Dr Ian Sapiro

Dr Ian Sapiro


I work principally in film music, musical theatre, adaptation, orchestration and the overlaps between them. I studied Music at undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research postgraduate levels at Leeds, completing my PhD in film music in 2011. I joined the staff in the School of Music as a research assistant in 2003, becoming a lecturer in 2012. I am currently the Director of Student Education for the School.

I have been active as a professional conductor of amateur musical theatre productions for over 25 years, and have been musical director for over 50 musicals in that time. I am currently associated with Guiseley Theatrical Productions and Bingley Little Theatre, spent fifteen years as musical director for Buttershaw St Paul's AODS, Bradford, and Bradford Youth Players (Act 2), and have conducted musicals and concerts in Leeds, Halifax, Ilkley, Dewsbury, Liverpool and Birkenhead. In 2017 I received the rare and prestigious NODA Commendation - a National Operatic and Dramatic Association medal recognising the work of a non-amateur who has given devoted service to amateur theatre over a period of at least 10 years - having been nominated for the award by Buttershaw St Paul's AODS. I won the 'Eileen Mogridge Trophy for Best Musical Direction' at the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre in 2015–16 for Evita with Guiseley AOS, and was 'Musical Director of the Year' at the Bradford Playhouse awards in 2014 for Witches of Eastwick with Bradford Youth Players.

Research interests

My main research interests are:

  • film music, particularly contemporary film-score production process, and especially the orchestration of film music
  • musicals and musical theatre on stage and screen
  • adaptations (stage-to-screen, screen-to-stage, screen-to-screen, stage-to-stage, etc.)
  • orchestration and arrangement
  • the overlaps between these areas

Film Music and Film-Score Production Processes

My monograph, Scoring the Score: The Role of the Orchestrator in the Contemporary Film Industry (Routledge, 2016), is the first scholarly publication exploring the orchestrators and orchestration of music for screen media, and takes the form of a critical interrogation of screen-score orchestration in America and Britain. I interviewed a number of leading US- and UK-based film-score orchestrators and composers in the course of my research, including orchestrators Conrad Pope (John Williams, Alexandre Desplat), Bruce Fowler (Hans Zimmer) and Steve Bartek (Danny Elfman) and Oscar-winning composers Dario Marianelli, Steven Price and AR Rahman.

My first book, Ilan Eshkeri's 'Stardust': a Film Score Guide, was published by Scarecrow Press in 2013. I have undertaken a significant amount of archival film-music study alongside Professor David Cooper drawing on the unique resources held in the Trevor Jones and Michael Nyman Archives at Leeds, which include session recordings, spotting notes and other documentation relating to the film-score production process. A book on Jones, co-authored with David Cooper and Laura Anderson, The Screen Music of Trevor Jones: Technology, Process, Production, was the result of a 3-year £500k AHRC grant exploring the composer’s archival screen-music materials. 

I have also published on the working practices of Trevor Jones and Michael Nyman, and the orchestration of John Williams, and I have a forthcoming co-authored chapter with Toby Huelin exploring the music-production process for Frozen II. 

Musicals, Musical Theatre and Adaptation

Musical theatre is both a research and teaching interest and an area of practical application for me. I have writen book chapters on the relationship between the British musical and the pop music industry in the 1960s to the 1980s (OUP, 2017), the adaptation of Les Misérables for the cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and filmic adaptations of the stage musical Annie (OUP 2017), and my chapter exploring the role of songs, singing and singers in the film and stage versions of Sister Act is in publication. I am currently working on a critical performing adition of the 1930 George and Ira Gershwin musical, Girl Crazy. 

I am an active conductor and musical director, which affords me opportunities to apply my knowledge of musicals in a practical context, and I am keen to explore the relationship between theory and practice in musical theatre.

Orchestration and Arrangement

Often misrepresented as the same thing, I am very interested in approaches to, and the practical application of orchestration and arrangement. I have created new definitions of the two processes as they relate to screen music, detailed in my book Scoring the Score.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Film Music
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
  • M.Phil (Composition)
  • MMus Composition
  • BA Music

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the HEA
  • British Audio-Visual Research Network

Student education

Most of my teaching and project supervision is in the areas of film music and musical theatre, and covers a range of theoretical, historical and practical perspectives.

Research groups and institutes

  • Music as Culture

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>