Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Cohort: Part 1

Steven Spiel

A few of the gang

A few of the gang

Like I have said previously, the Music Composition for the Screen MFA program received more applicants last year than any other year, ever—almost double! David McHugh and Gary Chang, the two program directors, had a great bunch of composers to sort through and narrowed it down to 12. I was lucky to be a part of that group of 12, and it is awesome to get to know the others. They are very talented, and I thought I would take some time to spotlight each one of them. Enjoy!

Batu Sener

Batu Sener

Batu Sener

Born in Izmir, Turkey, Batu studied Classical Music in piano performance, earning his degrees from Turkey and United Kingdom. He came to the United States to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He had many feature projects and collaborations with directors and film makers, as well as international connections for multimedia projects. And, right after finishing his studies at Berklee, he is here to earn his master’s.

What do you love most about film composing?

As film composers, we get to see the “rough cut”s of a production. When you sit with the director and talk about the music to be composed, what you’re watching—no matter how wonderfully done by the director—is empty in terms of music, emotions are missing. There’s nothing supportive about what is going on on the screen. Well, that is what you do. That’s your job. You make the picture come alive with your music. You complete it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

In movies, of course. But most of the time, in real life. For instance, you see a little girl cry in the supermarket because she lost her mother, you smile at her and help her find her mom. When there’s a scene where the character is in a sad, depressed mood, you unconsciously put yourself into that little girl’s shoe and think of the situation from her point of view. Then, you get the real emotion of that little girl being scared and sad. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s how I experienced it.

Check out Batu’s website!


Brittany Dunton

Brittany Dunton

Brittany Dunton

Brittany is from Charlotte, North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University for music theory/composition and piano in 2012. Taking no time off before attending graduate school, she’s ready for the next step in her career dream to become a film composer.

What do you love most about film composing?

I love film composing, because it is the best way to touch the most amount of people with a piece of music. Everyone goes to the movies, and everyone needs music in their lives. If I can reach, inspire, and pull at an audience, then I am a happy camper.

What advice do you have for those putting together applications right now?

My advice is to be YOU. The professors here cannot stress originality enough. If you stay true to what you write and who you are, then you will make it. There doesn’t need to be another Hans Zimmer, we already have one. There isn’t a YOU yet, though! :)

Check out Brittany’s website!


Steven Melin

Steven Melin

Steven Melin

Steven Melin is a freelance film, video game, and concert music composer. He actively writes for a wide range of genres, including action, romance, suspense, ambient, electronic, fantasy, and classical styles. As a trained pianist, violinist, percussionist, and vocalist, he uses his vast experience to produce high-quality audio. Steven resides in Chicago, IL with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, GA. He is an exclusive author on AudioJungle.net where he has won numerous awards for his music. Visit his profile to add one of his tracks to your next project.

What made you choose Columbia over other schools?

More important than location and cost, my utmost criteria for graduate school searching was the school’s quality and potential for job placement. Columbia more than fit the bill with its state-of-the-art music lab and professional instructors. The 5th semester in L.A. was a major deciding factor.

What do you love most about film composing?

Unlike other music composition mediums, film requires careful attention to the work as a whole. I love being the final touch to a project that can either make it or break it.

Check out Steven’s website!


Sean Pack

Sean Pack

Sean Pack

Sean Pack is a graduate from Carnegie Mellon University where he studied Vocal Performance and Music Composition. He composes music for a wide range of mediums, including film, animation, dance, theater, and concert. His styles include action, adventure, romance, suspense, electronic, ambient, and classical. With extensive experience on the stage, Sean also performs in musical theater and opera productions. His deep involvement with theater and his training with various instruments—piano, guitar, flute, saxophone, and percussion—gives him the dramatic insight and musical know-how to compose for a wide range of instrumentation, musical styles, and emotions.

What made you choose Columbia over other Schools?

I chose Columbia because it will give me all the tools and know-how to succeed in this business. The teaching approach about studying modern techniques and modern scores really appealed to me because we want to get jobs now, not 50 years ago. The teaching expertise and wide range of classes is unparalleled compared to my other choices.

What advice do you have for those putting together applications right now?

As far as putting together a portfolio, my advice is to come across as professional as possible. Live recordings are great, but if that isn’t possible, try and make your mock-up sound as good as possible. Make sure your written scores are accurate and as tidy as possible, because you don’t get to meet these people face to face. You have to present yourself in written form.

Check out Sean’s website!

Cohort: Part 1

Like I have said previously, the Music Composition for the Screen MFA program received more applicants last year than any other year, ever—almost double! David McHugh and Gary Chang, the …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Steven Spiel, steven.spiel@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605