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Meet Jesi Nelson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesi Nelson.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Music was always part of my life, from what I can remember. I started playing piano around 2 years old when I picked up little melodies by ear that were surrounding me. From the radio, church, etc. Somewhere in middle school, I started writing my own music at the piano, just little tunes, nothing fancy. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I watched the movie Meet Joe Black and had such an overwhelming reaction to the music. I kept rewinding to a certain point in the film and sobbing my face off. (Not normal behavior for a 10-year-old, lol!) I looked at my best friend and my parents and said, “I’m gonna do that”. I had zero clue as to what that meant at the time, but I knew I wanted to write music for films, all thanks to the brilliance of Thomas Newman.

In high school, I was in an AP Music Theory class, and my dear teacher and friend Mr. James Larson informed me that “film scoring” was an actual thing! Little ol’ me had no idea, I just thought you were a concert composer first. That basically sent me on my path and I never looked back! Big dreams for a small, Asian-American girl in a tiny town in Wisconsin named Delavan.

I did my undergrad in Music Composition and Technology at UW-Milwaukee and my Masters in Music Composition for the Screen at Columbia College in Chicago. Part of the wonderful Columbia program is 5 weeks in LA at the end of your two years, and getting paired with a top composer as an intern. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Danny Elfman’s, and the rest is history!

I’ve been humbly fortunate to have done some really great workshops while out here in LA (Sundance Institute’s Music and Sound Design Lab and the ASCAP Scoring Workshop) that have lead to some wonderful opportunities such as scoring the feature film Jinn and connecting with incredible artists and people who continue to inspire me.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I’m a composer for film and television. There’s a few reasons why. One, because I love music. I feel music. I’m that awkward person sobbing (quietly) during symphonies or movies. Two, because I get to tell stories through music! Three, because I remember when I started researching soundtracks and other film composers when I was a kid, I couldn’t find any women, and/or people of color. I remember thinking to myself, “Am I allowed to do this?”
So, part of my inspiration is the idea that I never want another young girl or person of color or anyone really, to ever think that they’re not “allowed” to be a film composer and/or chase after their dreams because they’re not represented.

In terms of what I hope people take away from my music, well I hope they feel something! I hope they feel what they’re watching and hearing.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
Great question. I don’t know if our role as artists has necessarily changed, but rather evolved into accessibility where information, awareness and activism can play a part. I think there’s an outcry for humanity in the world, and we, as artists, should use our platform or voice in the best way we can to bring that humanity back. I think because of everything going on in the world, a lot of really important work is happening, which is exciting. Not to say that important work hasn’t always been happening, but again, it’s much more accessible today.

I think the most important thing we can do right now, is to support each other. The movement of equal inclusion is happening, and we need to do the best we can to keep it moving forward. Whether it’s joining and supporting (in the composing world) groups like the Alliance for Women Film Composers and the Composers Diversity Collective, to hiring more people of color, women or LGBTQ onto your team. These small actions have a much larger ripple effect than I think people realize.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Very kind of you to ask!

I released the soundtrack for “Jinn”, a film I scored last year, now available on iTunes, Amazon and all other streaming platforms.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Lester Cohen

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