CJ Barrow is currently a second-year student in the Music Scoring for Visual Media program at the Jacobs School of Music and is serving as the scoring program’s Assistant Instructor.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE SCORING?
My passion for music in general stems from the ability to express myself in ways I simply cannot do with words. And in general, I’ve always found myself more comfortable writing my thoughts and feelings than speaking them (or performing them musically), which is why I have always been drawn to composition. Scoring takes this all one step further with the added element of storytelling and the collaboration with image, which is truly a beautiful relationship, and I have found some of my greatest joy creating and sharing my music in this manner.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE IU?
All through my undergraduate career, IU was one of those “shiny and prestigious schools up on the hill” that seemed out of reach. When the time came to search for scoring graduate programs, IU came up in my searches, and I was fortunate enough to know a few students at IU who had nothing but great things to say about the still relatively new scoring program. I visited one weekend to meet Professor Groupé, worried about the 2,000 mile distance of IU to the industry hub of LA. He assured me of the multiple collaboration opportunities we would have with LA filmmakers, not to mention that he, along with the other scoring professors, were all working professionals in and around LA. After meeting with him and sitting in on a class, I knew this was where I needed to be. (And I’ve already collaborated on three different projects based in LA so far!)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE IU SCORING PROGRAM?
This program very quickly prepares you for the highly competitive and fast-paced industry. The main scoring classes are set up, without any sugarcoating, to immerse you directly into the world of a media composition as a profession. I have loved every second of it so far!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE SCORING PROGRAM?
My favorite part of the program has definitely been the constant rapid turnaround assignments, which not only give you a realistic idea of what the industry is like, but also helped me hone in my workflow and find the most efficient ways to produce the best possible products in the shortest amount of time. I’ve likewise been incredibly thankful for the 24/7 mentorship from Professors Groupé and Thomas throughout my time here so far, as well as the opportunities that have come across my doorstep as a result.
“Find your voice and what it is you’re really good at, and capitalize on it!”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF MUSIC TO WRITE?
Well, I’ve become a little notorious in the scoring program for writing really huge orchestrations on epic scales. But at the end of the day, I really enjoy writing music that makes me really feel something, whatever it may be. I don’t enjoy writing passive music. And it’s an added bonus when it successfully makes others feel something!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE MEDIA COMPOSERS?
Depends on the day! Overall I would say Thomas Newman, Ludwig Göransson, and Michael Giacchino. Then of course I would be remiss if I didnt include John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone, as they have also played a large role in my style.
ANY COOL SCORING TRICKS OR TIPS YOU WANT TO SHARE?
I really enjoy taking themes and completely reharmonizing them to give them different meanings. I also enjoy taking sounds and manipulating them, especially reversing them. You’d be amazed how much you can do dramatically with only a small set of sounds or musical ideas.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DAW, PLUG-INS, OR OTHER SCORING-RELATED TECH?
Logic is my lifeblood! 90% of my work happens there. As far as plugins, I spend a lot of time with Komplete 13 and Omnisphere, as well as Spitfire’s BBCSO library. Then for go-to audio processing, the core FabFilter and iZotope plugins. Keyboard Maestro, Stream Deck, and Metagrid have taken my workflow efficiency to new heights!
WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON OUTSIDE OF CLASSES?
I just wrapped up a short film a few months ago with Film Independent’s Project Involve with an incredibly talented group of filmmakers in LA. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a couple game projects based here in Bloomington. I’ve been able to submit a couple production music tracks to a production music library based in LA, and am also working on a currently-airing Amazon series which is also being produced in LA. Outside of scoring, I’m a marching arts music designer, working with around 30 or so clients each year (composing, arranging, and sound design).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PROSPECTIVE IU STUDENTS OR MEDIA COMPOSERS IN GENERAL?
First, get organized and be a good communicator! At least 50% (if not more) of the job is communicating with people! Be reliable, respond quickly, and don’t miss deadlines! If you do all those things, I guarantee you will have an edge over most of your competition.
Second, challenge yourself to optimize your workflow so you can spend more time creating! Refine your template and take any time-hogging elements of your routine out of the question by automating the mundane tasks.
And finally, find your voice and what it is you’re really good at, and capitalize on it! It’s important to be well-rounded, but it’s equally important to have your ‘thing’ that you’re really good at and people know you for.
CJ also currently serves as a Music Designer for Synced Up Designs and Music City Drum Corps, and a Sound Designer for Fannin Musical Productions and Colts Drum and Bugle Corps, working regularly with over 30 different clients around the country. He is also an active media composer, having composed music for various films, video games, production music libraries, and presently is working on the currently-airing Amazon series, Promiseland. Prior to pursuing this degree, he served as the director of bands at East Robertson Middle/High School in Cross Plains, TN. In his time at East Robertson, the high school concert band earned numerous superior ratings, and was one of the smallest bands to ever be invited to Tennessee State Concert Festival, with only 15 student musicians. He earned his BM in Music Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin, graduating summa cum laude.
You can learn more about CJ and see some of his work on his website: https://cjbarrowmusic.com