Boston probably isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of the film and music business, but Berklee College of Music is the premier institution––and until recently, the only institution––for an undergrad film scoring degree. Not to mention, even though 3,000 miles apart, the school still has plenty of Hollywood connections, says Alison Plante, chair of the film scoring department. “We have a long track record of doing this very well, the evidence being our graduates,” says Plante, who first discovered her own love of film music at eight years old, standing in line at Universal Studios and listening to an entertainer play John Williams movie themes on a synthesizer.
Berklee’s film scoring program, which dates back to 1980, is unique and nuanced, tailored to accommodate almost any pathway an aspiring composer can dream up. There are also options to earn online degrees. Since Plante came to the school 10 years ago, she’s seen the program expand to include game scoring as well as new studios that include a scoring stage that fits a 45-piece orchestra. There are also new facilities for production students, and the school hires student players to serve as session musicians for scoring students.
In addition, Berklee sources nonprofit professional films for students to score. “We have a silent film program where students score a feature-length silent film and perform it live,” Plante says. “The students scored The Man Who Laughs, an important film from 1928. The students performed that at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.”
Encouragingly, the student body has started to look distinctly more female in the past years. Plante said the program is about one-third women, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago. “There is a lower percentage of women film composers than in any other field in film, including directors, so it’s encouraging to see those numbers growing,” she says. “And I’m pleased to see their success as they enter the field and get good jobs. One was just hired to score Captain Marvel. She’s the first woman to score a Marvel movie.”