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Meet Jackson Greenberg

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackson Greenberg.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After graduating from Princeton University, I attended my dream graduate program at USC Thornton School of Music. Since high school, I knew I wanted to write music for film and television and this program was always at the top of my list. So right after graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles. The program in the music school is specifically for writing music for television and film. The two most important things I got from the music school were outside of the classroom. 1. My relationships with students across the quad in the film school who I met working on their student projects and developed friendships and professional relationships that still exist strongly today. 2. My relationship with composer and musician Randy Newman. While in graduate school, I applied for a mentorship program and was randomly assigned to meet with Randy. Randy provided me with the support and confidence needed to carry me forward.

I got extremely lucky in that my first film was Cartel Land which went on to be nominated for an Oscar. That movie has led to a lot of work in documentary film and documentary television. With each project, my relationship network has expanded and I’ve gotten to work with a lot of amazing filmmakers and artists. As my film and television career has expanded, I’ve also devoted more time to releasing my own music. I’ve had the privilege of recording with the Slovakian National Orchestra and other smaller ensembles around the world.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not! There have been a lot of challenging projects, one of which I was fired from (that ended up being a blessing and great learning experience!). When you get fired from a project and one of your worst nightmares comes true, you realize that we are making art and sometimes in art there are creative differences and that is okay! Luckily I’m at the point now where I have a few projects lined up in advance but there have been many points where I finish a tough project and have nothing to start on after. That is always scary, wondering if a new project will come when it will come, and figuring out how to fill the time in between.

On a more micro level, each project presents its own unique challenges. From working on something that is not that interesting, trying to deliver great work and stay engaged, to working on something that is close to your heart and feeling the pressure to deliver something special. Sitting down to write music is always a challenge. It’s about finding that thread that will carry you forward, whether that’s a thought or emotion, or instrument or melody. You need something and sometimes it’s very hard to find.

With music for film and TV for me it always comes down to a feeling. Does this music feel right and special for this scene? Is it making my skin tingle watching it? Sometimes I work on a scene for days and try to convince myself it’s right when deep down I know it’s not. I resist the need to start over. But when I do, and it finally feels right, you reinforce the habit of trusting your instincts from the beginning.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My company is very small. Most of the time it is just me and my studio assistant. Sometimes I expand if I’m working on a TV show that requires a lot of music and I have some great composers I call on to assist and write with me. We specialize in music for television and film and try to focus on projects telling interesting stories that want to use music in a unique and special way.

I’ve turned down projects that want their music to sound specifically like something else. I only try to take projects where we can try new things and approach the material in a new way. We try to make the music unique for each project, using new instruments, new approaches. For example, I’m scoring a movie for Netflix right now about a high school football team where all the players are deaf. I’m working with a deaf musician and trying to learn from her about how she hears and feels music and incorporate those findings into the way I’m writing. The range of instruments I’m using, etc. Attempting to make each score special and unique keeps me engaged and forces me to try to use instruments I’m familiar with in unfamiliar ways.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
My father always said “luck is the residue of design.” I agree and disagree. Luck has played a huge part. I’m lucky that I was raised in a family that supported my pursuit of the arts and supported who I wanted to be as an individual. I’m lucky to have had a great education. I’m lucky I got assigned to Randy. I’m lucky I got to work on Cartel Land and had success early on in my career. I’m lucky I get to write music for a living. So yeah, I guess I attribute a lot of things to luck and try to turn those thoughts of feeling lucky into feeling gratitude and joy. I feel lucky everyday when I find music that works for a scene but I also recognize that the act of showing up to the studio and having worked hard at my craft is the design that leads to the residue of finding the right notes. Finding the right notes never feels like something I can claim – I try to stay in the place where it feels like I’m digging and am lucky to have started digging in the right place…

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