Q&A with Kevin Smithers, Composer, Arranger, Songwriter, and Guitarist
From being a composer of soundtracks for films such as Good Grief and Seeking Dolly Parton to his current work on the video game World War Toons, among many other projects, Berklee alumnus Kevin Smithers has developed his voice in the world of film, television, and video games. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Smithers studied at the Fermatta Music Academy (at that time part of the Berklee International Network) for two years before moving to the London Centre of Contemporary Music in London, United Kingdom. There, he completed a degree in Performance and Production, with a special focus in Musical Directing/Arranging and Audio Visual Synchronization. Later, Smithers received a scholarship to study a Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013. He is currently developing his career as a composer-arranger, songwriter, and guitarist for a range of different musical styles in Los Angeles, California.
Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games at Berklee’s campus in Valencia?
I was finishing my degree in London and trying to decide whether I wanted to pursue a career in film scoring or in concert composing. I was fully aware that Berklee had been at the top of the musical education field for a long time, so when I decided that film scoring was the way to go it was one of the first schools I looked into. The program seemed to have exactly what I needed, and after having my meeting with the course’s program director, I decided it was the place I wanted to go.
How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional, and what from the experience do you carry with you now?
My time at Berklee was quite unique. There was a large workload and I was exposed to many things that I wasn’t even aware were a part of the film scoring world. I was very much a pencil and paper composer at the time, so you can imagine how much I had to learn. My tutors were wonderful, although I’d say I probably learned the most from my fellow classmates. Everyone seemed to have a very different background in their music training, which led to an incredible amount of information being spread out in the classroom. I think everyone was very receptive about this, which was fundamental to my development as a film composer.
Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you've worked on, or are currently working on?
I’m finishing up a game for former Infinity Ward developers, Reload Studios. It’s called World War Toons, a game aimed for VR that will be coming out later this year for console and PC. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with people that are at the top of their fields. Nik Ranieri, their lead animator, spent many years over at Disney animating some of my favorite characters and movies. Others like James Chung (CEO) and Taehoon Oh (COO) worked on the Call Of Duty games. It’s crazy, the amount of talent they’ve got over there. I’m also in the middle of an animated feature film for Ánima Estudios. I’m afraid I can’t say much about it just yet, but it’s a fantastic film, and I can’t wait for people to see what we’re doing!
Why is working as a composer for films and television more fascinating and enriching for you?
I’ve always loved film, so when I realized I could do both music and film in one job it seemed like the best way to go for me. Imagining life without working in the film industry anymore seems next to impossible now—music is just my way of being part of it. I think the most enriching thing is to see a finished score work well with the project. You get that feeling of accomplishment and feel that all those long nights were 100 percent worth it. It’s really amazing how the filmmakers let you into their world and allow you leave a mark on their story. It’s fantastic.
What tips would you give to students who will be entering the professional world this year?
Work as hard as you possibly can, be the best composer you can be, and try not to compare your accomplishments to other people’s accomplishments. We’re all in this for the long haul.
Is there something else you want to share with us?
Just thank Berklee and my tutors over there for a great experience.