Barbara Bentree (MusEd’80) has collaborated with Mouseketeers, her husband and even her high school classmates.
Over the years a fellow CU Boulder College of Music graduate also kept popping up as a potential partner — and subject.
“Little things happened along the way that would bring Dave Grusin into my life,” said Bentree, a filmmaker in Santa Fe, N.M. Now she and husband, John Rangel, are producing a documentary about Grusin (Mus’56), the 10-time Grammy Award winner who in 1988 received an Academy Award for his score for The Milagro Beanfield War.
It’s Bentree’s third documentary film and the latest project in her third career. After CU she went to Los Angeles to sing, performing in musical theater and an a capella jazz group. Then came a three-year stint as a music producer on The Mickey Mouse Club, during the era when Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and other stars launched careers there.
These days Bentree brings her unique background and musical chops to telling stories on film.
“I think I have an advantage over some filmmakers because of my background in music,” she said. “Storytelling, composition, variation, form and dynamics apply to all art forms, including film, and I learned about these elements through studying and performing music.”
After making films about women’s reproductive rights and the merits of attending high school reunions, Bentree’s understanding of music has come into play in the Grusin project, for whichmost of the principal photography has now been shot.
“Sometimes you see documentaries about musicians and know that a musician wasn’t involved,” she said. “I think part of why Dave trusted me with this story is because John and I are both musicians and we have the same focus.”
The idea to tell Grusin’s story emerged while Bentree and Rangel were on a road trip: “We were listening to Herbie Hancock’s autobiography on tape. And we thought, ‘If Herbie has a story about his life, then Dave should too.’”
In more than half a century in the music business, Grusin, 82, has scored more than 100 films and television programs, including The Graduate, Tootsie, On Golden Pond and St. Elsewhere.
“I don’t know how he was able to produce that volume of work at that quality — using the technology the industry had at the time,” Bentree said. “He was working on several TV shows, scoring films, doing live concerts and starting a record label… all at the same time!” She added: “He was a part of that incredible evolution in music from pencil and paper to computers. Dave has a wealth of information and reflection to share about ‘process’ and the state of the industry.”
The common thread in Bentree’s own career has been a perpetual interest in learning, nourished early at the College of Music.
“My degree from CU has really been a blessing,” she said. “In those lean years between incredible ups and downs, I could always get a job teaching music.”