Man Who Wrote the Music for Columbo and Liza Minnelli will Visit Ithaca College

ITHACA, NY — Dick DeBenedictis — the 1958 Ithaca College graduate who created episode scores for “Columbo,” “Hawaii Five-O” and many other popular TV shows — will return to his alma mater on Thursday, Oct. 11, to take part in a free multimedia event, “What’s the Score?” Beginning at 8 p.m. in the Hockett Family Recital Hall in the James J. Whalen Center for Music, this 2012 Enduring Masters Series presentation will feature DeBenedictis in an interview format similar to an episode of “Actor’s Studio.” He will share his experiences and insights from a composing and performing career that garnered 10 Emmy nominations as well as friendships with Peter Falk and other stage, film and television stars.

DeBenedictis began his musical career as a pianist with such renowned ensembles as the Sammy Kaye Orchestra and Gene Krupa Quartet. He also accompanied Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli, who recorded two of his original songs.

In addition to his accompanist work, DeBenedictis has compiled numerous Broadway credits, which include assisting Richard Rogers in composing the dance music to “Do I Hear a Waltz?” Among DeBenedictis’s film credits are the dance music for “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” and the score for William Holden’s last film, “The Earthling.”

“In my career, I’ve evolved from pianist and accompanist to music director, arranger, special material writer, composer and producer,” DeBenedictis said. “Sometimes there’s been an overlap. For example, on Broadway, you write the music to support the movement of the dancer. In film, you’re writing to support the drama. You’re trying to match the emotions evoked by the show, so there’s a common thread.”

But not always.

“In TV, before film was replaced by tape, you worked very fast. You only got to screen the episode once, and you had to score it in a day or two. With musicals, the music and the stage movements evolve together. You have more time to work.”

In addition to the public event, DeBenedictis will spend two days on campus leading interdisciplinary master classes on scoring, composition and acting through song. Students from the Department of Theatre Arts, School of Music and Roy H. Park School of Communications will take part.

This interdisciplinary program is supported by the Linden Center for Creativity and Aging in partnership with the Gerontology Institute, School of Music, Roy H. Park School of Communications and Department of Theatre Arts.

For more information and to arrange an interview with Dick DeBenedictis, contact Keith Davis, assistant director of media relations, at or (607) 274-1153.

Enduring Masters