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Daily Inspiration: Meet Sam Ostroff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Ostroff.

Hi Sam, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As a kid, I had a piano teacher named Lisa who happened to be a composer. She was the first person to recognize that I might have some inclination toward writing music (and recognized that I didn’t have the patience to become a concert pianist). When I was 13sh introduced me to the San Francisco Composer’s Chamber Orchestra and told me if I could write a piece for orchestra by the end of the year, she’d get them to play it. That was the start for me. In high school, I started working with a composer named David Conte who is the chair of composition at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and later ended up attending there for my first year of college before transferring to USC.

My earliest interest in classical music was actually film and video game music. I grew up obsessing over the scores to Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films and video game soundtracks from The Legend of Zelda. I remember spending a week sitting at the piano listening the first 30 seconds of Spirited Away, trying desperately to figure out each note. It was through that introduction to the orchestra that I learned to love classical music. And through studying classical music composition and eventually ending up at USC I wound up becoming a film and video game composer. It’s funny how it comes full circle.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, I almost gave up on music entirely after my freshman year of college. The conservatory lifestyle burned me out deeply, and I saw almost no point in writing music. Classical music felt like an anachronism and thinking about nothing but music all day long felt like a distraction from the deeper aspect of my life. I took a year off from school and worked the first half, teaching music lessons and working at the local Italian restaurant, and then on a whim decided to move to Italy (I had learned Italian in high school). I still didn’t think I wanted to be a musician, but being away from my whole music scene and musical household, I started to miss playing and writing. I sought out a local music store that allowed anyone to use a piano for 5 euros an hour, and as soon as I started playing I felt whole again. That was the defining realization that I would be profoundly empty without music in my life. It was the first time I got what people meant when they say “Don’t be an artist if you have any other option”.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a media composer and classical composer. These days I specialize more in film and video games than classical music. I’m a fairly proficient pianist and audio engineer, so I record and play on all my own scores. I tend to draw heavily on my classical background when scoring, especially in terms of harmony and instrumentation, so I often write for classical instruments and try to make things as colorful sounding as possible.

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Image Credits:

Val Tan (movie stills, “Paper Plane Ride Home”)

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