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Scoring His Own Kind of Music, On His Own Tempo

A peak into the success of Jason Castillo

Jason+M+Castillo
Jason M Castillo

Jason M Castillo

Clarissa Romos

Clarissa Romos

Jason M Castillo

Clarissa Alana Romo, Contributor

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For Jason Martin Castillo, growing up in the East LA punk rock scene has made music a large part of his life since childhood. Today he returns to East LA as the first composer to teach in the film department at Cal State LA. His enthusiasm for music has led him to compose music for award winning films and network television series. Some of his work includes scores for independent films such as “La Guapa,” “On The Rocks,” “Awesome Fun TV” and a very popular American sitcom.

Professor Castillo continues to inspire students through his passion for classical music.

“I believe in being yourself as an artist. I will always promote that; I feel that the artists we look up to, the ones we say we are influenced by, they got to where they are by being themselves,” he said.

He began studying music when he was only 9 years old, and by 16 he began composing his own songs. According to Professor Castillo, it was his teacher who first noticed that with the pieces the teacher was writing, Castillo began altering them, indicating that he had an ear for composing. He graduated from his dream school, the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where he studied contemporary writing and production with a focus in composition and learned how to write musical scores.

His experience as a student in the music institute was crucial training ground which enabled him to develop into the composer he is today. “I believe the human experience of having peers, professors; it not only shapes you but can also inspire you to find out who you are as an artist by seeing the differences in each other’s work,” said Professor Castillo.

Shortly after studying at Berklee, he moved back to Los Angeles to break into the film scoring industry and pursue his dream as a composer. For Professor Castillo, “every gig is different and every gig represents its own set of challenges…Sometimes I’m writing to a film and the challenges are; I can’t, I am having a hard time matching the emotions that they want while keeping the genre alive, or sometimes the challenge is compositional, like I’m looking for the right note that feels the best.”

He feels his most rewarding work comes filmmakers who give him creative freedom because it makes him feel as if he were writing his own music. When it came to work on “On The Rocks,” he not only wrote the music and ideas but also acted as the music director which was the hardest part for him. The score he is proudest of is a recent gig he did for Alex and Ariel’s “Awesome Fun TV” and he was really happy with the outcome. “I try to sell myself as a composer with a sound that I have a style, “ Castillo said.

When it comes to film production, Professor Castillo stresses the importance of music in the film industry and the communication between a composer and a filmmaker. He gives his best piece of advice to aspiring composers and filmmakers. “Opening your mind musically, understanding different genres of music can sort of expand your creativity as a filmmaker,” said Professor Castillo.

He believes the opposite is equally as important for composers, and encourages them to take film classes in order to understand not just the process of making the film but also for the storytelling aspect of it. Castillo feels that many of today’s filmmakers have more interesting musical choices and create a lot more daring material.

Among his favorites are twentieth century Russian composers like Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Krzysztof Penderecki. Some of his personal favorite film scores include Jonny Greenwood’s work in “The Master” and Micah Levy’s work in “Under the Skin.” A film score that he really enjoys today is the score to “The Revenant.

Aside from working on a couple of TV shows, Professor Castillo also wants to create his own unique music scene and start a concert series. He envisions a place where people can go and listen to live classical film music in a more personal and “informal setting” so that it can be treated as any other “source of entertainment.”

“It is a goal of mine to make orchestral music, or just new music a thing, I want it to be heard more,” said Castillo.

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Scoring His Own Kind of Music, On His Own Tempo