Marissa Hickman

Music Composition for the Screen (MFA) '21

What would you say was the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia? 

The most surprising thing I learned at Columbia is that it’s okay to be a little bit weird and different! Your artistic take on something, as unusual as it may be, is both valued and appreciated. Thinking outside of the box and taking risks with your work can truly pay off. When I came to Columbia, I was free to experiment and be myself. What I found was a wonderful, accepting community that embraced me for the artist and person I am. I was delighted to have teachers with great senses of humor and other students who weren’t afraid to be a little bit silly themselves! I knew immediately that I was in the right place. All of this helped me to strengthen my individual voice and understand myself more as an artist. 
What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

One of my favorite experiences at Columbia happened during my first year when we worked with our composers in residence, the Dynamic Music Partners. I was shocked by how much I learned and improved in just 7 weeks with them! Juggling 8 or 9 assignments each week, while also being a graduate assistant and working part-time, made for a very busy semester. I learned how to better manage my time and realized I was capable of handling much more than I thought. Another valuable skill I learned from the Dynamic Music Partners was the importance of making and maintaining connections. We were tasked with reaching out to 15 people every week in order to build our network. Through this I was offered my first and now second commission!  
Another one of the best parts of being at Columbia has been finding a close-knit, supportive community. I never thought that I would build such strong friendships with my classmates. By the 3rd or 4th week of classes, we had grown super close. Before the pandemic, we’d go out for lunch or drinks almost every week and sometimes go to a piano bar or do karaoke! Even now, 2 years later, we’re still like family. 
What are your plans for after graduation? 

During the final semester following graduation, we will be taking virtual classes with professionals in the industry. We will also be interning with working composers for 5 weeks in LA. I’m thrilled to have been offered an internship with Emmy-winning and Grammy nominated composer Mac Quayle, who has worked on the music for shows like Mr. Robot, Pose, American Horror Story and more. After this I plan to live and work in L.A. making music for shows, video games, and film. I also hope to work on my first EP and continue doing commissions. 
Do you have any advice for current students? 

Be social! Even if you have a more shy and quiet personality, put yourself out there. Get to know your fellow Colombians, reach out to people, and make as many connections as you can! You never know what opportunities may come out of these contacts, and you’ll be surprised at how many like-minded individuals you’ll find, some of whom may become your closest friends. 
If you were going to sum up your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say? 

Be different and don’t apologize for it because you’ll always find a community that embraces you, and as you understand yourself more as a creative, you’ll be able to contribute something to the world of art