BJ Leiderman (Feb. 14, 1956- ): NPR in-house composer who has written musical themes and theme packages for
Known to run around in a t-shirt that says "BJ Leiderman" with an arrow pointing up at his face.
Leiderman formed his first band (The Lively Sound Dimension) in elementary school, and played in various regional bands in Virginia during college. BJ attended American University, where he initially majored in broadcast journalism.
While at American, he met NPR producer Jim Russell. Russell was looking for a theme song for his new morning news magazine show (which would become Morning Edition). What he wanted was a smooth transition from NPR listeners' customary classical music to a news and culture radio program.
BJ suggested using a baroque phrase ending with a jazz fusion crescendo. This initial idea led to the creation of the main theme for Morning Edition. It also heralded the beginning of Leiderman's soon-to-be prolific relationship with NPR. The components of the theme package have evolved over the years, but the core sound has remained the same for more than 20 years.
BJ abandoned his plans for a career in broadcast journalism in favor of a career composing music and writing for television (his clients include Nickelodeon, The Chris Rock Show, Fox Kids, Cartoon Network, and the Christian Broadcasting Network). He has also composed jingles and soundtrack packages for many corporate and broadcast clients, although his most well known remains the theme to Morning Edition.
Confession: I am formally addicted to the Morning Edition theme song. Thanks to childhood conditioning, it effectively rules my circadian rhythms. It was usually the first thing I heard in the morning as a kid, coming from my parents' bedroom (where my dad was) and from the kitchen (where my mom was). When I got my own radio alarm clock in junior high, I set it to the public radio station, for 7 AM sharp, because... Well, because that's the way people wake up. See what I mean? It is the way of my people.
I still wake up to BJ Leiderman's little tune. I like to wake up with world news I don't have to watch or read. I can make coffee, shower, dry my hair, dress, etc., without missing a word. (Although one year I had to wear a Walkman every morning after a roommate discovered that my housewide early morning NPR listening fests were the source of his recurring and troubling dreams of East Timor).
When I was living in France, I found it almost impossible to wake up without the Morning Edition theme song. A compassionate and understanding friend finally sent me a compilation tape with BJ Leiderman's theme song interposed between songs by Daisy Chainsaw and Rasputina.
If BJ Leiderman was to ever imbed post-hypnotic suggestions or some other subliminal conditioning into his NPR theme recordings he could probably take over the world, considering the general demographic of its listenership.