Themes from ‘Today’

“Today” 2016 Election Theme


During the 2016 election, Today continues to use its own election theme. This theme is not used by any other NBC News program. It’s composed by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. The new music builds on the music that Today used since 2010 to introduce their election coverage. More can be heard on Gubman’s Soundcloud channel.

Non-Stop Music - Today Election Theme

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“Today” Current Open


Just shy of 30 years after its introduction, the Today Show replaced its iconic opener composed by John Williams. The new theme, which has a more modern feel but remains orchestral in nature, is by the custom music division of Warner/Chappell Production Music. NBC attempted twice before — in 1994 and 2004 — to replace the Today’s opening fanfare. Those times it quickly returned. This time around, the new music had a much better reception.

WCPM Custom’s music was gradually introduced to viewers. It’s essentially a variation of the music that Today had already been using for elections and other special broadcasts. Meanwhile, Williams’ music was relegated to just the 7 a.m. open. Bumpers, promos and opens for the other three hours, had been using different music for quite some time. This particular mix was used until 2015, after which point they started using a slightly remixed version.

WCPM Custom - Today open

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“Today” 2012 – 2013 Headline Bed


On the same day that Good Morning America debuted a new theme, Today debuted a new headline bed. It has more of a driving beat to it than the previous version. Today also debuted new graphics and…a new open. But the new open mostly went unnoticed. In late 2011 John Williams re-recorded the open for Today in digital audio. At the same a new version of the Meet the Press theme was recorded. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme which saw significant changes, the Today open wasn’t changed that much, if at all.

Non-Stop Music - Today headline bed

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“Today” 2011 Royal Theme


For the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton in April 2011, the Today Show went all out with their coverage. The show broadcast from just outside Buckingham Palace in London for six hours straight. For the occasion, Today commissioned their go-to composers, Adam Gubman and Non-Stop Music, for a piece of special theme music. In the years after the wedding, the theme was brought back for other major news events from the British royal family.

Non-Stop Music - Today Royal Wedding Open

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“Today” 2010 – 2015 Election Open


While all NBC News programs use the same graphics for their election coverage, they don’t all use the same theme music. Today has used its own election theme since 2010. It’s part of a package consisting of various secondary themes by Adam Gubman for Non-Stop Music. This particular cut was also used to open the 60th anniversary special edition of Today. During that broadcast the Empire State Building was lit in the colors of Today and anchor Ann Curry wore a dress with the Today sunburst prominently displayed on it.

Non-Stop Music - Today Election Open

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“Today” 2006 Promo


Another image campaign for the Today Show by the folks at 615 Music. This one was used to promote Meredith Vieira’s debut as co-anchor of Today in 2006. Customized versions (with partially local lyrics) were done for a number of NBC stations, including those in Atlanta, Miami and San Diego.

615 Music - It's A New Day

Interestingly enough, a version of this campaign was also created with the tagline: “It’s a new hour…of Today”. The decision to add a fourth hour was not yet announced, probably not even made, but they did commission the music to promote it. Ultimately a new promo was composed to promote the fourth hour when it debuted a year after this promo music stopped airing.

615 Music - It's A New Hour

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“Today” 2006 – 2013 Open


In 2006 Today debuted a new open for the first time in more than 20 years. The music was part of John Williams’ 2004 revision of The Mission but Today opted not to use the new open until significantly later. The new open is 10 seconds longer than the original open. It was extended to cover the full announce, including the last part: “…live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza.” The new open also has a somewhat mellower sound due to less brass, making it a better fit for a morning program. In late 2011 the open was actually re-recorded in digital audio by Williams and his orchestra, along with the Meet the Press theme. However, unlike the Meet the Press theme, the changes for Today are barely noticeable. (The version below is the 2004 version.)

John Williams - Today open

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“Today” 2005 – 2012 Headline Bed


For many years Today had a cold open in which an anchor quickly teased a few stories. It lasted about 10 or 15 seconds while no music played. But like any other news program, Today wanted to tease more stories at the top to keep viewers tuned in longer. With that change came this headline bed which is composed by the folks at Non-Stop Music. These days the headline segments lasts significantly longer: about a minute.

Non-Stop Music - Today headline bed

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“Today” Current Bumper


This Copland-esque theme – think Hoedown from Rodeo – is part of the 2004 update of The Mission. It was originally intended for a possible Tom Brokaw-anchored news magazine prior to his retirement from Nightly News. The program, however, never came about and so the theme was never used in its entirety. In the late 2000’s it was used occasionally as a bumper for the Today Show, usually for NBC’s Education Nation segments.

John Williams - Untitled Part of The Mission

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“Today” 1998 – 2005 Promo


This is a well known promo campaign used for a number of years: ‘America’s First Family’. It is composed by Jay Stollman, Fred Shehadi, Frank Radice and Peter Primamore. Many local stations had their own version of this promo campaign for their own morning news. Today is actually the most profitable program on television, which is probably why it keeps expanding. During the use of this promo package, Today expendad to an extra hour. In 2000 Today added a third hour. In 2005 the America’s First Family-campaign was dropped in favor of “Live for Today” by country singer Phil Vassar and Randy Wachtler of 615 Music.

Kingsize Music - America's First Family

Before the third hour of Today, there was Later Today. They used a different theme, set and anchors, but had their own version of the promo above.

Kingsize Music - America's First Family (Later Today version)

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“Today” 1997 Promo


Start With Today is composed by Jay Stollman, Fred Shehadi and Peter Primamore, then of Kingsize Music, and was used in many promos for NBC’s Today Show. The show has a long and proud history. It was created in 1952 by Sylvester “Pat” Weaver who was vice president of NBC in charge of television and revolutionized the new medium. He created programs in which the sponsors could buy ad time as opposed to the old radio format in which sponsors owned shows, dictated their content and sometimes even their time slots. Weaver brought American television the Today and Tonight Shows and proved that people would watch TV at all times of the day. The first host of the Today Show was Dave Garroway. His sidekick van J. Fred Muggs, was a chimpanzee. While that may be unthinkable today, one thing isn’t different. Back then they also used a street side studio. So both when this promo aired and in 1952, they had a ‘window on the world’, as the lyrics say.

Many different versions were made of the Start With Today tune. This is a later production that includes the America’s First Family brand into the lyrics.

Kingsize Music - Start with Today

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“Sunday Today” 1987 – 1992 Open


In 1987 the Today Show expanded to six days a week: Sunday through Friday. The Sunday edition was a much more serious show. It was more like a news magazine with thoughtful, reflective pieces that could last eight minutes or so. To differentiate the opening from the weekday version, a synthesized theme was used in conjunction with the regular open from The Mission. It’s a track called Freightways from the KPM Music Library (disc 20, Information Exchange). While it played, notable video from the previous week was shown. The music, which has that unmistakable 80’s sound, was also used as a close. The show was anchored from Washington, DC by Garrick Utley and Maria Shriver. The weather was done by someone who Today audiences would get to know quite well over the years: Al Roker. The program shared a studio with Meet the Press. In 1992 Today expanded to 7 days a week and the magazine-style format that Sunday Today used was dropped.

Graham Francis DeWilde - Sunday Today open

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“Today” 1985 – 2005 Open


This is the cue from The Mission that NBC selected to open the Today Show and is the only John Williams cue that was still used on the show by the mid-90’s. It was used in conjunction with lighter themes that were used as bumpers, closes and secondary opens. At two brief but notable points in time, the Today Show tried to replace The Mission altogether: in 1994, to mark the debut of the street side studio, and in 2004. Currently they are using an updated version of this open that is longer and lighter.

When this theme debuted the Today Show started to climb up in the ratings, regularly beating GMA again for the first time since 1980. After the unfavorable publicity surrounding Jane Pauley’s replacement Deborah Norville hurt the show in 1990, knocking it down to second place, there was a resurgence in the mid-90’s. Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric were the anchors and Jeff Zucker the legendary executive producer. Zucker eliminated all commercials from the first 22 minutes of the broadcast, turning that part into a serious newscast. He also started such morning show staples such as outdoor concerts and on-air weddings. It revived the Today Show and started a winning streak that would last over 15 years.

John Williams - Today open

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“Today” 1985 – 1990 Theme


This is the third part of the four-part package that John Williams composed for NBC News. For the Today Show he composed the Scherzo for Today. In musical terms, scherzi are usually the third movement in four-movement works such as a symphony. They tend to be light, fast moving and upbeat. Although this theme starts out very different than the first part of The Mission (Nightly News’ theme), keep listening to hear some sampling of the first part in this music. Even though it was played multiple times a day on a daily basis, most viewers are not so familiar with the theme. That’s because it ran during the national weather scrolls that most local stations replace with their own local forecast. It was also used as a close. Scherzo for Today was phased out in 1990.

John Williams - Today Show theme (The Mission, part III - Scherzo for Today)

And here’s the music that was used for a number of years on the tomorrow on Today promo’s.

John Williams - Tomorrow on Today promo music

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“Today” 1982 – 1985 Theme


The next Ellis theme, a different arrangement of his “This is Today” theme, debuted during Bryant Gumbel’s first show on January 4, 1982, and was used until September 1985. This theme was so popular with viewers that it has been resurrected several times on the show — most notably in 1993-94 as the show’s secondary theme. Ever since then, it is used as the show’s unofficial anniversary music.

Ray Ellis - Today theme

And here’s the open! For the first few years this music was used in combination with the Today sunburst but without an announcer. That changed in January 1984, when Fred Facey began his two-decade tenure as the voice of “Today.” From ’84 to ’85, Facey’s voice and this music were used with the “rotating globe” animation used by all NBC News shows at that time.

Ray Ellis - Today open

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