Working Through the Pandemic
17 Aug 2020
Kerwin Young

Namhiya Ati: Kerwin, you’ve remained quite busy during the global pandemic; receiving numerous commissions. How have you been able to manage with the quarantining?

Kerwin Young: Hi Namhiya, it’s always a pleasure speaking with you. Since my last public concert in St. Louis, Missouri, back in February; and after my residency with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music in Boonville, California, opportunities have been increasing. Gabriela Lena Frank is a huge supporter of fellow composers, and I’m extremely grateful that our paths crossed during my ACO-DSO residency a year ago.

As a composer and recording producer, isolation, seclusion, and being off to oneself for extended periods of time is part of the lifestyle. Much of my life is self-quarantined; so there’s nothing new there. Of course, whenever I go out I’m wearing my mask; which doesn’t invite any conversation from others.

NA: You’ve received a number of commission; some of which have yet to go public. Can you elaborate on the ones which have already gone public?

KY: You know, I have been busy. Following my residency with the GLFCAM and the Del Sol Quartet, I was commissioned by the Tesla Quartet. For them, I composed PEace on the Left, Justice on the Right. The work was inspired by a chant from the brother of George Floyd, which I heard over a live, national news broadcast.

I also composed a solo viola work for Edwin Kaplan, violist with Tesla Quartet, entitled “Eva’s Ashes”. It should premiere sometime between now and the end of September. Just follow the GLFCAM link here.

One commission that totally blew me away was from Play On Philly! I got the chance to collaborate with teaching staff as well as fifth through twelfth grade students. On top of that, I got to write for orchestra! The resulting piece was based on motivic ideas expressed by the students, and I called the piece “Nature’s Karmic Vengeance”. Working with Play On Philly was an enriching experience. I had just finished a two-week course teaching Hip-Hop production at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and then I began my duties with P.O.P. I only had 3-5 days to compose the piece; so it was kind of like writing for television with the quick turn-around. I’m used to that anyway. But, I had a lot of fun!

Also, ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) commissioned me to write a series of miniatures work for oboe, viola, cello, and baritone. I’ve recently completed that assignment, and the premiere will either be sometime around October 31st/November 1st; somewhere in there. That piece is called “Coming Forth By Day”, and it was written for the annual Day of the Dead Festival in Houston, Texas.

Other commissions for works-in-progress include a string quartet, an orchestral work for an undisclosed youth symphony that I hope will include a collaboration with Lupita Nyong’o, and a duet for violin and harp. These will keep me busy through the late spring of 2021.

Also, I’ve just been accepted into BMI’s 13th annual Scoring for the Screen Workshop with Rick Baitz. I’ve been applying to BMI film scoring workshops since 1992, and I never got in until now.

Staying busy is important, right? But, keeping true to one’s career and doing the work you want to do…staying on that path no matter what pays off.

NA: Congratulations on all the commissions. Perseverance certainly pays off, and you’ve struggled more than enough. You deserve it all, Kerwin! You’re certainly not a newbie to media scoring and have had moderate success. What has kept you applying for media scoring opportunities?

KY: Networking is always a must, and industry practices are always evolving. Both of these aren’t readily accessible through common internet searches. While large budget, studio films are finally bringing me onboard, I have to keep busy during the pandemic by any means. So, whether I’m composing a two-minute cue each day, online watching tutorials from Trevor Morris, Junkie-XL, and Christian Henson; or if I’m applying to a film scoring opportunity, I’ve got to keep busy and informed. There’s always new software and applications to learn. There are always new sound libraries coming out to test. And, one’s workflow has to be quick and efficient with a full comprehension of all the required integration. Daily practice is essential in this field.

I’ve also upgraded to Nuendo. I’ve switched from Sibelius to Dorico, and I’ve upgraded my external hardware devices. I have to use it all as much as possible, in different ways; to be comfortable handling everything on a consistent basis.

NA: I see. So, we should be seeing your name on the big screen after awhile?

KY: Yup, after the summer of 2021. Hopefully, by then, all international Covid restrictions will have been lifted. Just to think, it only took me 26 years! (Kerwin laughs)

NA: So, what’s next?

KY: A home and a family, but I still need to meet a woman. Everyone wants to get onboard after the train is in motion; no one wants to be part of the journey. I’ve had a long-ass journey already, ya dig what I’m sayin’? That’s always been a huge problem. Getting to know someone takes awhile. I’ve never been one to move fast.

NA: She’s closer than you think. She’ll come as a surprise and right on time just as your commissions. Just keep on, Kerwin. It’s always a pleasure interviewing you for the EOK Times.

KY: Thanks Namhiya!

Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

<October 2020>

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