Emmy-nominated composer Tony Morales has recently been nominated for an Annie Award for his score work on the Disney series Elena of Avalor. Though he might not personally relate to a storyline about a 16-year-old princess, Morales says he approaches the project, for which he’s currently scoring the third season, by treating it like a cinematic experience. “Yes, it’s a Disney princess, but it’s also a strong and brave and powerful female character that is inspired by Latin culture, and there’s depth to the score and series,” he says.
Finding the depth and drama of a storyline, whether it’s for a Disney series or an independent short, has led to Morales working on a wide range of projects including 2015 Netflix series Bloodline, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and 2012 mini-series Hatfield & McCoys, which attracted his Emmy nomination. Morales first began composing for commercials, then graduated to television and film work after building relationships in LA and arranging for more established composers.
Morales compares composing for film and television to a long game. “It can take time before you get any results, and you have to really love it because there will be times when it’s not fun, and the constant rejections are going to add up,” Morales says. “That said, there are so many routes into it. There is the assistant route; you can learn a lot from working under a composer you admire. Or you can be part of other organizations that have gatherings and networking opportunities that can open doors.”
To aspiring composers, Morales advises taking as many opportunities as you can, and become more discerning as you become established. “In the beginning, experience as much as you can; chase the ones you know you’re a good fit for, but also the ones that you think might be a creative mismatch––try it. You might learn something.”