Under Creativity in my website menu, under the Interviews With Creators section, I feature my interviews with composers, artists, choreographers, writers, photographers, directors, and other creatives about their work, and the creative process.
The purpose of each interview is to learn positive strategies that work to tap creativity, address the inner critic or other hindrances to creative flow, and build a successful creative life.
The following features my chat with talented, young composer from Salt Lake City, Joshua Sohn.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Bolting From The Gate
I met Korean-American composer, Joshua Sohn, in an online Facebook group for film score composers that I co-admin. We arranged a Skype chat to discuss his composing endeavors. He’s an energetic young guy, passionately exerting himself to develop his career as a film composer.
Although he got a teaching degree, and landed a job as a percussion specialist for school bands, he quickly found his interest was in creating rather than teaching. He has already built his music production company, Sohn Compositions, and has begun gaining experience in creating music for film, games, song production, and jingle-writing for businesses in the Salt Lake City area and beyond.
Having A Blast
Sohn enjoys creating sound design and musical compositions with virtual instrument applications and his Digital Audio Workstation of choice, Cubase. He’s also proficient in ProTools, another popular choice among professional composers.
Sohn’s pure interest in all things composing comes across easily. He loves discussing the tools of the trade, and his various film, advertising and other collaborative projects.
For example, since 2014, he has composed music for the Air Force Reserve, a 48-Hour Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Audience Awards Film Festival, Filmquest Film Festival, and the Salt Lake Symphony! He also wrote music for “Come As You Are,” an anti-bullying musical play for grades 6-12.
Recently, he also composed the sentimental, holiday song, SnowFlake Snow, in collaboration with the author, J. R. Holbrook’s Gingerbread Jimmi: Magical Storybook. His adeptness for composing catchy, infectious melody, along with fitting instrumentation for the holidays, in a cheerful musicality suitable for children, is evident upon first listen.
Just for fun, he also had one of his compositions recorded by a live orchestra! The musical piece was written for the Ravel Film Scoring competition, as a live orchestral waltz. Sohn says he created the music to evoke a ballroom scene with dancing couples sparking a romantic intensity. His waltz incorporates a clarinet solo, and features string and percussion hits. Listen to his waltz, Mysterioso here.
TOP TIPS ON Success Mindset
Sohn has parallel traits that successful film composers possess. In an article from Los Angeles Times, John Duffy, composer and president of Meet The Composer, a national service organization in New York that channels financial support to composers, confirms the necessary qualities for composer career success, ”By any measure, it takes tremendous grit, resiliency, reason and a fresh eye to succeed in the musical world. Diligence, hard labor and street smarts can open doors and save you time.”
Although a music degree is not necessary, according to an article by Patrick Gleeson, Ph. D., most successful film composers have one. Fortunately, Sohn has a solid foundation with his music education degree, percussion skills, and has used technology throughout his youth, in his former teaching position, and for the composing projects he’s already accomplished. He has forged relationships with a few directors by composing for their projects locally, invaluable training for learning the film-maker’s perspective.
What’s GOING ON
One of the coolest thing about Sohn is his desire to contribute to others. On that note, he has launched an ongoing composer video tutorial series to teach what he knows about composing for film, different genres, instrumentation, and the use of electronic gear. You can follow his series here.
My interview with young film composer Joshua Sohn reveals he has all the qualities for a successful career in film scoring.
Click here to learn more about Joshua Sohn’s music.
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By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
HAVING A MENTOR
During our Skype interview, Denver-based composer Jonathan Price spoke affectionately of his music mentor, R. J. Miller. Rightly so, as Miller is a master of orchestration and scored music for the digital re-release (1993) of the original (1920) The Last of the Mohicans, among other films.
Miller is also author of Contemporary Orchestration: A Practical Guide to Instruments, Ensembles, and Musicians (Routledge Publishing/Taylor & Francis Group, 2014). Price’s already respectful, friendly demeanor grew exponentially as he described how his friendship with R.J. Miller developed.
Their discussions sprang from a mutual love of film scoring and soundtracks. Later, Miller developed what is now the film scoring program at MSU. He taught Price how to “present melodies with harmonic structure, options and the orchestration that enhances them.” It was Miller’s confidence in him that motivated Price to leave college to pursue his career as a composer.
When asked what was in his initial marketing arsenal, he laughed, “a smile and a good personality.” He had no website, CD or IMDb credits. Price applied the honest feedback from his family and friends to develop himself.
When they commented that his music demo “didn’t feel right,” he would rework the music until it was “something they could understand.” He knew audio production “from running sound in bands,” but it took him 3 years until he “felt comfy with audio production skills for film.” He gained experience scoring student films and other zero or low budget projects.
Boosting Production Quality
He further honed his production skills by preparing MIDI mockups (manipulating digital parameters of virtual instruments to emulate a recorded orchestral piece) of John Williams’ scores. Tampering with instrumentation, EQ, compression, reverb, and panning to emulate Williams’ music enabled him to develop both orchestration skills and a faster workflow.
Price discovered that his sound improved as he invested in “decent speakers (not just headphones) that showed all frequencies, reverb, bounced off walls, air. I first started on…Bose speakers that were factory-preset for mixing. But my mixes didn’t sound right.” When he upgraded his studio with abundant RAM, hardware, a good audio interface, analog speakers, plugins, and sample libraries, it dramatically boosted his production quality.
Pitch Like A First Date
As a rookie, he found that pitching to potential clients for music work was the same process as a first date. “If a guy shows up in PJs on a first date, you don’t wanna go out with him…Appearance, packaging, body language and psychology are critical in pitching to directors.” He determined to never offer anything less than his best quality.
A Hollywood scriptwriter/director Price met through a friend told him his music was “too good to not be paid for it.” The director had just finished a Hallmark film, and told Price he wished he’d met him earlier so he could have hired him as the composer. That encounter, coupled with his mentor’s confidence in him motivated Price to begin charging for his work. “Once you start charging full value, directors start taking you seriously.”
Price threw himself into networking at local meet-ups, film network functions, and social media groups. In particular, he launched with a vengeance into attending face-to-face filmmaker events. He rarely pitched his composing services.
Rather, he focused on creating friendships to learn as much about each person’s work and passions as possible. He paid attention to the body language and psychology of the filmmaker. Anything he delivered, pitched or said to clients was “very calculated” toward matching his music with their vision.
His networking paid off as his demo qualities improved. Price sent his five-track demo of 15-second music samples via emailed MP3s or Soundcloud links to his growing network. He has enough composing work now that he doesn’t bother marketing anymore.
Film Scoring Career
Since 2003, Price has been scoring professionally, including projects ranging from production house music clips, web-series, audio dramas, podcasts, to short and feature films. Although he has scored everything from drama to horror, romantic drama is both his favorite genre and specialty.
His IMDb credits include the comedy, Army & Coop (Director Dennis Hefter), and the sci-fi, River of Time (Director Gss Santosh Kumar). Price enjoyed the variety of composing 10 different styles for Army & Coop.
Some of his IMDb credits are waiting for the directors to complete festival or YouTube campaigns. Many of Price’s clients just wanted to make a film for family and friends, as a hobby. As a result, some films scored by Price never saw the light of day, due to those filmmakers being uninterested in publicly promoting their work.
Recently, Price composed two short films; Pure (Director Stephan Eigenmann), the sweet story of a young cancer survivor, and Exit (Director Stephen Mathis), a story about transferring consciousness to another to help the mentally ill or someone with sensory problems by replacing and reprogramming the troubled mind with a healthy brain.
He is currently composing for a web-series turned episodic TV show meant for distribution to university film schools. The 10-episode PBS-style documentary uses a cinematic storytelling approach to teach scriptwriters.
Price’s marketing arsenal still does not include a website. He has had more success landing work by emailing his resume, music and video samples directly. Due to parenting three children, he turns down certain projects that he doesn’t consider morally acceptable, to focus on romance, drama, and fantasy-adventure.
Studying The Masters
His ensemble experience heightened his grasp of the recorded orchestra sound. “Once you realize how flutes are playing with the violins, and so on,” he explains, the orchestration “fixes everything in the mix.”
Listening to a score by great film composers like John Williams, Alexander Desplat, or Alan Silvestri, has taught him both orchestration and production. Through listening and creating MIDI mockups, he learned to pay attention to which instrument or section was being highlighted. He says his favorite film scores “are such delicate, careful orchestrations, that they stand on their own. They don’t need any production—which is why they stand well on concert stage.”
His ensemble background gave him the advantage of knowing how instruments are played, interact with each other, and how both those aspects change the orchestra sound. This foundation helps him understand how to emulate the music of his favorite film composers.
Tips For Composers
Price joined the Facebook group, Film Scoring & Orchestration Applied to practice film scoring “for fun and skill development, to learn from other composers and hopefully give my two cents worth. I would love to help out and do whatever I can do to help people get where they need to be.” He has contributed weekly video tutorials to the group, showcasing his film scoring process.
He explains that he watches a film “as much as I can til I’m sick of it.” Then he takes a break from it, plays piano, or takes care of his kids. Meanwhile, he is “always thinking through the orchestration in my head, always singing melodies and recording into my phone—so if I get really stuck, I use something recorded.” Later he listens through his recordings to find something to start with, records a piano version of it, and starts transforming that into orchestration.
Price encourages budding music-makers to detach from their work, as “something you created but…not who you are. It’s a product.” He built his rapport with clients on two things; treating his music as a product to serve the client’s creative vision, while interacting with a balanced blend of confidence and humility.
Price’s insatiable hunger for learning, coupled with his humble, contributive attitude betrays his vast experience and production skills. “If you stop learning and you think you’ve reached where you wanna go, you are done.”
Price is currently working with writer/director Dennis Hefter on a romantic drama film, and has a screenplay show coming up with director, Rick Ramage. He is also having fun composing and covering audio for an Atlanta church audio drama series.
Price grew up singing, playing piano and trumpet for 10 years. He learned cello and woodwinds. He was determined to learn many instruments, so he could orchestrate them. He studied composition with R. J. Miller at Metropolitan State University, CO. Once he knew the basics of music theory and composition, Price was encouraged to pursue a composing career instead of finishing his degree.
Price on NETWORKING:
DAW: Logic Pro X
2009 MacBook Pro
4T HDs in drive bays
42” 4K monitor
Metropolis Ark 1,2
Olafur Arnolds Toolkit and Evolutions
Impact Sound Works
Pearl Concert Grand
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Price juggles work with being a stay-at-home parent of three children. He says he gets a good amount of cardio from chasing his “2-year old most of the day.”
6am - Rise early, breakfast and Bible study
8am - Client communications, composing
Afternoon - Composing, marketing, studying, mixed with household chores and toddler-tracking
Family Dinner - NO EXCUSES!
Evening - 2+ hours composing
Night Routine - Quality time with wife