Graduate Admissions

Music Composition for the Screen Student Spotlight

Music Composition for the Screen Student Nate Sandberg


Nate Sandberg

Nate Sandberg knew that the touring lifestyle wasn’t for him, but he wanted to stay connected to music. While listening to Cinemagic, a satellite radio station that plays film scores and soundtracks, he suddenly realized how recognizable and prevalent the music was while growing up, how integral to his memories.

I only found a few programs geared toward film scoring, and Columbia was the strongest one I saw,” he says. “They have a really unique program and offer great internships.

“It was similar to the kind of music I liked to write, so it seemed like a natural and fun place for me to go,” he says of the realization. With a bachelor’s degree in Music, he decided that graduate school would be the best avenue to break into the industry. Enter Columbia College Chicago’s MFA Music Composition for the Screen program. "I only found a few programs geared toward film scoring, and Columbia was the strongest one I saw,” he says. “They have a really unique program and offer great internships.”

The city also factored into Nate’s decision. “I could’ve gone somewhere in New York, but it’s kind of crazy. And my wife and I had just kind of fallen in love with Chicago, so it seemed like the natural place to go,” he says.

Nate says he had no idea how to get into the film scoring industry, and that the graduate program offered a great way to learn about the craft, while getting a head start with internships and industry contacts.

“It’s safer than going straight to LA,” he says, smiling.

In his MFA program, Nate will still get a Los Angeles experience during the summer for his thesis semester, through Columbia’s Semester in LA program. The summer serves as a launch pad into the profession and offers students a real-world experience that produces the same skills as completing an apprenticeship. “It’s really interesting,” he says of the thesis semester. “We work with student directors from the Film program to translate their vision for their films into music. And how often do you get to record a score with a professional orchestra?” he asks with a laugh.

We work with student directors from the Film program to translate their vision for their films into music.

Ideally, Nate will get an internship with a film composer, as previous students have done in the past. He’ll take classes during the summer as well, including Conducting and Video Game Scoring.

“It’s kind of a cool industry,” he says about the video game class. “It’s much shorter pieces of music with a lot of segues. Much more specialized than film composing.”

To date, Nate has scored several short films and two feature-length ones. “I just finished my second feature-length film, like, a week ago,” he says. “I’m really excited about it actually; I like the film a lot and I’m happy with the music I created.”

His film scoring (along with a new baby) has kept him extremely busy, leaving little time for his own music. “I used to play trombone in a band,” he says. “I haven’t touched my trombone in six months. The deadlines are crazy in the film composition industry — the earlier you can start writing, the better.” He pauses, and then adds, “The time just goes by really fast!”

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