A Conversation with Brad Kelley

Brad Kelley

Yesterday, I had the amazing privilege of speaking with renowned composer Brad Kelley!  Mr. Kelley is a renowned and well-traveled composer having written music for Universal Studios, Paramount Parks, McDonalds, IBM, and, currently, Disney on Classic.

I ended up speaking with him for an hour and received some incredible advice for starting out as a composer.  While we talked about a lot of different topics (and I took several pages of notes!), here are a few of the highlights:

  • Keep playing instruments: One of the biggest things that Mr. Kelley recommended to me was to continue to keep up my performing skills and regularly play in a group.  As a composer, it is so easy to be disconnected from real players and how they respond to music, but by keeping up my performance skills, not only could I play my music on demand, but I understand and have a greater sympathy for the people who will be playing my music. This will encourage me to write music that’s fun to play as well as listen to.
  • Keep making connections: Sometimes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While knowing your stuff is the first step in getting a job, just as valuable is making the right connections.  These days, many jobs are acquired through making connections and knowing someone.  Mr. Kelley encouraged me to get to know many of the different composers and to not be shy about asking for introductions.  He even gave me a few suggestions about who I should get to know!
  • Keep writing: This may seem obvious at first, but Mr. Kelley explained that, as a composer, we are designed to write and our minds are hungry for new ideas.  Everything (both good and bad) in life will get in the way of composing, but I need to fight against that.  He encouraged me to keep a regular “composing time” and guard it jealously.  Mr. Kelley also suggested I take on projects as making a commitment helps me stay motivated.
  • Keep serving:  Perhaps the most powerful advice that Mr. Kelley gave me was to view myself as a problem solver who has a unique skill set.  In the industry, people will have problems that I can help with.  Mr. Kelley suggested that I approach composing from the viewpoint of “how can I bring my gifts to fix their problems?”  Put another way, I have the opportunity to serve the people I am working for through providing excellent quality of music.

I am very grateful to Brad Kelley for the time he took to speak with me and encourage me!  Looking forward to following up on all of this!