Merrill Boyd Jenson

Merrill JensonMerrill Boyd Jenson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is an American composer and arranger who has composed film scores for more than thirty films including Emma Smith: My Story, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, Legacy, Harry’s War, and Windwalker. He has also composed music for numerous television commercials including the acclaimed Homefront ads, as well as music for three outdoor pageants, several albums, and concert productions including a symphony that premiered at Carnegie Hall. Many of the films Jenson composed music for were directed by Academy Award winning director Kieth Merrill.

Merrill Boyd Jenson was born on 20 January 1947, in Richfield, Utah. Music has been a part of his life ever since he was a young boy. At an early age, his mother taught him how to conduct music in front of a mirror while listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She also taught him how to play the piano, and his father taught him how to play the trumpet.

He graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah with a degree in Music Composition. While attending BYU, he directed the BYU Cougar Marching Band and worked for BYU Sound Services recording concerts and recitals, and producing records. He later became a full-time musical supervisor.

Soon after graduating, he took on odd jobs at the film studios in Los Angeles, California, so he could meet and associate with some of the great film producers of the day. He was eventually hired to compose a few small projects at the LDS Motion Picture Studios, but his big break came when he met director Kieth Merrill. Merrill hired him to compose the score to the sequel of his Academy Award-winning documentary The Great American Cowboy. Jenson’s score to The Great American Indian was recorded with him as the conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He later collaborated with Merrill on Windwalker, Harry’s War, Three Warriors, and Take Down.

Jenson worked with Bonneville Communications for many years writing music for films for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including The Phone Call (1977), The First Vision, The Mailbox, and Uncle Ben. He also wrote music for commercials for the Church such as the Homefront commercials, as well as, music for the film How Rare a Possession: The Book of Mormon. Later he wrote the music scores for three films that have shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah – Legacy, The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, and Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.

He collaborated with Sam Cardon to compose music for Lee Groberg’s PBS documentaries Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail, American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith, and Sacred Stone: Temple on the Mississippi. And he composed the score for the feature film Emma Smith: My Story.

Jenson composed music for the Manti Miracle Pageant, the Oakland California Temple Pageant, the Mesa Arizona Temple Pageant, and the Martin Harris Pageant. He has written music for several Visitors Center films such as the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center, the Carthage Jail Visitors Center, the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center, the Kirtland, Ohio Visitors Center, the Washington DC Temple Visitors Center, and one of the Mexico Temple Visitors Center. His concert productions include The Garden (1995, with Michael McLean and Bryce Neubert), Come Unto Christ oratorio (1999, BYU-Idaho), Viking Saga (2003, which premiered at Carnegie Hall), Music and the Spoken Word (2006, with Sissel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), O Little Town of Bethlehem (2010, University of Utah), and A Canyon People’s Portrait (2014, Kanab, Utah). His recordings include Beyond (1992) and Pioneer Portrait (1996) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; In A Land Called Israel (1993), Noel (1993), This Is Christmas (1994) with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; and High on a Mountaintop: Hymns of the Restoration with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (2004).

Merrill Boyd Jenson served as a full-time missionary to Norway and was assigned to play in a musical group for eight months. He also taught music composition at both BYU and Snow College. He and his wife Betsy Lee Jenson currently reside in Provo, Utah.

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