CAREER SPOTLIGHT: COMPOSERS


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When you think about expressing yourself through music, you might think of playing a passionate piano sonata, a hardcore guitar riff, or a particularly inspired drum solo. When you think music career, you may consider being in a rock band or playing in a symphony.

A musical career that can combine all of those elements is that of a composer. The career opportunities for a composer can span both genres and media. In this spotlight, well take a look at three distinct composers and how they've discovered ways to turn their love and knowledge of music into very rewarding careers.

The world has been listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto for decades. The composer credits his uncle for getting him into music at an early age. The first music I got really into was Bach. I was impressed with the music of counterpoint. After that I studied harmony and counterpoint. He went to school to become a student as a session musician and arranger, joining an electronic music group (Yellow Magic Orchestra) that paved the way for major developments in synthpop, techno, and house genres in the late 1970's. Ryuichi was selected to compose the music for the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Chances are, however, that you know Ryuichi from his film scores: Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor, and The Revenant  are just a few of his most notable works that have earned him multiple Academy Awards, Grammys Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and BAFTA nominations.

If you've ever had an advertising jingle stuck in your head, then you've got someone like Keith Kenniff to thank (or blame!) for it. Keith used to be a session musician, playing with several country bands, but then began composing music for ads full-time. He doesn't consider his scores jingles, though for Keith, they're small, powerful pieces of music helping to tell a short story that also happens to sell a product. An example of how important creativity is to a composition no matter how short Keith recalled a commercial he worked on for Prudential, They wanted the music originally to be kind of sparse and quiet and ambient and a little experimental. I had an idea of doing something that had unique instrumentation. And it felt very handmade like the visuals were, and so I used this piano with leaves taped to it. In order to get a distinct plunking tone, Keith taped tree leaves to his piano wires. Never a dull moment or sound with a composer! Keith has composed for companies like Toyota, Apple, Facebook, Quaker Oats, and Google.

Joining the list of BAFTA-nominated composers and Emmy Award winners is Russell Brower. With more than 30 years of experience, Russell has worked as an audio and musical director, post-production supervisor for TV, films, and theme parks (yes, theme parks need music, too). His work as sound designer and editor at Warner Bros. Animation and as music director at Walt Disney Imagineering led to a cool roster of scores for Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series.  Russell has an impressive fan base in the gaming industry.  To gamers, his name is synonymous with World of Warcraft, Joint Operations, Starcraft II, and Diablo III.

These composers have discovered ways to put their music to work. Where will you find or how will you create your musical niche?


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