Once you get your foot stuck in Lyons soil, you will be forever a child of Lyons. Andy Forsberg has a long family line in Lyons, beginning with the Huss family who ran a market on Main Street in the 1930s. Their daughter Joyce helped them until it burnt down in 1967. Joyce married Richard Jones, and their daughter’s husband started Baseline, and another son and daughter-in-law run Lionscrest. But that’s not what this is about, but rather about a man who left Lyons 12 years ago and now has a successful career in the music business, and yet he comes back to visit family and friends, his roots, and occasionally tutoring local high school band students.
When Andy Forsberg was in sixth grade in Lyons Middle School, he joined the school band. He played a trumpet that he got from his uncle. But, by the end of the semester, he knew that was not going to be his instrument of choice. He had seen the movie “Drumline” (2004 version) which opened up a whole new world to him… that of percussion.
“I had a friend, Ben, in Middle School,” said Andy, “and we would drum on our notebooks all the time during recess. I couldn’t stop moving. I was just a kid.”
“He asked me early on if he could switch,” said Director of Bands (since 2001) Dr. Karen Gregg. “I don’t usually do it in the middle of the year, but he was constantly tapping with his hands. In order to stop, he decided to sit on them, but then his feet would be going.”
Once he was giving permission to switch, during the next semester, he was trained in all types of percussion.
“I wanted to learn it all,” said Andy. “We could come in early period before class. I was ok with anything. I think she let me switch because I was interested in all of them.”
Andy went on to audition and win a seat in the All State Band three times. He joined others in this all-star team to learn a new piece, rehearse for a weekend, and then give the big performance.
It was the Vibraphone (which is similar to and bigger than a xylophone, and has metal bars) that he played to get into Berklee College of Music, Boston. But, he soon transitioned into what he really wanted to do: film scoring. Berklee is renowned for both its emphasis on teaching through modern music, and for its alumni’ success, including winners of hundreds of Grammys over the decades. Andy went there because it was the only school that had a degree in film scoring.
“We use to do exercises where we would take a scene from a movie, and then add music to it to create different genres, like horror or romance,” said Andy. After graduation, he knew he had to move to Los Angeles, where the movie industry was, in order to fulfill his career goal.
He first worked for William Ross, who was the music director of Barbra Streisand, among others. Andy was a composer assistant, which could involve anything from orchestration work to getting Ross’ lunch. While he did work on a movie with him, he did not write any compositions.
His next job was for Ryan Shore, who did work on Disney animation TV shows. Again, he was a composer’s assistant.
He had been toying with the idea of setting up his own company back when he was in college, and took the step to do it with a friend. The company, Hexany Audio, did music and sound design. But he left after two and a half years because he seemed to be spending more time on the business end than on music.
Andy finally did what many in the movie business do, which is become a freelancer. He has now successfully done music for nature documentaries for Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet for five years.
Back in Lyons, Band Director Karen and Andy have kept in touch, both by texting and getting a friendly drink when he is in town. After the Great Flood of 2013, he composed a piece for the school band. He flew out from Boston, and conducted it.
“I worked with him when he was a student here, a lot of the time in the performance aspect. He was in a class with some students with a lot of talent – high achievers,” said Karen. “The way the program works, the students have to learn all the instruments in their area. I want them to be well-rounded in the scope of instruments. I seem to remember him playing the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, and even steel drums once that he brought back from Trinidad. He was like a sponge. He soaked it all up. He was a very eager student. And, one of the nicest people I know.”
During the COVID-19 restrictions in Lyons schools, the band is split in two, with half of the work being at home.
“All student work is hard, but it’s exceptionally difficult with music classes,” said Karen. “The students will work on a project when home. I assigned a blues composition, using (the software) Garage Band. I’d give them parameters, and they would create a piece of music. We did two different styles. But they asked me questions about composition, and I don’t have a composition background.”
She contacted Andy for some help. He agreed, and they arranged for a virtual meeting between him and the students. He showed them his process, his set up, his computer and his keyboard. He walked them through the progression of starting to compose a piece of music.
“I love teaching. But, it’s super hard, and it just gives me more respect for her,” said Andy. “The students asked me amazing questions, so much technical stuff, even about the business of the music industry. I told them, for some of it you have to just learn the basics, and then it becomes inherent in you, and you don’t think about the technical things.”
Lyons will be seeing Andy for years to come.
“I have so many good memories here. It was a confluence of all types of people,” said Andy. “When I go through my career, and have ups and downs, I think about my time in Lyons. It gives me a sense of ease. It allowed me to become a well-rounded person.”