Running Start Spotlights

Chad Rehmann

May Interview

Chad Rehmann, Alum, BM 2003

Renowned film and television composer Chad Rehmann has received numerous honors for his work, including The ASCAP Foundation David Rose Centennial Award. Earlier in his career, he received the Nataional Foundation for Advancement in the Art Award and was a finalist in the Young Film Composer Competition, sponsored by Turner Classic Movies. Chad lives in Los Angelos and is currently working on a variety of exciting new projects, including music for a new Netflix series.

Interview with Chad Rehmann

How would you describe your professional identity in a sentence?

I am a composer for film and television.
Can you summarize your current entrepreneurial projects in a sentence or two?
Productions that I have just finished working on include Who's Driving Doug (starring RJ Mitte from Breaking Bad) and Welcome to Kain (starring Paul Soter from Super Troopers). Currently I am working with Netflix on a new series (yet to be announced), as well as gearing up for Byrd and the Bees (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors).

How has your career, project, or intiative been growing and developing since you graduated? Since last year? What are your next steps as you go forward?
After graduating from MSU in 2003, I moved to Los Angeles with my wife and without any job prospects. In addition to working the most quintessential job for those just arriving to Hollywood, bussing tables at a restaurant, I also took many part time music-related jobs: private instructor, church musician, accompanist. While 'paying the bills' with the income from these jobs, I took on any composition work that I could. My career really took off, however, after being a part of the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop and subsequently being recruited and signed by my agent at WME in 2011. Through my relationship with WME, the productions on which I worked grew ever more noteworthy and profitable until I was ultimately able to drop the side gigs and concentrate full time on being a composer. I'm fortunately finding success at an opportune time to be writing music. With the rise of cable over the last decade and the advent of new streaming content mediums (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon), there are many new media avenues that now need music. Moving forward, my hope is to expand and capitalize on the programming being produced by new delivery forms entering the marketplace.
How did the College of Music prepare you to embark on your career?
There are two concepts that stuck with me from my time at MSU. First, compositionally I was always challenged to have a reason and purpose behind the notes that I placed on the page. "Had I thought about where that note, variation, cadence was coming from or going to? Was the accompaniment pattern the most appropriate given the context? Could it be one note less or one note more? Is that a better option? Why?" This level of intentionality translates readily to my work in film, as the question of purpose is always at the forefront of what we as film composers do. "Should there be music in this scene? Why? In order to build up to the explosion on screen should we add one beat? Take one away? How does that affect the structure before and after, and is this the best solution?"

Second, almost all of my professors at MSU encouraged me to actively listen as part of my education. Given the amazing ensembles at the College of Music, this was easily accomplished. I had the privilege of playing in many of these groups and when I wasn't, I sat in on rehearsals. I can not imagine a better education in listening, than sitting amongst the college's world-class ensembles and watching the various conductors rehearsing them. 

What do you think are the most important skills to have as a 21st century musician? As an entrepreneur?

There are so many business concepts that I wish I knew before leaving for Los Angeles: Marketing Techniques, Long Term Financial Planning, Small Business Income Tax Basics, etc. However, I believe one of the keys to success in this market is tracking, utilizing, and maintaining relationships. One of the least desirable aspects of my job is the amount of social events, lunches and meetings over drinks that take place in LA. For a pure extrovert, this may sound like heaven! But, for someone like me that would rather be wearing warm-up pants and making popcorn with the kids for movie night, the forcing of oneself out into unknown networking territory is a challenge. Unfortunately, it is necessary. As an entrepreneur, you constantly have to find your next paycheck. By missing an event, you very well could be missing a conversation with someone looking to hire an individual with your exact skill set. It's a tricky balance, but with social media becoming the "conversation standard" in the industry, face-to-face interactions allow one to break through that noise with a handshake and a good joke...a moment that a potential employer will remember long after reading your last tweet.

What words of wisdom do you have for prospective MSU students?

Find balance and become a part of the community to which you belong. I am a husband and father who happens to be a composer, not the other way around. This, to me, is an important distinction. As an entrepreneur, your work can and will consume your life unless you purposefully set boundaries. For me, my wife and kids give me the balance that I need. Maybe your balance is a group of friends, your church, a non-profit at which you volunteer. Whatever that relationship is, cultivate it more than your job, because it will most likely fulfill you in ways that your music will not. That connection will outlast your career and help you get through the worst years. Conversely, those relationships will also be the ones that celebrate your successes...which, being a Spartan, I know you will have!