Seth MacFarlane: Actor, Animator, Screenwriter, Comedian and Big Band Jazz Singer?


By Hayley Miller, Ferris State University student

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of blog posts for GRandJazzFest written by Ferris State University public relations students. Thank you, Ferris, for helping to build awareness of jazz, the great American music art form! 

Most widely known as the creator of Fox’s animated sitcom, Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane is a man of many talents.  Not only does he write, produce and animate for Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, but he also utilizes an orchestra and composers on a weekly basis to write the show’s scores.

Seth MacFarlane was born in October 26, 1973, in Kent, Connecticut. Since he was a small child, he was always in touch with his creative side. By the young age of five, he was already drawing his own cartoons and knew he wanted to be an animator. In 1991, he graduated from Kent High School and went on to study film, video and animation at Rhode Island School of Design. After receiving his bachelor’s degree of fine arts, MacFarlane originally wanted to work for Disney, but soon changed his mind after he was offered a position with Hanna-Barbera.

During his childhood years, MacFarlane’s parents exposed him to Broadway musicals and The Great American Soundbook. A portion of his inspiration for big band jazz came from Disney’s television shows in the 90’s such as The Muppets and Sesame Street. This is what gave him the idea to incorporate orchestral music into his own TV shows.


In an interview following the release of his debut album, MacFarlane stated, “I think the Great American Soundbook, and particularly the early-to-late 50’s era of orchestration was the peak of musicality as far as what singers and orchestrators were doing with relatively old songs  from the 20s and 30s.”

In 2011, Universal Republic Records signed a record deal with Seth MacFarlane. The same year, he released his first album, Music is Better than Words. The album is described by the artist as “classic Sinatra-style” and is his take on classic songs from the 1950s. Music is Better Than Words was produced and conducted by American Dad composer, Joel McNeely. The album was nominated for two Grammys: Best Traditional Pop Vocal album and Best Engineered album.

Putting big band songs in popular TV shows is a great way to keep jazz around in pop music. Seth MacFarlane has opened the door for other animators to also incorporate a variety of music in TV shows, something that was beginning to fade from TV.

Hayley Miller is a student in Ferris State University’s Music Industry Management program.

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