The Boy Who Captured JFK From His Parents’ Basement

Starting November 18th, A&E's History channel is set to launch an exciting three-night documentary event, crafted by the talented 23-year-old Ashton Gleckman.

By the time Ashton Gleckman finished his sophomore year in high school, he was already showing remarkable talent. Recognizing his potential, his parents decided to homeschool him. At this young age, Ashton was already composing music for documentaries and managing his own YouTube channel featuring original pieces, all from the comfort of their Indiana home.

Ashton Gleckman's musical journey began early. He received his first guitar at 6 and started composing music by the age of 7. At just 8 years old, he was already performing at open mic nights in local coffee shops alongside musicians much older than him. By the age of 10, he had formed a rock band and even recorded an album at Nashville's Dark Horse Studios. His passion took a new turn at 14, when he had an epiphany after watching the 2014 film "The Imitation Game," starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

“I was in the theater, crying my eyes out, and it was because of the music,” he says, now 23 and a self-styled movie buff. “In that moment, I realized that writing music for film and TV is what I had to do.” He very quickly became obsessed, ordering textbooks about classical orchestral composition from Amazon and enlisting a professor at nearby Butler University to study under. Before long, his YouTube channel, where Gleckman examines and deconstructs film scores, had gained real traction. An arrangement he did from Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score racked up 8 million views. In fact, even Zimmer discovered the channel, and swiftly hired Gleckman as his intern. So, as other kids his age were taking the SATs and going off to prom, he decamped to L.A. to work with the Oscar-winning composer. But in time, Gleckman would come to see he didn’t want to be “in a dark room for 18 hours a day writing music,” he says, so he pivoted to a more collaborative medium of documentary filmmaking, taking on such subjects as the Holocaust and small-town life in Appalachia. The idea to do a sweeping, Ken Burns-style doc series about John F. Kennedy came to Gleckman early in the pandemic. “Every time I turned on the news, it was one depressing thing after another, so I was looking for some kind of hope,” he says. “I kept thinking back to grade school and seeing this footage of this charismatic, good-looking, well-spoken president, and I just started reading everything I could about him.” The JFK Library was closed because of COVID, but he combed through thousands of White House memos, family letters, even Kennedy’s school work in the online archives. Ultimately, Gleckman decided to focus more on Kennedy’s life than his death, which he believed would differentiate his project from the myriad others that came before it. He secured financing from a few local patrons of the arts, and then set out on the road in March 2021, doing 80-plus interviews across 25 states. The lineup includes historians, biographers, family members and TV personalities like Conan O’Brien.

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