Felix Bird gives a guide to composing in MCHAT forum
By Jay Roberson
Felix Bird began his presentation “Composing for TV and Film” on Feb. 2 by giving each audience member a copy of his resume and a packet highlighting the key to obtaining a career in composition.
His lists of works in television and film extend from comedies like “How I Met Your Mother” to dramas like “Switched At Birth,” but he reminded the aspiring composers that he once started somewhere just like them.
Junior musical theater major Nicole Duffy, who has previously recorded songs with Bird, spoke about what she took away from his presentation and how it related to her future career.
“It was really nice to see the application of what his work is and what he does because, I mean, I really just came in and sang and recorded, then I was done,” Duffy said.
Bird emphasized that as a composer, it is essential to learn about master recording and publishing, but one factor that determines the success of a composer is drive and ambition. He also included the importance of self-advocacy.
When asked what one piece of advice he would give to student composers, Bird spoke about the value of internships, even if they are unpaid.
“I recommend to anyone who’s considering a career in music to go and intern. You learn about music publishing, one of the performance rights organizations, so much more important. It’s so much more important to go intern and get the knowledge,” said Bird.
The guest speaker also recommended that if students have already composed music, it is important they register it in a music library or with another publishing company. This way, the composer has the rights to their own music and is able to profit.
His presentation was a part of the Music Composition History and Theory (MCHAT) forum series which is a series that gives music majors the opportunity to learn from and talk to professional musicians. Sharon Mirchandani, chair and professor of Musicology and organizer of the MCHAT forums, explained which parts of Bird’s presentation intrigued her the most.
“Well, he had a lot of insights into the behind the scene processes, like, you know, getting royalties and copyright fees and the legalities of it that I thought was interesting,” Mirchandani said.
Composers publish their music to something called a music library, and filmmakers pay to use their work, so there is a profit on both ends. The combination of real experiences in internships, publication to music libraries and dedication to the craft can make for a successful composition career, as Bird proves.
Christopher Young, employer relations coordinator in the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke about how he found a speaker as notable as Bird through the Westminster Conservatory.
“I just figured it was a natural collaboration to bring a notable film score to Rider and specifically Westminster to, you know, just give some insight on a career in composition,” said Young.
Bird proved to be passionate about the craft of composition as well as the success of young composers.
“Someone came and gave a talk at college while I was there. He said he worked as a taxi driver for years to do this, and he said like you got to be willing to lay down and die for scoring, for composing, and I still think the same thing is true for any career in entertainment,” Bird said.
Mirchandani also noted that as the semester continues, MCHAT will have forums every other week which will include more composers and other guest speakers.
“So in two weeks, on Feb. 16, we have another speaker who’s coming. He’s a professor of Public Musicology coming from the University of Maryland, and he’s going to talk about a book that he’s written called ‘Industry,’’ said Mirchandani.
Bird’s presentation started off the spring semester’s MCHAT forum in an inspiring way as students envisioned what their future career could look like.
Mirchandani said, “It just shows them one more opportunity out of many. So a lot of our students come here and they compose choral music, or musical theater, or they perform, they compose for ensembles or electronic music, so it shows just one more opportunity for them to go out and have a career after this.”
Originally printed in the 2/8/23 issue.