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Oscar win for U of T alumnus

Composer Mychael Danna takes award for Best Original Score

Danna's orchestration for Life of Pi bested the original scores for Anna Karenina, Argo, Skyfall and John Williams’ orchestration for Lincoln (photo via Life of Pi Movie's Flickr)

Composer and University of Toronto alumnus Mychael Danna picked up the Academy Award Feb. 24 for Best Original Score for the film Life of Pi.

"I share this wondrous award with our visionary captain, Ang Lee,” said Danna in his acceptance speech. “[Life of Pi] transcends culture and race and religion."

Danna also thanked his parents “and, most of all, my wife and our two beautiful boys who remind me every day why stories like this one need to be told.”

It was Danna’s first Oscar win and nomination, and follows his Golden Globe win for best original score Jan. 13, 2013.

Danna has composed for several Academy Award-nominated films such as Capote, Water, Little Miss Sunshine, as well as The Sweet Hereafter, directed by Danna’s longtime collaborator and fellow U of T alumnus, Atom Egoyan. In a competitive field, Danna beat industry giants such as Alexandre Desplat (Argo) and John Williams (Lincoln)Life of Pi was the most honoured film at the night's awards, taking best director, best cinematography, best visual effects as well as best original score.

Egoyan shared his congratulations with U of T News, saying Danna’s award was “very well deserved and a long time coming. I'm thrilled he received this outstanding recognition for his brilliant work."

Danna completed his Bachelor of Music degree in composition at U of T in 1986. He received the university’s first-ever Glenn Gould Composition Award and, through the Faculty of Music, was exposed to the early music and world music techniques that would later influence his compositional style.
Danna also worked with drama groups at U of T as a way to experiment with different compositional venues, where he met and began to work with acclaimed film director, Egoyan.
"Since connecting with Mychael at U of T so many years ago, our collaboration has been essential to my work," Egoyan told U of T News upon Danna’s Golden Globe win. "Mychael is a brilliant musician and composer who is able to enhance any project he works on. He fully commits himself to every film, and his brilliant score for Life of Pi is an expression of everything that makes him so unique."
Danna scored Egoyan's films including Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat and Chloe, and has composed for other acclaimed directors including Terry Gilliam, Mira Nair, Joel Schumacher and Denzel Washington. Danna also previously scored for Ang Lee with The Ice Storm in 1997 and Ride with the Devil in 1999, and has recently orchestrated films such as Moneyball, 500 Days of Summer, and The Time Traveler's Wife.
Danna returned to U of T in 2011 as the inaugural Louis Applebaum Distinguished Visitor in Film Composition, presenting a public lecture with Egoyan and coaching composition students. While visiting U of T, Danna was already at work on Life of Pi which was released in the fall of 2012.
"I was so delighted to hear the news last night that Mychael Danna won the Oscar," composer and U of T professor Christos Hatzis told U of T News. "I and a group of Canadian musicians are in Ajijic, Mexico right now for the Northern Lights Music Festival but last night I was glued on the TV set for the Academy Award announcements."
"Mychael is one of the brightest stars of our music composition program and seeing any of our graduates rise to the summit of their profession fills me and my other U of T colleagues with great pride. Mychael has been supportive of our school all these years in various capacities, most recently as our first Louis Applebaum Distiguished Visitor in Film Music. Besides being a great film composer, Mychael is an amazing person and a great colleague."
Kudos were also offered by dean of the Faculty of Music, Don McLean: "U of T's Faculty of Music congratulates Mychael on this well-deserved recognition for an outstanding career in film composition."
Danna’s song, “Pi’s Lullabye,” was also nominated in the Best Song category, losing out to Adele’s chart-topper, “Skyfall,” from the Bond film of the same name.
Life of Pi tells the story of a young boy shipwrecked on the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger, and is based on the novel by Canadian author Yann Martel. Selections from Danna's score for the film can be heard here.