James Walz remembers attending the re-releases of the “Star Wars” movies in 1997 and falling in love with composer John Williams’ arrangements.
The Egg Harbor Township native grew up playing the piano, and on Thursday evening there was a line stretching across a mall in Lynchburg, Virginia, to see a film he was a part of.
Walz was the composer for “Extraordinary,” a film based on the true story of ultramarathon runner and college professor David Horton and the trials and tribulations he and his wife face in their marriage.
The film, which stars Kirk Cameron, known for his adolescent role in “Growing Pains” along with recent Christian drama films, premiered Thursday evening at multiple locations in Lynchburg as well as in Mays Landing.
Walz, an assistant professor of cinema at Liberty University in Virginia, has composed for three movies and worked in the sound department for others. He studied classical piano at Liberty until graduating in 2007. He said despite being a fan of film composers such as Williams and Hans Zimmer, he never thought he’d be scoring movies himself.
“I kind of fell into it,” said Walz, who lives in Virginia with his wife, Lindsey. “It was not something I planned on pursuing, but when it presented itself, I kind of modified.”
When he was hired at Liberty, Walz said, they had seen his capabilities working on films. Since 2012, he has been a part of five feature-length films in different facets.
As a kid, Walz and his siblings were encouraged by their parents to play the piano. Walz started playing at 5 years old and continued to play instruments through high school. He played in the Egg Harbor Township High School marching band.
“It was a new experience for us,” said Jim Walz, James’ father. Jim and James’ mother, Dana, would travel all over for sports games where James would perform. “Almost like a sport. (But) it kept us together as a family.”
Walz also performed in a band called Six Chasing Seven.
Jim Walz remembers after high school he toured colleges — a total of 17 — with James as he performed for different universities for admittance.
“Some were very critical, but Liberty University treated him like he was already part of the program,” he said.
Since his acceptance to the university, and becoming an assistant professor and scoring multiple films, Walz went into “Extraordinary” as the sole musical contributor. He found influences with German composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Muller.
The score took about three months, Walz said, and consisted of him playing piano as well as converting piano to orchestral instruments through a computer. Six Chasing Seven reunited to contribute to the movie.
He said “Extraordinary” was his most daunting task yet.
“This was probably the hardest film I had to score,” Walz said. “There are so many different themes and landscapes across the country from the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam. I had to find the right feel for those particular landmarks.”
On Thursday evening, James and Lindsey Walz enjoyed the show’s premiere with posters hanging on the walls and long lines of people waiting for tickets.
And in Mays Landing, Jim and Dana Walz were grabbing tickets in a much shorter line. But close friends came out to hear the Walzes’ son’s music.
Jim Walz said he and his wife were excited for the premiere.
“It’s something we don’t really get involved with until we come here and see the movie,” he said. “We really pay attention to the music because it’s what he’s involved with mostly.”