Rickey Minor Interview: ‘Oscars,’ ‘Kennedy Center Honors’ musical director
Rickey Minor secured not one but two Emmy nominations for Best Music Direction this year for his work on “Kennedy Center Honors” and the 2020 Oscars. He has now amassed 11 nominations for his work, with one win, for the 2017 special “African American Music and Stories that Changed America.” “It’s really just an embarrassment of riches,” says Minor in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “To get nominated one time in any category is big so it doesn’t fall short on me the quality of work that’s being out there and to be recognized for two different shows is never-wracking, for sure.” Watch the video interview with Minor above.
This was Minor’s second Oscars serving as music director, and it remained important to him to not focus on making big sweeping changes. “It’s all the small things, and that’s what I feel is important,” he explains, “the inner workings of really selecting the proper play-ons and really dealing with the artists and just trying to find ways to connect better.” This year’s Oscars featured performances from all five Best Original Song nominees plus an opening number by Janelle Monáe and Billy Porter and a surprise performance by Eminem. The Monae and Porter performance was carefully crafted to create a lively and energetic opener to the show. “We really had to work hard to make it the best that it could be and leave no stone unturned from wardrobe from characters, everything about it had to be right,” states Minor. Meanwhile, the Eminem number was sworn to secrecy, as Minor reveals that even the band didn’t know about it beforehand. “The fact that he didn’t perform when he won, this was a great opportunity again to talk about music and the impact of music in film.”
The “Kennedy Center Honors” special featured tributes to music artists Linda Ronstadt, Earth, Wind and Fire and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, actor Sally Field and the children’s program “Sesame Street.” Minor first started planning for the diverse show in October, with the ceremony taking place in December. He spoke with artists who were interested in providing tributes to the honorees: “My first job is to make sure that I find the right song for each artist that would make them shine and that they would enjoy and that they connect to.” Of course, Minor’s job isn’t just in the elaborate musical numbers but the short music cues when figures like Steven Spielberg are walking on the stage. As Minor spells out, “You have to really look at the pacing of the show energy-wise, where are we, should it be solemn, should it be celebratory, what is the music for each moment?” He adds that his key to success in producing the best musical tribute comes down to one four-word phrase: “Listen more. Talk less.”