Meet Amanda August ’15, a commercial music composer at Comma Music in Chicago. This company creates custom music and licensing for commercials, television, film and web. While at North Central, August majored in music performance and minored in history. After graduating, she was an intern at Particle Audio in Chicago. She began her position at Comma in June 2016 and is now composing music for national commercials.
What are some of your duties and tasks as a commercial music composer?
We work with different clients and agencies that will send us a nearly completed ad, and it’s our job to take their direction and create a track that fits the mood of the picture. I also write tracks for our company’s online music library that is used for licensing. I’m writing music all day, which is pretty great!
My latest compositions have been with Boeing commercials that aired during March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament). I’ve also done work for McDonald’s, Hallmark and Raid commercial spots. Usually the clients give direction on the type of track they want. Sometimes they’ll give us a reference track to try and emulate. Other times we’ll have more creative liberty so we can approach it in the way we think is best for the story.
Who are some artists who inspired your career path?
I tend to write a lot of emotional/orchestral music since I love film scores and ultimately want to score films one day. Thomas Newman is one of my favorite film composers, and I would say the majority of my music is inspired by him. Joe Hisaishi, who composed all of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, Ramin Djawadi, the composer for ‘Game of Thrones,’ and Rachel Portman, the first woman to win an Academy Award for best score, are also huge inspirations. I also can’t go without mentioning John Williams because he is truly a master. Last but not least, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Holst, to name a few of the classics.
How did your North Central College education prepare you for your career as a composer?
Composition is something I knew I always wanted to do, so I majored in music. The curriculum was definitely a challenge, but now I’m able to write and arrange pieces of music for musicians to record. I also took advantage of other music electives, such as the electronic music class, which was taught by Jonathon Kirk, associate professor of music. That course was an introduction to sound engineering and composing to video that is the basis of my current job. I’m really thankful for having taken that class!
How did studying abroad as a student help your career?
It opened my eyes to the world. I studied abroad in Canterbury, England, which has a magnificent and famous cathedral. While I was there, an orchestra performed “Verdi's Requiem,” so I was able to experience that. My friends and I stayed in Dublin, which is very much like Ireland’s version of Nashville in the sense that there is live music in every bar and on every street corner. I also went to Edinburgh, Scotland, and heard some highland bagpipers. My last trip outside of England was in Paris. The architecture was stunning and, of course, the food was amazing.
Do you have any advice for students studying music at North Central and/or students interested in composing?
Take advantage of every opportunity you can to be involved and form a community. I made so many friends through the music department. We supported and motivated each other when facing academic challenges. Also, broaden your musical knowledge by joining an ensemble you might not have originally joined and by seeing live music! I was enlightened to styles of music that I didn’t even know existed. Lastly, if you’re able to, study abroad. It was a life-changing experience for me to be able to visit the places where western art music was being created centuries ago. It is an education unlike any other!
By Upasna Barath ’18