I say that I know Rachel personally, to a certain degree. We have never met in person but our grandparents got together and chatted about us and we got each other's contact info and became a sort of penpals. Since Rachel and I have quite a few similar interests it was pretty easy for us to hit it off. I've truly enjoyed seeing Rachel's music career develop over the last few years, she has a beautiful voice and a real talent for music!
Here is a little bit about Rachel:
Rachel Hardy is a 19-year-old composer and songwriter. She has received a professional certificate from Berklee College of Music and is currently in her second year of University studying Music Composition. She hopes to one day write music for film and television.
You can find Rachel on...
Her Facebook Page
Her Youtube Channel
Q: When did you first start singing/playing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?
A: I wrote a few piano pieces when I was 8 or 9 and my parents and friends really encouraged me to keep writing. I got my notation software in grade 10 and fell in love with writing for orchestras. I’ve always been obsessed with film scores and would say that a lot of my inspiration has come from composers such as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Howard Shore, John Powell etc. I composed a lot all throughout high school, and really started considering studying it as my grade 12 year came to an end. After completing my certificate with Berklee, I just knew without a doubt that I made the right choice to pursue this as a career. It will for sure be challenging, but I’m doing what I’m passionate about.
Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was something you wanted to do?
A: My first assignment when I started my certificate program was scoring for a trailer. (It was the trailer for “Troy”, they had just stripped the original music out of it.) I had so much fun writing music to line up with the events on the screen; it was like solving a really exciting puzzle. I remember feeling so confident with the finished product, and showing it to my family. I think we all just kind of knew at that point that this was what I had to keep doing. I think that’s when my mind shifted from thinking of composing as a hobby to wanting to pursue it as a career.
Q: Do you have a process when it comes to composing? How do you usually begin a project?
A: Composing for film takes a bit of planning ahead. I usually create a cue sheet, where I write the timecode of important on-screen events that would require a musical ‘hit’. (E.g. a change in the drama, or a notable climatic moment like a punch). I also have to watch the scene a number of times to decide what feeling or emotion I want to portray through the music. After establishing where the musical hits have to be and the feeling of the sound I want to capture, I start to structure the rest of the cue around those things. There is a lot of trial and error… it usually takes a handful of ideas that don’t work to find one that fits.
Q: What kind of tools do you use as a musician (computer programs, websites, specific instruments, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other musicians?
A: I’m the kind of composer who likes to hear how something will sound. I am more hands-on than technical, so I tend to do a lot of midi-editing through what are called sample libraries. These are computer programs that trigger very realistic-sounding digital instruments, which I control through a keyboard. This way, I have everything I need -- strings, woodwinds, brass, soloists, percussion, etc -- at my fingertips. I use a number of sample libraries, but a few of my favourites are Spitfire Albion, True Strike, Symphobia Lumina, the Giant, LA Scoring Strings, and Action Strings. I could talk forever about the strengths and weaknesses in each of these programs, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
I also have a book called “The Study of Orchestration” by Samuel Adler which is the bible of composition. I would recommend it to anyone interested in composing. It answers every question about what each instrument can and cannot do.
Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as an artist over the years?
A: When it comes to composing, for film or just in general, connections are so important. The more people you know in the music industry the better. If there are people out there who believe in you and your work, jobs are more likely come to you. I think confidence is also a big necessity. I know it can be difficult for artists to show others their work -- it requires vulnerability. But you have to be confident in what you have to offer in order for others to be confident.
Q: You do both covers of songs and write your own music. What got you into composition? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?
A: Singing covers is a hobby of mine. I find it fun and YouTube provides me with some money for me to invest back into my music. I don’t really prefer one over the other, but I am studying composition because there is more of an industry there and I think I would enjoy it more as a job.
Q: What are some of your favorite things about writing your own music vs. making covers?
A: Writing my own music requires so much creativity. It is really hard, exhausting work, but it really pays off to be able to hear something I made completely from scratch. Covers are a bit tricky. I enjoy recording them, because who doesn’t like singing… but all the mixing and editing and filming is very, very boring. I have hundreds of covers recorded, but only so many make it to YouTube because I just hate the editing process.
Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as a musical artist, especially an independent one?
A: One thing that I have really noticed, surprisingly, is the lack of confidence film directors and crews seem to have in female composers. I’ve always wondered why the number of working female composers is so incredibly low, and after reading study after study, it seems that people subconsciously assume that females cannot handle the stress of the tight timelines of film composition as well as males can. I think this is absolutely stupid.
Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?
A: I have completed my Professional Certificate in Composing for Film and Television at Berklee College of Music online. I am now pursuing a degree in music composition.
Q: Have you taken any music courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?
A: I grew up taking piano lessons, but was self-taught when I started composing. I spent hours listening to film soundtracks and tried to imitate similar sound combinations in my own music. In the past few years I’ve been a full-time music student and have learned so much more about the more technical aspects of composition.
Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a musician over the years?
A: I’ve really learned how to keep an open mind. I’ve had to study so many different kinds of music that I would never have otherwise listened to on my spare time, from Gregorian chant to music so abstract I didn’t even know what was going on. Even if they’re not all my cup of tea, each style of music has so much to offer. There’s always something to learn.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young musicians? What is the best advice you’ve received?
A: Just go for it. Work hard at the things you love to do. And really pursue your own style. Many composers -- myself included -- have felt like their music had to sound like other successful composers’ in order to be successful. This isn’t true. Your individual styles and ideas are what will make you really stand out. One of my professors told me it takes a thousand mistakes to come up with a really great idea. He taught me that making mistakes and coming up with no-good ideas are okay and that that’s how we really learn.
Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of music and music composition?
A: My favourite part is the reward of creating something from nothing. My least favourite part is the creative block. One time I didn’t write for months just because I wasn’t inspired. It was awful.
Q: Who is someone who inspires your musical career?
A: Beethoven. That might sound weird. But that guy kept writing music, even when he couldn’t hear it or enjoy it. My goal is to have that kind of drive to do what I love.
Q: Do you have a favorite musician/song that has really influenced your own work?
A: There are so many composers that have inspired me so much of the years, but I think one of the most inspiring has been Alexandre Desplat. I think my style of writing is most influenced by his style.
Q: Where do you see/want to see your artistic career in five years?
A: I’d love to be attending a film festival of some sort, seeing a film I got to compose for shown for the first time.
Q: Aside from music, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?
A: Acting, archery, photography, blogging, watching movies, and making crafts.
Q: Do you have a particular piece you consider your best work? Why?
A: I don’t think I have a favourite. Each piece I write has something in it I’m proud of and usually something I’m not as proud of.
Q: I understand you have done/do modelling as well as music. What got you into that world and what do you enjoy about it? Is there anything about it that you find has benefitted you as a musician?
A: I got into modelling when I was in high school because I needed a job. It’s been such an interesting experience. It’s always changing, which I really like. I also love to work with other people. Modelling has done wonders for my confidence talking to new people; I used to be incredibly shy, and I’m definitely not anymore. I took a year off after high school to travel, model, and work on my certificate program online, and it was an incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience.
Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?
A: It’s really hard. It’s difficult to balance music I don’t really enjoy (like theory homework) with music I do enjoy (like writing and listening). Sometimes all the different kinds of music activities I have to do blend together to the point where I’d just rather nap and forget about music for awhile. I usually function best when I schedule different tasks into different days.
Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?
A: I guess I wish there were more opportunities for artists (especially locally) of all kinds to join together and collaborate in new ways.
Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?
A: Absolutely, all the time. Going to school for music has been a really tough thing for me, because you’re surrounded by people who have similar goals and dreams, many of whom just know a lot more than I do. Sometimes I find myself feeling really behind. I don’t know as much about music theory or classical composers and pieces as many other music majors. The best I can do during these times of doubt is to just keep pushing through and trust in my strengths. But yes, there sure are days where dropping out of university sounds tempting.
Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for music?
A: A lot of my original pieces are fueled by what’s going on in my life at that time. Life is full of all sorts of experiences and feelings to find inspiration in. That’s the vulnerable part of composing… sometimes you’re in love and sometimes you’re heart-broken; sometimes you’re on top of the world and sometimes you’re just downright depressed. That all comes out in some way or another in my music, and although that vulnerability isn’t always comfortable, I believe it’s necessary in creating something really special.
Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?
A: In a perfect world I’d want to be a composer for Disney or Dreamworks.
Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?
A: I can’t think of one right now, but hopefully there will be a few someday soon.
Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?
A: Finding work and self-promotion/networking is quite hard for me. That’s something I’m still getting used to. Staying motivated is also really difficult, especially when doing projects for free to build a portfolio.
Q: And what is the most rewarding?
A: Again, hearing that finished product is always worth the hard work.
Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?
A: I hope to be working on a few small local film projects in the upcoming year. Right now I am focusing on school, but I can’t wait to get out there and do what I’m passionate about.
Thanks for your participation, Rachel! I hope you guys enjoyed hearing about the ins and outs of being an independent musician! Are you going to check out Rachel's Youtube channel to hear her lovely voice? Please do, and let me know how you're enjoying Indie Artists Week in the comments below!