Meet your neighbor ... Dwayne Condon
DARIEN — Chances are you have heard Dwayne Condon’s performance as a choir member or composer without knowing it.
From movies like “Independence Day” and “The Sixth Sense” to iconic video games like “God of War” and a miniseries in the Halo franchise, Condon, the director of music and fine arts at the Noroton Presbyterian Church, has been an active music professional since age 14.
Quite the feat, considering he only began playing piano at age 10.
“I made up a lot of lost ground,” Condon said. “I took piano very seriously when I was young and I had to talk my family into letting me play.”
Condon’s parents first rented a piano for six months — a trial run to decide whether to let him continue playing. They then agreed to purchase the instrument.
Condon was gifted with sight-reading, the ability to perform music pieces near perfectly at first sight.
“You can play, to a fair degree, most things that are just put in front of you, and that turned out to be a valuable and sought-after skill,” Condon said as he sat next to the keyboard and three screens that occupies half of his office space at the Noroton church.
When he was 14, Condon was hired by singers from different musicals and opera and, in what became a parallel career, he got his first musical job at a church choir in Rosemead, Calif.
Following his high school graduation in 1973, Condon went to California State University in Los Angeles, but dropped out once he joined the Roger Wagner Chorale and ventured on his first tour with the 24-person group.
“The first concert I did with them I was scared to death. It was like an out-of-body experience,” Condon said about the three-month tour throughout the country. “One day, something clicked and I felt much more comfortable.”
The Roger Wagner Chorale even traveled to Japan and Korea where, Condon said, they were treated like rock stars.
After some work with the Chorale, Condon opted to return back to school, but dropped out a second time because of musical opportunities with the LA Master Chorale and the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. The third time Condon returned to California State University, the dean told him he had no reason to stay other than becoming a music teacher. Then 26 years old, Condon decided to leave school permanently.
“I missed singing, and I went back to the LA Master Chorale where I talked with Paul Salamunovich, a protege of Robert Wagner, and that’s how I got into movie soundtracks,” Condon said.
Performing as a choir member, composer and vocalist, Condon took part in a number of films from 1996 to 2007.
“When you go into a movie, you never notice the choir because there’s usually an emotional impact and emotional moment when the music is playing,” Condon said. Asked if he has ever appeared on the credits following the movie, he laughed and said credits will include the name of the guy who gets the donuts, but never the singers.
“We make it onto IMDB and still get the royalty checks,” Condon said.
Darien became a focus for Condon and his family once he saw an opening for a music director at Noroton Presbyterian Church. Though he didn’t have some of the qualifications — ironically, a college degree — his extensive experience in the music world got him the position.
“I came here in 2007 and have loved it ever since,” Condon said.
In Connecticut, Condon and a number of other choir singers formed the New York Film Chorale. After meeting Tom Salta, an MTV Video Music Awards nominated composer, the groups joined forces to participate in video game music projects, including the iconic Halo series, which also involved members from the Keystone State Boychoir.
“Salta scored ‘Halo: The Fall of Reach’ — Salta would have me write the parts for the chorus and I did some orchestrating for him, too,” Condon said.
Lately, Condon has been focused on community projects like playing for the high school musical versions of “Legally Blonde” and “Footloose.” He is also the musical director for “Cabaret,” a joint venture between the Darien Arts Center and The Lipstick Project.
“I’m really happy working here at Noroton Presbyterian and also doing a lot with the school district,” Condon said. “I like to be a part of my kids’ lives.”
As far as his next big project, Condon glanced at a picture of his wife and fellow singer, Jenifer, on the wall of his office.
“My wife is a breast cancer survivor and she’s beating the odds. She deserves a great music project from me and that’s going to be my big outside project,” Condon said.