This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you've been to the movies lately, you've probably seen trailers for such current or upcoming films as "Night at the Museum," "Spider-Man 3" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
All three contain enticing snippets of action, drama and comedy. All three are propelled by stirring or portentous orchestral music. And all the music, from the swashbuckling strings of "Museum" to the thundering choruses of "Spider-Man," was recorded in a restored church in Salt Lake City.
It's the work of Non-Stop Music Productions, which may have the most impressive résumé of any Utah company you've never heard of. Founded 25 years ago by two former Brigham Young University trombone players, Non-Stop creates music for every studio in Hollywood, most of the major TV networks, hit shows like "Desperate Housewives," video games and ad campaigns for Nike and Sprite.
"Our music gets used every day," says Mike Dowdle, one of Non-Stop Music's three partners. "If you're watching TV, you're hearing our music. You just don't know it."
The musical cues that introduced those college bowl games you watched on ESPN this week? They were supplied by Non-Stop Music. The Emmy Award-winning score that accompanied NBC's coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics? Non-Stop Music again. The soundtrack to Jack Sparrow's theatrics in the trailers for "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"? Yep - Non-Stop Music.
For company co-founders Bryan Hofheins and Randy Thornton, these high-profile clients represent a heady climb from their 1970s days as horn players in the Osmonds' touring band. Before launching Non-Stop, both men worked as session musicians - Hofheins for Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis, among others, and Thornton for Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Loggins and Dolly Parton.
In 1981 they went into business for themselves, armed with credit cards and an office in Thornton's Salt Lake City basement. Their first project was recording a jingle for a condo development in St. George. But their big break didn't occur until 1982, when a chance meeting at a Dallas trade show led to a gig creating music for an ABC-TV Christmas campaign. Within a year they were working for all the networks, flying back and forth to Los Angeles with original music on cassette tapes.
To combat entertainment-industry bias against Utah as a cultural backwater, Hofheins and Thornton set up Los Angeles and New York phone numbers that automatically forwarded calls to their Salt Lake City office. Many a Hollywood executive was surprised to discover the contractor he'd hired over the phone was actually in Utah.
"People would ask how to get to our office and we'd say, 'Well, go to LAX and get on a plane . . .," says Thornton with a chuckle. "We were always having an uphill battle trying to convince them that something [professional] could be done in Utah."
As its reputation spread, Non-Stop was hired for an increasing variety of television projects. Among the most notable were recording Hank Williams Jr.'s new version of "All My Rowdy Friends" for the long-running intro to ABC's "Monday Night Football," founding a record label that released Kurt Bestor's first Christmas album and supplying more than 500 musical cues and interludes for NBC's "Today" show for the past 12 years.
Dowdle, an attorney and Thornton's neighbor, began doing legal work for Non-Stop in the 1980s and came aboard as a full partner in 1990. By then the firm had moved to its present digs in a former 19th-century Mormon chapel five blocks west of the Gateway. The brick building, which is virtually unmarked for security reasons, houses three recording studios and a sound stage that accommodates 80-piece orchestras.
It is here that Non-Stop's roster of composers, engineers and freelance musicians record every snippet of music licensed by the company. The process works something like this: A client like, say, Columbia Pictures, will send Non-Stop a rough cut of its trailer for "Spider-Man 3," along with detailed instructions about what kind of music it wants and the emotional mood it should convey. Non-Stop recruits a composer to create the score and then brings in musicians - often members of the Utah Symphony or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - to record it.
Known as L.A. East Studios, the state-of-the-art recording space also attracts such big-name artists as Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys, Plácido Domingo and Eminem, all of whom have booked studio time while passing through Utah.
Today Non-Stop Music is a multimillion-dollar company with 28 employees and satellite offices in Los Angeles, New York and London. It has grown to include a music-publishing company and a vast library of original music. Some of the firm's most popular pieces - such as a stirring composition called "March to Glory," which sounds as if it should accompany footage of galloping cavalrymen - have been used in trailers for more than 100 movies.
Considering it is the only supplier of movie-trailer music outside Hollywood, Non-Stop Music is holding its own in a highly competitive field. You wouldn't notice, but its music is heard in ads for scores of films each year, including such recent blockbusters as "Ice Age 2," "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Da Vinci Code."
"It's rare that you can go to the movies and sit through the trailers and not hear a piece of our music somewhere," says Thornton, who sees Non-Stop's movie work as the company's marquee calling card. "Everybody wants to be involved in Hollywood one way or another. Nobody ever calls us up and asks, 'Hey, what's the latest cool commercial you're working on?' "
It sounds glamorous, but Dowdle, Hofheins and Thornton don't go to Hollywood premieres or schmooze with starlets. Like most behind-the-scenes players in the movie business, they remain largely anonymous, and so does their work.
On TV sports broadcasts, for example, Non-Stop's instrumental snippets often are played over plugs for commercial sponsors. Trained audiences hear the cues and know it's time - to head for the bathroom.
"We've often joked that our music has had more toilets flushed to it than any other music in the world," says Thornton. "It's better to be famous for something than for nothing at all, I guess."
In its 25 years, Non-Stop Music has created and licensed original music for hundreds of TV shows and movie trailers, among them:
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
The Today Show *
Wide World of Sports
Touched by an Angel
The 2002 Winter Olympics
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban *
Air Force One
The Polar Express
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
The Da Vinci Code
The Devil Wears Prada
Snakes on a Plane
Night at the Museum