchestra, and two years later he began working in Hollywood, including arranging and orchestrating for Columbia Pictures.  

Some of the film scores he orchestrated were for The Dark Past, Down to Earth, Duel in the Sun, It’s a Wonderful Life, Fortunes of Captain Blood, The Fuller Brush Man, The Lady From Shanghai, The Mating of Millie, My Dear Secretary, Santa Fe, The Secret of the Whistler, and The Sign of the Ram.  Gilbert composed music for about three dozen feature films, including Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Comanche, The Jackie Robinson Story, Kid Monk Baroni, The Moon Is Blue, Mr. District Attorney, The Naked Dawn, Nightmare, No Place to Hide, Riot in Cell Block 11, Sabre Jet, Shamrock Hill, The Thief, Vice Squad, While the City Sleeps, and Without Warning! 

He served as Executive Music Director for both Dick Powell’s Four Star Television Company and also the CBS Television Network, composing, conducting, or supervising the music for almost 2,000 TV episodes. Gilbert’s television writing included Burke’s Law, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, The Dick Powell Theatre, The Loretta Young Show, The Rifleman, and Rawhide.  He was nominated for three Academy Awards and three Emmys.

Gilbert was very active in a wide range of organizations, serving in executive capacities with ASCAP, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the American Society of Music Arrangers, the Hollywood Community Mental Health Foundation, the Juilliard Alumni Association, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Screen Composers of America, the Society for the Preservation of Film Music, the Rotary Club of West Hollywood, and the Boy Scouts of America.  In 1974 he founded Laurel Records, an acclaimed classical record label specializing in 20th Century American music, which is owned by his son John (www.laurelrecord.com).  Herschel Burke Gilbert passed away on June 8, 2003 in Los Angeles, California.

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