by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
This is Part 1 of 2 blogs featuring my interview with UK Composer, Kezia Tomsett. Watch this space for Part 2 posting August 25.
LISTEN TO THIS ON YourCreativeChord Podcast, “How Do We Progress Women Composers? Talk About It!” featuring UK Composer Kezia Tomsett in two episodes.
After connecting through the Women Composers Collective Facebook group last fall, I spoke with a young, female, British composer of Reading, England. Kezia Tomsett had just finished her BA Music degree at The University of Leeds.
I was interested in hearing from her as a recent graduate and upcoming young female composer. I was especially intrigued that she’d done her dissertation on why there aren’t many women film composers. Let’s dive in to our conversation with Reading, England-based composer Kezia Tomsett…
LISTEN to the PODCAST:
Tell me about your musical background.
I went to a local comprehensive where music was much more of a hobby. I performed at many school assemblies, but found that I really excelled and, moreover, enjoyed composing music.
I was always a nervous performer but much less so with my own work and got more satisfaction from this! I did all the piano grades before my A Levels and it was after this that I really found my joy and passion in music, in messing about on the piano and writing my own music.
My Dad was and is my inspiration. He just loves music! He taught me piano for my first couple of grades and then I got a teacher from grade 3.
I’m only beginning to make money from music, having just finished my degree. I’ve previously worked on projects as part of my degree or to gain experience. I have recently earned money through collaborating with writing on an advertisement pitch and through singing on a pitch.
Tell me two things that were pivotal for the opening of your professional path.
My university offered a ‘year-in-industry’ year, a sandwich year between second and third year. This gave us the opportunity to find any placement (so long as it had something to do with music!) for the year. I spent that year with WMP studios in Leeds where they welcomed me as part of their team. I collaborated with them and wrote music for film - specifically TV advertisements, sound design, and library tracks.
The other pivotal project for me was my dissertation. I decided to investigate women writing to film. During my year-in-industry, having attended several events and conferences, I realized there was a distinct lack of women at these events.
There was also a significant lack of published literature researching this area. During my dissertation, I conducted my own research, reaching out to composers in the industry, and interviewed eight women writing to film.
Through this, I was welcomed into the Women Composers’ Forum of London and have had opportunities through this group to become more involved in the industry.
How do you obtain clients?
So far, not how I anticipated! I’ve obtained clients through conversations at music conferences (such as Manchester’s Tune Up and Leeds’ The Yorkshire Music Forum). The friends I‘ve made in the industry have also begun to offer me work.
I plan to attend more networking events, but for me, thus far, work has come through the relationships I have developed.
What technology or music gear or skillsets do you feel are essential to your music-making?
Having software like Logic (or whatever it may be) is pretty essential as you need to be able to mock up a demo that sounds professional, rather than sending over voice memos!
Once you have the software however, you also need to have the skillset to really enter a client’s head in response to what they are asking from the composer. You need to be able to understand their point of view so you can deliver what they want. This perhaps entails good communication skills and empathy.
What advice would you give someone who wants to make a living as a composer?
I had a conversation with one of my role models in the industry in my dissertation and she said ‘passion’. It may sound cliche but you really have to love your job.
Another theme that seems to keep coming up is being able to cope with rejection because there is a lot in the industry. I’m sure I’m only just at the start of it!
Be persistent, work hard and love what you do.
What are the best and worst aspects of being a semi-professional composer?
As a recent university graduate, for me the best aspects are;
Describe your strengths as a creator.
I love starting new ideas. I love being creative! I love thinking outside the box, using the resources I’ve got to illustrate what I’ve got in my head in a session. I’m also determined and persistent, which are strengths I feel anyone needs in the industry. I also really appreciate collaborations with other composers - I enjoy working with others.
Do you have resources (besides gear) that you regularly as a creator?
I have just finished an EP and used my voice! Using the resources you have can be an asset. As a pianist, I also use my piano regularly to sketch out ideas (even to get a sense of the harmony progression in a piece) or to take a step back and mess around on the piano. Playing the piano is like my diary, it enables me to get my thoughts out.
What influences your creativity positively?
Weirdly, I tend to find that I am most creative when I’m a little tired!
When writing my own music, I often find influence from stories, basing my tracks from the viewpoint of a character (existing or not), whether the piece has lyrics or not. This is so I can enter the character’s mind and experience their state of being.
I also appreciate feedback from other composers and find this really encouraging.
What hinders your creative flow?
Uprooting myself tends to throw my routine a bit - I have just moved location and am having to settle back into my routine!
Spending too much time by myself can really hinder my creativity. I make sure to spend time with people, taking breaks from my work so I can go back with fresh ears, fresh inspiration and determination!
Take us into your creative process to describe a snapshot scenario of how you would approach composing a new musical project. Or give an example of how you created one of your musical compositions.
It changes on every project but here’s a typical overview - I first make notes on the brief and research any other relevant reference tracks. I map out what the director is asking for and write a snapshot of how I think the project will go forward.
I sketch out a rough idea on the piano (even if there is no piano in the piece) to get an idea of the structure of the piece.
I import sounds into a Logic file (digital audio workstation) that I feel would suit the project and begin writing!
I think planning is an essential ingredient. Especially in terms of structure and being influenced or inspired by the reference track (if there is one).
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR PART 2 OF OUR DIALOGUE AS WE CONTINUE WITH THE QUESTION,
"Why do you think there aren’t many women film composers?"
Find Kezia Tomsett and her music on Twitter or Instagram, and at her SoundCloud Page Here.
Where to find Kezia Tomsett:
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