Krakower Group Composer Spotlight: Shie Rozow

Shie Rozow

Today we’re excited to spotlight Composer Shie Rozow, whose current projects include his debut classical CD Musical Fantasy!

History & background
I grew up in Israel, where I lived until I was 24 with the exception of my 11th & 12th grades of high-school when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, where I went to boarding school. Fun fact, one of my classmates who was also a boarder was Chipper Jones. I bet that means my yearbook is worth something since he signed it, but it’s not for sale. After graduating high-school I returned to Israel and joined the Israeli Defense Force as is mandatory. Following my 3-year service I decided to study music seriously and was accepted to Rimon School of Jazz & Contemporary Music. I managed to earn a partial scholarship to Berklee College of Music and moved to Boston with my dog in 1995. I earned my degree in film scoring 2 years later and moved to LA to pursue a career in film-music. I was broke and had practically no contacts, but I figured I’d go for it until I run out of money or get kicked out of the country. About 3 years ago I became a US citizen, so now you’re stuck with me.

What influences has music had on your family?
My mom used to take us to hear the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra play. I think she had season tickets. I remember having to dress up. I remember always looking for the harp – I liked it because it was shiny and had a crown. And I remember usually falling asleep because I found classical music to be boring. But those years of going to concerts must have affected me because while I’m not nearly as knowledgable in classical music as I’d like to be, there’s something about it that feels very comfortable. Working with an orchestra feels like coming home. It’s very natural for me.

My dad liked oldies, mostly pop & rock from the 60s, including Italian pop of that time period. So I was exposed to a very different style of music from him, and then whatever was on the radio growing up in the 70s & 80s. I remember thinking synthesizers are cool and begging my dad to get me one. Eventually he relented and from the moment I got my hands on that Roland JX-3P when I was 11 years old, I was hooked. I would spend most of my free time locked up in my room just playing with it and making music. Eventually I would accumulate more gear (thanks, dad) and start sequencing and writing my own music. I never took lessons, I was very resistant to any sort of formal education (I wish I wasn’t, but too late now) so it was all self-taught by ear. I didn’t begin my formal music education until going to music school following my military service.
Biggest non-musical influences
My brother is my personal super-hero. As kids we would fight all the time, but he was also very protective of me. I could go on forever about what an amazing man he is and how he’s influenced me, but nobody’s interested in that. So I’ll just say anyone would be extremely lucky to have a brother like mine. As a kid I also remember looking up to my eldest cousin, especially when he was in the military when I was a kid. He was a naval officer and I remember seeing him in his dress whites (not quite as impressive as here in the US, but still cool) and thinking he’s a real-life super-hero.

As an adult I look up to people who make the world a better place. I’m in awe of people like Malala Yousafzai, who has overcome such tremendous adversity and is using her life to do good. I’m impressed with Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who suffered horrific injuries while serving the nation loosing both legs and continues to serve. I find people who give of themselves to the greater good to be quite inspiring and aspire, in my own very small way, to try to do my part.

What do you do with your limited free time?
I’m a family man. I like to spend as much time as I can with my wife and ever since having kids, I spend as much time as I can with them. They’re ridiculously cute and just so much fun to be with. I used to SCUBA dive a lot, and love it, but haven’t found the time to do it far too long. I also love puzzles, they somehow help calm me. A few years ago my wife bought me a 24,000 piece puzzle. Every few months I find a few hours here an there to work on it. I’m about 8,000 pieces in.

If you could travel to any period based on the music, when would you go?
I’d probably like to go to the future to see where music is going. Though I imagine seeing Mozart or Beethoven present an opera or symphony would be exhilarating.
What are your current, past, and outside influences?
I don’t know how to split this up into Current, Past & Outside influences, so I’ll just list some of my biggest influences in no particular order. Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Umberto Tozzi, Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, J. S. Bach, John Swihart, Aaron Copeland, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elton John, Gidi Gov (Israeli pop singer), Kobi Oshrat (Israeli songwriter/producer), Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Dvorak, David Darling, Karl Jenkins, The Lumineers, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Pink Floyd, Wagner, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, the list is endless. I also like listening to authentic ethnic music from around the world and I think that influences my writing to varying degrees.

Favorite current composer
How do I pick just one?

Best scored movie you’ve ever seen?
Probably Glory by James Horner, or possibly The Land Before Time, also by Horner.

What is your least favorite instrument?
Not touching that 🙂

What’s your composing method? (a) sitting at a piano (b) computer (c) pencil on manuscript paper (d) improvisation with musicians (e) other
Often things start with me humming or whistling into my phone. When writing film/TV music, I often don’t have the luxury of time to noodle and experiment so I just sit at the computer and get to work. When writing concert music I typically noodle on the piano for a while, I may write down some simple sketch on paper and then I go to the computer and get to work.

When did you discover that you wanted to pursue film music?
I think the music was in me for about as long as I can remember, ever since I was a child. But I didn’t realize I wanted to pursue music professionally until I was about 21 nearing the end of my military service. When I started music school my goal was to be a singer/songwriter. It was a great plan except I don’t have a great voice, I have terrible stage fright and I think I write mediocre songs at best. So I thought perhaps I would be a producer, like the Israeli version of George Martin or Quincy Jones (not that I’m nearly as good, just that type of career). And then following my first orchestration class I became obsessed with writing orchestral music and realized since I’m a couple of hundred years too late to be a court composer, film music offered the opportunity to work with orchestras. So I became interested because of the chance to work with orchestras and fell completely in love with writing music to picture.

What makes your sound unique?
I have no idea. It’s not for me to say. I try to write as honestly as I can. I try to write as musically as I can. I try not to copy others and just do my own thing, whatever that is. I suppose like everyone else, my sound is an amalgam of how I interpret the many musical influences in my life, and how the different influences creep into my music in a way, which I hope stand out. It’s not something I think about – I don’t actively try to have a sound, I just do what feels honest and right for the scene or circumstance.

How did you first get involved writing music? What challenged you most, and what rewarded you most, as your résumé evolved over the years?
I’ve been writing music for as long as I can remember myself, starting with songs and evolving into film and concert music. Last year I scored an independent psychological thriller called Jasmine. There’s a great twist at the end of the film, and when scoring it the director was very concerned that the music work both for the first time viewer, who doesn’t know the twist, and a 2nd time viewer who sees the film through different eyes. It was a bit like trying to write two scores in one, it was a really fun challenge. It was also an entirely electronic score, which was challenging as I often would have moments where I wanted to reach for strings or other typical orchestral instruments, but instead had to find other ways and sounds to get the emotion I was after. It was outside my comfort zone.

Who is your favorite fictional character and how did they influence your music?
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I love that he is just a regular guy with a good heart that is doing his very best and doing what’s right despite the pressures to the contrary, all while trying to teach his kids to do the same. My son’s middle name is Atticus after that character. I hope I can raise my kids to be like real life versions of Atticus Finch

Best concert or musical appearance you’ve ever seen?
Paul McCartney in Frankfurt, Germany 1993. Saw him again many years later in Boston, but that first time is unforgettable.

Where is your favorite place to travel? Have these places ever influenced your work?
I’ve been to Maui twice, and wouldn’t mind going again. I’ve visited Rome 3 times and think it’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. I love the history, the cobbled streets, the museums, the churches filled with amazing art, Villa Borghese park, and everyone speaks Italian. What’s not to love? I also love visiting Jerusalem whenever I go back home. The old city is incredible.

What is your favorite song that you’d rather not admit? 
That’s a trick question. If I won’t admit to it, then how could I possibly answer this question truthfully?