Last year, thinking about the Senior Seminar, I’d thought I would do something with conducting a choir or an orchestra. But then, with Covid, there were no opportunities for that, so I had to think, Okay, what else am I interested in, what else can I try to do to see if I like to do it? Then one day I just happened to be listening to a Hans Zimmer film score, and I remember thinking, This is so cool, I wish I could try doing this myself. And then I was like, Wait, I can! With Watkinson’s program, I can actually try to do it!
Teachers at Watkinson were encouraging me to try. I remember saying, “There’s no way, I don’t even know where to start!” And the teachers were like, “That’s why we have the class, where you find a mentor to help you!” And I thought, Wow. it’s all clicking in. Without this project, without the teachers here, I would not have been able to find this other passion of mine. Because, even though I was interested, I didn’t know where to begin. This project helps you to begin.
I found my mentor through a Watkinson teacher, who said, “Let me reach out to some of my music friends to see who can help you with that.” My mentor, Noah Marconi, does a lot with film scoring, composing, conducting. We tried to meet on a weekly basis; I’m really fortunate that he had the time and took the time to meet with me. He showed me so much: what to score, what software to use and how to set it up, what shortcuts to take, some musical theory… and then, when I started writing, he would edit my work to help it make the most musical sense. Because I don’t have much of a theory background in music; that’s one reason I’m excited for college, where I’ll get to learn all of that. But for now, Noah really helped me put it in order. So for a chord, stack it right; for the melody, don’t give it to the clarinets; give it to the flutes. Or, look at that, the clarinets and the horns fit together perfectly in this section; they make that sound that I’m looking for. He knows all the tricks, because he’s been doing this a long time.
Because I didn’t know the technology, I inputted note-by-note, which took a long time for 17 instruments and 23 different parts; it was really complicated. The first piece I scored was around a minute; the second piece, the orchestral piece, was two minutes and 16 seconds; just for that second scene, it took me 70 hours to put it together. Because this is my first time doing it, I broke up the steps a little bit so I could understand the process. To have to think about all these details was an amazing learning experience. Even though it was result of my inexperience, which made me have to deal with every note, note by note, the result was that I got a deeper understanding of why the composer made certain choices. That’s why the composer did this. That’s why it leads to this. That’s why the composer put these two instruments together, because it creates that kind of sound.
What I’m going to take with me from Watkinson is the collaboration and the communication not just with the students but with the teachers. The Senior Seminar is basically the Watkinson way in a nutshell. Because teachers give students the time and the opportunity to explore their interests, and the support they give you helps you to become a self-advocate. They give you the resources to do it, but they’re not going to hold your hand; you have to actually do it yourself. And that’s a really good learning curve. They help you find mentors; they help you develop your question and map out the project. It gives you the time and also the steps to help reach a goal that you’re striving for. And that’s an incredible feeling.
Jade will be attending Wagner College.