East Carolina fans familiar with the music of Dolly Parton should listen closely when NBC premiers a new movie called Coat of Many Colors tonight.
ECU alumnus and Emmy-winning composer Velton Ray Bunch ’71 wrote the music for this made-for-TV movie that depicts a true story from Parton’s childhood in the mountains of east Tennessee, when her mother gave her a coat she had lovingly sewn from colorful rags, which inspired her 1968 hit.
In addition to composing background music to score the movie, Bunch created a new arrangement of Parton’s song by taking her vocals from the original recording and backing them with a symphony orchestra instead of a guitar.
“It’s a very interesting use of the song,” Bunch said. “I think it turned out very well.”
Bunch was offered the job with a call from Parton herself, who told him she was working with NBC to develop a series of movies based on her songs, and she wanted him to write the music based on their previous work together.
“This came directly from Dolly,” Bunch said. “I’ve known her many years and I’ve handled music for her before. Still it was a nice surprise to hear from her since it had been a few years. I think she likes the fact that I’m from North Carolina and we had a similar upbringing.”
Bunch always knew that he wanted to write music for movies and TV. After graduating from ECU in 1971 with a degree in music composition and theory, Bunch headed out to Los Angeles.
He “did the requisite starving for a time,” but eventually made his way into the business. He has composed music for several well-known TV shows including Quantum Leap, Walker, Texas Ranger, and JAG. He won an Emmy in 2004 for his work on Star Trek: Enterprise. He also has three Emmy nominations.
While writing scores for TV shows and movies is different from composing classical symphonies, Bunch says his education at ECU did prepare him well for his career.
“I learned a great deal at ECU and had fantastic teachers,” he said. “It taught me a lot of being disciplined. I’m very proud I went to ECU.”
By Jackie Drake