Chris Ledesma Chris Ledesma

Chris Ledesma, longtime music editor of The Simpsons, died on December 16. He was 64.

A touching tribute to Ledesma appeared in the most recent episode of The Simpsons on Sunday, in the form of a post-credits card featuring Ledesma, holding a director’s baton, and the Simpson family including Lisa, Maggie, and Bart holding instruments.

Ledesma worked on The Simpsons for more than 30 years, from its series premiere in 1989 until 2022, when he departed due to health issues. In total, Ledesma contributed to 735 episodes of The Simpsons.

On September 16, 2021, Ledesma tweeted that he’d spent more than half his life working on The Simpsons:

Today is a significant milestone for me.

I am 23,242 days old

I have worked on The Simpsons for 11,621 days

Born 1/28/1958

First day on #TheSimpsons 11/22/1989

Not many can say they have worked at ANY job any more for LITERALLY half their lives.

#Grateful #Blessed

The Simpsons was far from his only gig however. Ledesma is credited on more than 130 other films, series, and specials including The Critic, Mission Hill, The Tracey Ullman Show, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, to name just a few. He was nominated for sound editing Emmys on both 1988’s War and Remembrance and 1993’s Gypsy.

While studying orchestral conducting at Calarts in 1976-1977, Ledesma landed his first conducting gig working on a student thesis film. He told the filmmaker that he would need a music editor as well, but received only a blank stare in return, so Ledesma acted as his own music editor while writing his first film score. After that, he scored student and short films when the work was available, but slowly shifted into music editing. His big break was still years away, however.

In 1984, Ledesma took a job as a tour guide at Universal Studios and, after finishing his morning tours, would spend afternoons on the scoring stage observing live orchestra sessions and picking the brain of the music editors who would come through. By 1985, he had talked his way into an apprenticeship at Segue Music, one of Hollywood’s premiere music editing companies at the time.

After nine months, Ledesma was laid off by Segue, but in 1987 he found his way back into the industry at Music Design Group, where he later earned his first Emmy nomination for War and Remembrance.

In 1989, he was offered the job of music editor on The Tracey Ullman Show. At the time, the budget for that show had already been established, so Ledesma worked at scale, representing a significant pay cut. However, he was told that Fox was planning to spin off that program’s animated bumpers into their own series and that if he did the music editing for that upcoming show, he’d receive a pay bump. He agreed, and in 1989 he began working on the two programs, The Tracey Ullman Show and The Simpsons.

There was no track record for a show like The Simpsons on broadcast tv at the time, and Ledesma was justifiably unconvinced about turning a series of novelty bumpers into a half-hour sitcom. In a blog that he maintained for years, Ledesma later recalled:

I was skeptical of turning the little, 30- and 60-second featurettes on TRACEY into a full-fledged, half-hour show. All that went out the window as soon as I saw the first two shows. The wit, the audacity, the Simpson family (both their look and their sound) were all utterly unique compared to anything on the air in 1989 and to any animated TV series that had gone before.

Ledesma’s blog is absolutely loaded with advice, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and fun trivia facts about The Simpsons and other productions on which he worked. His final post was made on December 17, 2020, a touching interpretation of “The Night Before Christmas” themed around working on The Simpsons.

Explaining his best advice for students who would visit The Simpsons and ask about breaking into the industry, Ledesma said his answer was always the same:

They ask for the secret for breaking into show biz and I tell them that the only chance they have for success in this business is to study and be ready for anything at any time. They have no control over when an opportunity will come their way, but when it does, they better be prepared. Not the sexiest advice ever but it has served me pretty well over the years.

Ledesma is survived by his wife, Michelle; two daughters; and three grandchildren.

Many of Ledesma’s The Simpsons colleagues have taken to social media to pay respects to their longtime colleague since his passing was announced.

Writer and co-executive producer Carolyn Omine:

Matt Selman, executive producer, and showrunner:

Artist Matthew Schofield:

Jake Schafer, who took over for Ledesma when he stepped down as music editor:

Longtime Simpsons producer and director David Silverman:

Pictured at top: Ledesma after finishing the 2019 The Simpsons’ Christmas episode.

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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