Baltimore composer Lynn Kowal wrote theme for TV drama 0...


March 07, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Baltimore composer Lynn Kowal wrote theme for TV drama 0) 'Homicide'

When Lynn Kowal wrote to Barry Levinson's assistant about the theme song to "Homicide," she wasn't sure she'd get a response, much less the job.

But after three months of sending faxes, tapes and resumes, she learned that "African Ventures," a composition written while she was a grad student at Peabody Institute, would open and close the show about Baltimore homicide detectives.

"I jumped up and down. . . . For somebody who wants to do this kind of work, it was a tremendous break," says Ms. Kowal, 25, who lives in Mount Vernon.

But don't expect to hear the song on an elevator one day. The piece, with its low rumbling bass and primitive beat, is far from your average TV jingle. Before writing it, she spent months researching African music.

"I wanted something that made you want to dance somewhere deep inside you," she says.

The most difficult part was letting go of her work. "As a classically trained composer, you want to have a lot of control. But I found myself saying, 'I'm going to have to trust them,' " she says.

Now she has to trust viewers to tune into the low-rated show, particularly since her royalties depend on the show staying on the air.

But even if the drama is canceled, the project has given her credibility among colleagues who shun commercial ventures.

"I'm glad to show them that a theme can be a serious piece of music," she says.

As for other TV themes, Ms. Kowal is lukewarm.

While she likes the music from "Northern Exposure," she says, "When I hear the 'Doogie Howser' theme, I gotta ask: 'Why?' "

The job, according to V103 disc jockey Jean Ross, is simple: "I want to put a smile on your face so you don't go to work and kill your boss."

For the last 15 years, she's done the trick, being a bright and constant presence in a business rife with sarcasm and instability.

A Baltimore native, she initially saw radio as a steppingstone to television, but now prefers the medium she's in. Her profession has provided her with plenty of adventures, including the chance to ride an elephant, sail in a hot-air balloon and endure countless practical jokes. ("Somebody once put my copy on fire.")

But nothing compares to the fear she experienced during her radio debut. "I was supposed to read five minutes of local news. And I don't remember taking a breath during that whole time," says Ms. Ross, who's in her 30s.

In addition to working as a DJ from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., she's also the public affairs director, acting as the conscience of the station. She was instrumental in bringing "For Sisters Only," an expo for women of color, to Festival Hall next weekend.

One of her greatest personal challenges has been finding someone willing to put up with her schedule. (She gets up at 3:15 a.m. and goes to bed at 8 p.m.) During a bowling benefit five years ago, she found just the man: pro bowler Howard Marshall 2nd.

They married three years ago and now live in Ashburton. Juggling their lifestyles has been the biggest headache.

She says, "We meet in the kitchen every once in a while and say, 'Don't I know you?' "

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