Diane Louie: This Renowned Musical Professional’s Work Is About More than the Music

Posted on January 13, 2015 by FWC Team 

Diane Louie is certainly famous among industry people who count. Musicians, filmmakers, and producers in all genres of entertainment court Diane for their projects, so First Wives Club – the Musical is honored that Diane has chosen to work with us as Musical Supervisor. We had the pleasure of speaking with Diane about First Wives Club, her music, and her dedication to helping families at risk.


I watched a film where you were interviewed about a documentary you composed the music for called The Venus Project - Future By Design. There was something that you said in that interview that struck me. When you were talking about how the director of that film said he wanted you to have a voice in the music, you said, “To me, a very valid voice can sometimes be silence. It’s often silence.”

Diane: That’s one of our most powerful voices actually – our silence, it’s for good and for bad.

I can see that, with sound or the written word. In writing, how much white space there is can be just as important as the words on the page. It’s kind of like the silence.

Diane: It’s what we read between those lines. When a child is learning to read, it actually takes very few years relative to the life span to learn to read. For seven or eight years, you learn how to decode, you learn the system, the sounds and combinations and a limited list of words. After that, it is practice and the rest of your life learning about inference and what is not written, what is intended to be understood from what is written.

A lot of people don’t understand that.

Diane: We are a couple of generations now into not communicating in all that communication means, but just passing information, which isn’t necessarily communication. A little bit of information – Where are you? I’m down the street at the grocery store. That doesn’t tell me anything. It doesn’t prompt me to wonder, it doesn’t prompt me to reflect, it doesn’t prompt me to think. I ask a direct question, I get an answer, enough said. Not even an exchange. I wonder what that is going to mean for trades like yours, like writing, that require reflection and putting yourself behind the eyes and between the ears of somebody else. I think that ability is being bred out of us. We don’t do anything but pass information anymore. We don’t have a need for the abstract. We don’t have a need for figuring out what is concept, what is inferred. All we need to know now is how to decode shorthand: little emails or texting. We don’t even have conversations anymore. Do you ever go to a restaurant and you see a family all sitting around the table and everybody’s got their head bowed down in prayer? That’s what I call it when they are looking down at the phone in their lap and they are all texting. We don’t talk to each other anymore.

I guess that is one reason why music is still important. Music and other forms of art can still reach people in ways that words can’t.

Diane: You are right about that.

How did you get involved with First Wives Club?

Diane: I met Paul Lambert when they doing a workshop in Melbourne two years ago; I was referred to him by Paul Riser, who I had worked with for many years, and who was an arranger and contemporary of Eddie, Brian and Lamont, of the Supremes, and of all the legendary groups at Motown when it was in its early stages. Paul Riser heard about First Wives Club, and he was intending to be involved at some stage back when they first started. He introduced me to Paul [Lambert] and we went from there.

The First Wives Team (Seated, L to R) Eddie Holland, Diane Louie, Brian Holland (Standing L to R) Paul Lambert, Simon Phillips, and Jonas Neilson

I spoke with Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. They are amazing. I’ve been a fan for many years. Have you ever worked with them before? You worked with so many brilliant artists.

Diane: All of us have been fans of theirs. I had worked with them before this, but I’ve had good fortune.

What can we expect from the music you are developing and executing with Holland Dozier Holland?

Diane: We can expect music that makes people feel the way that Holland Dozier Holland music has always made people feel – hopeful, joyful, happy to be involved in whatever is going on at the moment, memory making, all of those things. We are using songs that were written over 50 years ago and they are still strong.

You are quite a mentor for a lot of young people through shows like American Idol and projects that help young people like Harmony Project. I imagine you are used to working with young people, or people who are new to the music industry.

Diane: I have my own school; it’s called Founders Academy. The well-being of children and families has always been my professional and personal passion. I’m very fortunate to have a job that I enjoy and it affords me the opportunity to do my passion, which is not music; frankly, it is the well being of children and families. At Founders Academy, we don’t concentrate on music; we focus on the academic essentials of math and language arts, and helping older children of families affected by substance abuse towards independence, interdependence, and emancipation sometimes, if it is healthy and appropriate. We’ve been doing this for over 25 years and not every day, but maybe a couple of times a year we’ve started to have calls from kids who we worked with 20 years ago who now have families of their own and are doing well. Small victories are real victories for us. Like having a job – first in your family to ever have a job. First in your family to go to college, first in your family to be drug free. You have children of your own; those are the kind of things that excite me. If everybody just took care of whatever it is that we are supposed to do… finish what you start, be thoughtful, be smart, work hard, work honestly, and be a good person.

We all need to laugh and enjoy life too, and listening to music, seeing a play, or going to an art exhibit is healing.

Diane: It is. The arts, expressing yourself, having an opportunity to experience something, and get out of the house and go and enjoy yourself and be in the company of other people, relive some good memories, put a few more smile lines on your face; it’s a good thing, it’s healthy. It’s as essential as water and shelter – expressing yourself, being heard and being acknowledged. It’s not just a luxury or something we can do without. For anybody to be able to express him or herself it is essential.

I heard that you play all kinds of instruments?

Diane: I always say that I can play any instrument with varying degrees of inadequacy.

How do you compose music?

Diane: I’m a lyricist as well. I’m a complete songwriter. If I am writing a song, usually it starts with the lyrics; it starts with a concept or something that I want to say. If it is a film score or instrumental, again, it starts with something I want to say, but it will be in a language other than words. My main thing that I do in music is “accompany”. I am most comfortable accompanying a singer, or another player. I do the same thing if I am doing music for film or dance. I am accompanying the image on the screen or the image being created on the floor.

Diane Louie supervising the music for First Wives Club: The Musical during rehearsals

You must enjoy working with people.

Diane: Everyone is different. There are some people where you have worked with them for decades and you have never met them face to face, only through email or over the phone.

Have you ever done a play like First Wives Club before? That must be a lot more collaborative because you are working with so many other people and you have to agree on how things are going to come together.

Diane: Yes. Collaboration is something you definitely have to make room for. For some things, like what you do, there are areas where you can be the friendly dictator, you make executive decisions and it’s just on you. You are the only one that you have to ask. There are other jobs you do where committee decides everything. You have to wrap your mind around the difference and accept that is the way it is done in that circumstance. They are two completely different ways of expression.

About Diane Louie

Diane Louie is a brilliant and accomplished classically trained composer and conductor. Her musical style crosses all genres. Diane has led orchestras around the globe, including the Boston Symphony, London Symphony, and San Francisco Symphony. She has shared her insight and unique talent to enhance the work of many of our most brilliant recording artists, including Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Roberta Flack, Placido Domingo, Michael McDonald, and many others. Diane has been a Musical Supervisor for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the Grammys, American Idol, and the NAACP Image Awards. She has provided music for the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys, Miss America, the Image Awards, and composed the score for a number of films. Diane is someone who is committed to giving back to her community. She is a mentor and a generous spirit. Diane started Founders Academy to assist at-risk families and children. In 2012, she received the Halo Award for her volunteer work with Harmony Project.