Expanding Opportunities

By Katie McClenny

Photo by Rich Polk

The USC Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship aims to expand opportunities for Black composers and support their voices and artistry in composing for cinema and television.

On November 18, 2020, Sony Music Publishing (SMP) and Bleeding Fingers Music announced the launch of the Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship at the USC Thornton School of Music. Through its social justice fund, SMP and Bleeding Fingers set out to increase film and television scoring opportunities for Black composers, who are vastly underrepresented in the industry.

SMP, Bleeding Fingers Music, and USC Thornton are continuing their efforts to expand opportunities for Black composers, welcoming applicants for the USC Thornton Screen Scoring program’s 2023 class. 

The Screen Scoring program recently topped The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the 20 best music schools for composing for film and TV, with the publication noting USC Thornton’s commitment to inclusivity, including this scholarship’s impact on Black composers.

On the one-year anniversary of this groundbreaking initiative, we’d like to take this moment to celebrate the first-ever USC Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship recipient, William Perry, and hear his reflections on the screen scoring program at Thornton, as well as his creative process.

Perry, a Berklee College of Music alum who studied film scoring and contemporary writing and production, will graduate from the screen scoring program this year, and he’s set to begin an apprenticeship at Bleeding Fingers Music, under the leadership of SMP’s Production Music President and CEO Russell Emanuel. 

“The USC Thornton School of Music is proud to partner with Sony Music Publishing and Bleeding Fingers with the USC Screen Scoring Diversity Scholarship,” said Robert Cutietta, Dean of USC Thornton. “Our first recipient, William Perry, is an exceptional artist and an example of the students whose talent, vision and passion distinguishes our screen scoring program. We are thrilled and grateful that that he has enrolled at USC Thornton as a result of this scholarship.”

From left to right is Robert Cutietta, dean, USC Thornton School of Music; Patrick Kirst, interim chair of the Screen Scoring Program; William Perry, USC Screen Scoring program student; Towalame Austin, EVP, philanthropy and social impact, Sony Music Group; Jon Platt, chairman and CEO, Sony Music Publishing; and Russell Emanuel, president and CEO, Production Music attend the Sony Music Publishing/Bleeding Fingers Music Scholarship Recipient Meet and Greet on October 25, 2021 in Santa Monica, California.
(Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sony Music Publishing)
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to be a composer?

When I was a little kid, I would watch movies with my dad, and the one score that woke me up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade by John Williams. I think this was the first time I had been conscious of music in film.  Later in childhood, I would also notice music in video games. By high school, I thought, “This would be a pretty cool career if I can break into the industry.”

How would you describe your style and sound as a composer?

My style is still developing. I’ve had the chance to write music in styles that I previously haven’t had the chance to, so I can say that it’s constantly morphing by the minute.  

What inspires you to create music?

Deadlines – just kidding.  The human experience honestly inspires me to create music.  Also, seeing images on screen is an amazing springboard for my own creativity, which is why I love composing for film.

What song do you currently have on repeat?

The soundtrack to Midnight Sky by Alexandre Desplat.

What have been the most rewarding experiences of the USC Thornton Screen Scoring program?

Having the opportunity to record with professional musicians and get the feel of what it would be like to record on a real-life session.  Having this practice now will definitely prepare me for the future.

Screen scoring students collaborate with the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra for a recording session at Capitol Studios Studio A in 2018. (Photos by Dario Griffin)
How do you think you have changed or grown as a composer over the last year?

I’ve become faster at writing music.  I’ve also acquired more experience composing in different genres.  This program throws you in the deep end of the pool, and you either sink or swim.  I still have a long way to go, but I can say that I’m swimming. 

If you could give one piece of advice to next year’s program class, what would it be?

Make sure to always take care of your health.  This program is demanding, so it’s important to be able to draw a line at some point to either take breaks when you can or get a little extra sleep so you can be at your best.

What would be your dream project to work on?

I would really love to compose for a television or Netflix show.  When I was interested in film scoring initially, I wasn’t focusing on TV shows (mainly film and video games), but now that sector is really catching my eye.

What do you hope for the future of the composing and songwriting industry?

I hope that, in the future, we will see a more diverse group of composers – not only in terms of race, sexual orientation or gender identity, but also in financial backgrounds. It is difficult to launch a career in film scoring since it’s such an expensive endeavor: the price of the gear alone prevents so many who have the talent, but not the money, from exploring this field.

What would you like to accomplish at your Bleeding Fingers Music apprenticeship? 

I’m hoping to take my craft to the next level and to make a contribution worthy of such an awesome place!

USC Thornton Screen Scoring graduate students participate in a hands-on recording session at Warner Bros. Studios, along with Thornton musicians in the orchestra, and conducted by Pete Anthony. (Photo by Dario Griffin)

For more information about the screen scoring program, please visit our department page.

TAGS: Screen Scoring,

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