Culver City High School graduate Ian LeCheminant recently spoke to CCHS students in the Intro to Music Technology and AVPA Media Music classes and told them to follow their dreams.
Ian, class of 2011, was a student in the first Media Music class ever offered through AVPA. One particular class project sticks with Ian, assigned by Chris Thomas, who was the original Media Music and theory teacher.
“The class started as a theory class and transformed into a class about the art and craft of film music. We learned about movie scores through the lenses of composers who were helping to tell the stories. Chris provided us with a list of movies organized alphabetically by composers. We had to pick a movie and write about every piece of music in the film, called “cues” in the media industry, and their function and purpose in the story being told. I chose the Ridley Scott epic Gladiator at the suggestion of Chris, who thought I would enjoy Hans’ approach to scoring. His maximalist production value applied to a huge wagnerian esque orchestra and hybrid orchestral style really inspired me and reminded me of my roots and love of rock and heavy metal music.”
Ian works as an independent media composer, music producer, and technology consultant and has a versatile skill set, taking on various roles on media scoring teams. Assisting with audio repair, sound mixing, data management, project management, sample development, music editing, video editing, and remote recording sessions, he does it all with the end goal of helping to tell the best story possible through an appropriate and tasteful synchronicity of music, sound and visuals.
Ian recently completed work as a member of the music department on Encanto reporting directly to Academy Award-nominated composer Germaine Franco (Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Tag, Little, Coco), where he served as the project’s Score Technician. He has worked on several projects as a member of Germaine’s team including the interactive theme park Kung Fu Panda: Land Of Awesomeness, and the films, Curious George: Go West, Go Wild, The Sleepover, and Work It.
His work in interactive media, with the Kung Fu Panda: Land Of Awesomeness project has shifted his outlook on the critical role music can have for an audience’s experience outside of the film realm. Ian took that experience and extrapolated on music composition opportunities in all sorts of entertainment, letting CCHS students know that video games, interactive AR and VR all need music. He encouraged the students to be fearless in pursuing their interests and reinforced the idea that all of the creators they look up to were once high school students just like themselves.
“I don’t have a degree in what I do. I didn’t even plan to do what I do. It just sorta happened over time,” he said. “I just knew that I wanted to work professionally in music in some capacity. I kept an open mind and just said ‘yes’ to different opportunities as they came about and always tried to do the best work possible for the project. I use what I learned at CCHS every day in my work.”
With very little money to buy any of his own equipment, he used the school computers.
“I stayed after school whenever I had the chance because I didn’t have any computer equipment at home,” he said. “I also said ‘yes’ to all of the AVPA film makers who were just learning to work with composers for the first time and use original music for their films, not pre-recorded music. That’s how you really learn this craft is through endless collaboration, trying things and working together with your peers.”
After graduation, Ian’s former teacher Chris Thomas gave Ian his first paid job.
“I took care of his cats while he was traveling for work. He gave me access to his studio. In the world of film and post-production you have to work as a team, and working under people who are in the business is the best way to break in.”
Ian left the students with some final tips. “Try to write music for the field you are most interested in. If you love film, try that. If you love video games, try that.”
AVPA Music Media teacher Jack Aron, who invited Ian to speak with the Music Tech and Music Media students, took that opportunity to share with Ian AVPA/CTE’s upcoming Video Game Design pathway, which will be available to CCHS students starting in the 2022-2023 school year (pending Board of Education approval).
Ian continued with recommending to the students to score with some stills, the script and/or key story points in mind, when beginning work on a project, to pay attention to the story as a whole and to not get too carried away with the technicalities of syncing music to picture when starting work on a new project.
“You have to have good content, themes and motifs that move the story forward. Write freely first, be inspired by the story arch of the film and your collaborators, then work on syncing your music to the movie. How you tell the story with music is the most important thing. You must always be mindful of the character’s journey and development, and work on having your music reflect this.”
Ian’s final tip was that in addition to having good ideas for the music, you have to be able to sell it to the directors and producers.
“How you present your demos is very important in this line of work,” he concluded. “Chris Thomas always told us to approach our demos as if they were going to be heard by our favorite film composers, raise your work to that level, be detailed and thoughtful with the notes you put down on the page and into the computer. Working under Germaine Franco has only reinforced this, she is a master of her craft.”