by Maria Isabel Hernandez
Ben Roberts is a senior studying Communications Media. He is also a film composer, orchestrator, and storyteller. He has collaborated with many other storytellers to help bring life to their vision through music. He is currently interning in Santa Monica with film score composer, Hans Zimmer who has composed music for many award-winning films including The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Inception.
MIH: At what point did you realize that you wanted to be a composer?
BR: Well, I guess it kind of happened gradually. When I came to the school, initially I was interested in directing and producing. Over time I realized that music was such a big part of my life and continued to be, so I tended towards that more than anything. I took a class with Professor Riley, during which we skyped various different professionals and one of those included a composer working in LA. I was very intrigued by that so I think that was the moment I was like, “Okay, I wanna do this.”
MIH: What is your favorite kind of music to compose?
BR: Since I’m a film composer, I usually try to create music that will reflect and serve the story at hand in the best possible way. As far as stylistic tendency, I definitely do find myself leaning more towards the orchestral sound. Although I’m definitely trying to learn more styles. I actually started with electronic sound in my first film score, which was very educational for me.
MIH: The role you have played in the development of the music program has been pivotal in paving the way for future students interested in music, how did that begin?
BR: I went to Dr. Connolly and Nicholas Heye about wanting to pursue music. I wasn’t sure how to do that. I just knew that I wanted to stay here at JPCatholic. They were very encouraging and within a very short span of time they found a music director from a local parish, Dr. Robert Giracello. We sat down with him and outlined what we thought we could accomplish with music at the school. He came on board and I’m currently studying under him. He is teaching music classes here pretty regularly, so that has been amazing.
MIH:Where do you find your inspiration when creating music?
BR: It comes from a lot of different places. Sometimes it comes from a memory that I have of a particular moment in a film or a certain sound that I can associate with an emotion that is happening in the story I’m trying to write music for. At times it also comes from discussing the film with the director, which is something I always do. Through that, I get their stylistic inspirations and really study those to see what makes them work.
MIH:In terms of composing, who inspires you and which scores do you love?
BR: Right now I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the early to mid-20th century American composers, particularly Aaron Copland and Bernard Herrmann.
MIH:How did you land an internship with Hans Zimmer?
I heard about the internship from my friend, Ryan Harner, who currently attends [JPCatholic] as an MBA student. Ryan interned with them a while ago and very kindly helped me get in contact. I then interviewed in person.
MIH:Will you work with him after graduation?
Well, that would be the best case scenario, but realistically I am just really glad to be afforded this huge educational opportunity to be at the very center of Hollywood’s music.
MIH:What are you taking away from your internship?
I’m learning a lot about how this segment of the industry functions and have even picked up some technical tips.
MIH:What has been your favorite moment while interning?
My favorite moments interning are interacting with other interns and sitting in with composers and technicians who are the best at their trade. So much can be learned from even a few minutes with them.
MIH: Of which of your compositions are you the most proud?
BR: I think the most challenging project I ever had was probably my first one. It was the first score I had ever really attempted that wasn’t my own film. There was a lot to learn in terms of collaboration and communicating with the director. So I’m proud of that one because what I learned through it I was able to take that into other projects from there on out.
MIH:What would be your ideal composing gig?
BR: Working with live musicians is always a plus. I had the opportunity to do that recently with a solo artist — a clarinetist, which was great. I generally just want to work with people who infuse me with their story. If I could find those two things in a project then I’ll be set.
MIH:So you’re working on a few of the senior projects. What do you look forward to the most when collaborating with other students?
BR: I really love trying to see things from a director’s or another creative person’s standpoint and getting inside their vision for their story, learning to care about that story as much as they do.
MIH:What advice would you give to other young musicians?
BR: I would say wherever you are, whether you’re at a film school or music school, take control of your education and really explore your own voice. It’s important to try to shape yourself and learn as much as you can from the classes, as well as engage with people and collaborate with projects that are happening. Find people you like to work with- it’s a huge help.
Be sure to check out Ben’s website to hear his most recent work and future projects! www.unbrokenlinemusic.com