Berklee Silent Film Orchestra

Lauded as “nothing short of thrilling” by film critic Leonard Maltin, “highly accomplished” by The Wall Street Journal, and “amazing” by film industry bible IndieWire, the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) is dedicated to composing original scores for silent feature film classics and performing them live-to-picture.

Based at Berklee College of Music, home to the world’s premier undergraduate program in film scoring, the student orchestra performs new silent film scores written by an select cadre of senior film scoring students under the leadership of Sheldon Mirowitz, a professor in Berklee’s Film Scoring Department and a three-time Emmy nominee. In the process, students develop their scoring and conducting skills in a series of related courses.

Dozens of former BSFO alumni composers work in the film and television industry in Los Angeles and New York, or in their home countries.

The BSFO, which has received two special commendations from the Boston Society of Film Critics, has performed at several film festivals, including the world-renowned San Francisco Silent Film Festival, as well as at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City, and at historic movie palaces such as the Cutler Majestic Theater, the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and the Cabot Theatre.

In 2017, the BSFO celebrated its first two commercial releases: Kino Lorber incorporates BSFO score recordings on new restorations of E.A. Dupont’s Varieté (1925) and F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924). Both titles are available directly from Kino Lorber.

The BSFO’s scores have also been performed by the Valencia Symphony Orchestra at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, and by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which presented F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) in a sold-out Halloween performance. 

in 2019, the BSFO was contracted by Universal Pictures to create and record a score for their 1928 classic The Man Who Laughs. This is believed to be the first time that a major Hollywood studio has chosen a college or conservatory to score one of its releases.  The Man Who Laughs has been released for Universal by Flicker Alley.

Watch students discuss the process of scoring Varieté with the BSFO:

Still photography (video): Pamela Gentile and Tommy Lau, 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Top banner image: by Tommy Lau, 2016 San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Video credits

  • Producer: Rob Hayes
  • Interviewer: Mike Keefe-Feldman
  • Interview videographer: Sam Harchik
  • Editor: Jeannie Greeley
  • Recording session videographers: Kevin Greene and Joe Barnard
  • Audio post-production: Andres Gutierrez
  • Production assistant: Isak Kotecki