It is Summer and I have lots to look forward to as I prepare for another year at Columbia College Chicago in the Music Composition for the Screen program. Our apartment …
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I have been composing for as long as I can remember. I love creating dramatic music to take my audience to new places. I obsess over mixing the perfect timbres until it’s gripping enough to share. I love to learn, to teach, to create, to solve all kinds of real-life puzzles, and I’m an Apple
enthusiast evangelist. Columbia is the perfect place for me.
Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia?
I grew up in a very musical environment and have always been fascinated by the way music moves people. I started experimenting with composition as early as ten years old, but I really got serious about it in high school. With eight years of piano, five years of percussion, and three years of guitar, I entered my bachelor’s degree program to eventually graduate with a composite BMA in Composition and Organ. I had fabulous opportunities to work with gifted professors and to learn from talented mentors. While going to school, I student-taught for a variety of classes, including Theory and Aural Skills, Music Tech, and some ensembles. I spent much of my time writing for whichever ensembles would rehearse my pieces and made great friendships with performers and other composers, as president of the university’s Student Composer’s Society.
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
A year before receiving my undergraduate degree, I did intense research on graduate composition programs across the country and overseas. I listened to hundreds of pieces of music and read and studied various curricula. While I was excited with the skill, technical ability, and prestige of certain professors, no programs seemed to resonate with me–at least, none like Columbia College Chicago. I was amazed with both the quality of the recordings presented on the website and the inspiring compositions done by the students. The two program directors, David McHugh and Gary Chang, are extremely well-connected and have made excellent names for themselves, as well as excellent livings during their careers. This became evident to me when I visited Chicago with my wife to see the program. Gary and David are so down-to-earth and have a wealth of knowledge that they willingly share. It seemed to me, after just one visit, that the faculty and staff are very supportive and would provide any help or opportunities needed.
Other programs, to me, did not have the kind of quality, directors, and/or connections I was looking for. USC seemed less-than-appealing because it is only a one-year program, and you leave with not a degree, but a certificate only. This limits your opportunities. Also, there are no financial aid options available, and tuition is extremely expensive. Columbia, on the other hand, gives the best of both worlds with their semester internship in LA, which is the heart of American cinema. Two years in Chicago gives you plenty of time to learn from great minds, record with professional studio musicians (through the school), and build your portfolio to prepare you for making a name for yourself in LA. The internship is guaranteed and students in the past have worked with some of the most accomplished film composers and institutions of the time, such as Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Disney. This internship provides a fabulous transition into composing for films in LA (if you decide to stay), or great background, connections, and experience to prepare you for other projects (if you decide to go).
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
I am always looking for new and exciting projects, and I feel I have gained much experience and knowledge through stretching myself to complete work outside of my comfort zone. To become a well-rounded and mature composer, it’s important to have an understanding and awareness of much more than your average film compositions. With that said, my current projects include not only compositions for the screen, but also tutoring community members in compositional methods and advanced techniques of music software, collaborating on a musical with an accomplished author and playwright, arranging and transcribing for university professors and amateur artists, compiling text and writing music for a new oratorio, and always searching for innovative ways of using music to move and inspire modern audiences.