Robert Shaw - Man of Many Voices

Robert Shaw – Man of Many Voices is more than a remarkable story about the unbelievable rise of a great symphonic conductor from a background of pop music and very little formal training. It is also a moving tale of a man wrestling demons while still creating choral music that towers as the gold standard even today. It is a film the New York Times has called “poignant and compelling.”

Robert Shaw’s legacy has reached far beyond the multiple Grammy awards, the record-breaking albums and even the vast musical history he made. Civil rights and international diplomacy also benefitted from Mr. Shaw’s unshakeable belief that music could transcend human divisions whether political, prejudicial or simply entrenched. His considerable talents were matched by his passion, his charisma and his unique genius, and seemed to stay a step ahead of the world around him.

Robert Shaw touched the lives of untold musicians and listeners, most of whom walked away from the experience a changed being. This documentary film that the New York Times went on to call “an obvious labor of love … admirably cleareyed in its warts-and-all perspective” captures those moments with all the emotion and gravitas as when they were first experienced.
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  • Pamela Roberts
    Independent Lens (2009); Butte, America (2008); Ishi: The Last Yahi (1992)
  • Peter Miller
    A.K.A. Doc Pomus (2012); Projections of America (2014); Sacco and Vanzetti (2006)
  • Pamela Roberts
    Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel (2012)
  • Kiki Wilson
  • Peter Miller
    Projections of America (2014)
  • Kiki Wilson
  • David Druckenmiller
    Testimony: Profiles in Faith (2002); A New Hope (2009); Flowers of the Son (2010)
  • Pam Roberts
    Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel (2012); Independent Lens (2009); Butte, America (2008)
  • Peter Miller
    A.K.A. Doc Pomus (2012); Refugee Kids (2014); Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (2010)
  • Sylvia McNair
    Key Cast
    Handel: Messiah (1992); The Killer Inside Me (2010); Il viaggio a Reims (1992)
  • Martin Goldsmith
    Key Cast
    My Music: Classical Rewind (2013)
  • Marietta Simpson
    Key Cast
    Messiah (1987); American Playhouse (1981); Breakfast with the Arts (1991)
  • Alice Parker
    Key Cast
    A Carol for Another Christmas (1964); Towelhead (2007)
  • William Preucil
    Key Cast
    The Nutcracker (1993); BBC Proms (2014)
  • Alex Hitz
    Key Cast
    Marie (2013)
  • Donald Runnicles
    Key Cast
    O, Fortuna! (2008); Capriccio (1993); Madama Butterfly (2010)
  • Uzee Brown
    Key Cast
    Red Hook Summer (2012)
  • Robert Woods
    Key Cast
    Nutcracker (1986)
  • David Hyde Pierce
    Key Cast
    Frasier (1993-2004)
  • Jimmy Carter
    Key Cast
    The American President (2000); The Daily Show (2005-2015)
  • Amy Linton
    A.K.A. Doc Pomus (2012); The BIG Boom (1998)
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 11 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 20, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    1,200,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • American Documentary Film Festival
    Palm Springs, California
    United States
    April 1, 2017
    Best of Fest
  • Beaufort International Film Festival
    Beaufort, South Carolina
    United States
    February 18, 2017
    South Carolina Premiere
    Best Documentary
  • Breckenridge Film Festival
    Breckenridge, Colorado
    United States
    September 22, 2017
    Colorado Premiere
    Best Documentary; Best Music
  • Palm Beach International Film Festival
    Palm Beach, Florida
    United States
    April 2, 2017
    Best Documentary
  • Newport Beach International Film Festival
    Newport Beach, California
    United States
    April 25, 2017
  • St. Louis International Film Festival
    St. Louis, Missouri
    United States
    November 9, 2016
  • Long Beach Indie Film Festival
    Long Beach, California
    United States
    September 2, 2017
  • Ridgefield Independent Film Festival
    Ridgefield, Connecticut
    United States
    May 20, 2017
  • San Diego Choral Consortium Screening
    San Diego, California
    United States
    January 21, 2017
  • Kansas City Premiere and Gala Concert
    Kansas City, Missouri
    United States
    February 11, 2017
    Kansas City Premiere
  • Society of the Four Arts Screening
    West Palm Beach, Florida
    United States
    January 15, 2017
    Palm Beach Premiere
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art Screening
    Cleveland, Ohio
    United States
    November 18, 2016
    Ohio Premiere
  • Ravinia Music Festival - Celebrating Robert Shaw
    Chicago, Illinois
    United States
    June 15, 2016
    Illinois Premiere
  • Community Music Project
    Jamestown, New York
    United States
    May 5, 2017
  • Westminster Choral College
    Princeton, New Jersey
    United States
    April 7, 2017
  • Valley Film Festival
    Sherman Oaks, California
    United States
    October 26, 2017
  • Ojai Film Festival
    Ojai, California
    United States
    November 5, 2017
Director Biography - Pamela Roberts, Peter Miller

Peter Miller is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films, including AKA Doc Pomus, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, and Sacco and Vanzetti, have screened in cinemas and on television throughout the world. He has also been a producer on numerous landmark PBS series directed by Ken Burns.

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Director Statement

Robert Shaw’s life is an epic story of genius, audacity, and a passionate commitment to creating a better world. His journey is a wonderfully American tale of reinvention – the improbable ascent of an unschooled musician from obscurity to the heights of classical music. It’s a story that would seem far-fetched as fiction, but it’s all true. And when asked to help bring it to the screen, I could not resist.

Shaw’s main instrument was the chorus, an institution perfectly suited to this most democratic of musicians. To Shaw, a chorus is a form of participatory democracy, a collection of individuals whose voices create a community greater than themselves. He insisted his choruses include the best musicians, regardless of race or ethnicity, and he embraced integration in the arts throughout his career. His idealism shaped his creative choices with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, cajoling his chorus members to understand the urgency of their work, while encouraging audiences to welcome the challenging music of contemporary composers. He was a man of great principles and boundless chutzpah.

The subjects of my previous films – from Sacco and Vanzetti to Gus Garcia to Doc Pomus – have been visionary outsiders who drew on genius and passion to transform the world. I’m so pleased to now include Robert Shaw not just in my filmmaking cosmos but deep within my soul. Like the many thousands of choristers whose lives were changed by his presence, I have been transformed by coming to know this brilliant, complex and endlessly fascinating American hero.

The process of making the documentary has been infused with Robert Shaw’s spirit. Our film’s originator, Kiki Wilson, assembled an ensemble of creative people to join our voices together to distill Shaw’s essence on film. It’s been an honor to collaborate with the community that’s gathered to tell this story, including the gifted writer/director Pamela Roberts and with my longtime filmmaking partner Amy Linton, whose editing captures the poetry and music of Shaw’s brilliant life. I joined the team when the filmmaking was already well underway, and am grateful to have drawn on the years of research that went into uncovering this story. In the tradition of Robert Shaw, we set out to tell a story not only about music, but about the possibility of a life well lived, and the necessity of creating a more beautiful world. We are excited about sharing this remarkable tale – and the message of our extraordinary subject – far and wide.

Peter Miller