Merrill Jenson

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Merrill Jenson Mormon Composer

Merrill Boyd Jenson is a composer and arranger and has composed film scores for more than thirty films. He has composed music for numerous television commercials. He has also composed for outdoor pageants, albums, and concerts.

Jenson was born on January 20, 1947, in Richfield, Utah. He had a musical upbringing—his father taught him to play the trumpet and his mother taught him to play the piano and conduct music (in front of a mirror while listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

While working to attend his bachelor’s degree in music composition from Brigham Young University, Jenson directed the BYU Cougar Marching Band and worked for BYU Sound Services recording concerts and recitals, producing records, and later was a full-time musical supervisor.

His work with film studios began soon after his graduation when he performed odd jobs at the Los Angeles film studios so he could meet and associate with film composers. He was hired to compose a few small projects at the LDS Motion Picture Studios. His jump into scoring entire films came when Kieth Merrill hired him to compose the score for the sequel to his Academy Award-winning documentary The Great American Cowboy. Jenson conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra for The Great American Indian. He later worked with Merrill on Windwalker, Harry’s War, Three Warriors, and Take Down.

For many years, Jenson worked for Bonneville Communications where he wrote music for films such as The First Vision, The Mailbox, and Uncle Ben, and Homefront commercials for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member. He also wrote music for Legacy, The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd, and Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. He also 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. He composed the score for feature film Emma Smith: My Story.

He 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, 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).

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, live in Utah.