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Timeline of my move to LA

I recently moved to Los Angeles and today I’d like to share why I did the move and the connections I’ve developed with the city of Los Angeles over the years.

I first wanted to visit LA in 2013. That year I took a vacation with my family to San Diego. It was the first vacation I had since 2002. It was long overdue and it was a wonderful time. Here’s a picture of my dad and I from that trip.

During that trip I had family from LA kind of giving me grief for not visiting them. They were just giving me a hard time for being only two hours away, but not seeing them or even letting them know I was close by. Honestly, I really didn’t think about it. My family agreed to go to San Diego so the proximity was just a coincidence. Still, I did feel a little bad since I haven’t seen my aunt or her kids basically ever in my life. They live in LA, never leave California, and the last time I’ve seen any of them I was three years old. So when they asked me about visiting I assured them I’d visit in a couple years.

First Trip To LA

It took me a few years, but in the Summer of 2015 I visited LA. I had a great time. Loved hanging out with my immediate and extended family. It was so wild to see the ways my cousins were so similar to me. My aunt had a boy and a girl around my sister and my age so it was like meeting a west coast version of ourselves. They took us everywhere and we ate it all up. The taco trucks, the hike to the Hollywood sign, and the amusement parks, it was all wonderful.

That’s the week I also went to my first LA Galaxy game. As a Chicagoan who had to watch the Chicago Fire in Toyota Park. Seeing the Galaxy play was a 180 to my MLS soccer experience. In Chicago you have travel far to go to the middle of nowhere, watch a bad team play in a half filled stadium, then head to the ungraveled parking lot to go home. In LA you have a beautiful stadium filled with palm trees, a statue of team legends, world class amenities, a great team, and the most loyal and loud fan base America has to offer. At first this was just an observation of two teams heading in two directions, but soon, it became a synonym for my life.

After College

In summer 2016 I finished college and came out inspired and ready to take on the world. And I did. I was able to perform, teach, and compose my way to a full time musicmcareer. It felt so good to be done with school and be able to truly create and work on what I wanted with who I wanted. LA was the last thing on my mind I was happy and working on my craft.

2017: LA As A Summer Home?

I’m a person whose always evaluating their life. Am I challenging myself? Am I maximizing my ability? Am I maximizing my happiness? When 2017 began I started looking at other ways I can impact the musical world. When I reflected I started thinking of doing film scores and video game scores. When focusing on composition and scores, living in LA became an idea I was intrigued by. That’s where movies are made, that where AAA games are made. Yes I can probably do some of that work remotely, but I can also do it in person, be in the community, and increase my work opportunities. Still, I loved Chicago so much it was not an option. Maybe I can work there in the summer or winter?Do some seasonal work there when I’m composing a big project or something. Maybe there’s a way I can work there for a few months at a time I thought.

2018: Switch Turned On

By 2018 I was focused on game music. No more thoughts of film scores I was looking into what I had to do to get work in game music. I started working with a game dev on a project and making music for it. By 2018 I visited LA again. This time with my producer and friend Albert Amey. By now LA was where I wanted to live. I talked with my girlfriend, my sister, and my Dad about it. They all were open to it in theory, but nothing was set in stone. Still, the switch was turned on in my head. When I looked at my ideal life and ideal work. It was in LA working in game music.

2019: GDC And Sound Design

In 2019 I went to GDC for the first time. By then I had samples of my music and was still working on an indie game so I was beginning to get more involved in the game audio space. Going to GDC revitalized and solidified that I was heading in the right direction. That game audio was my calling and the area where I needed to focus my energy. In 2019 I also visited La twice. Once with my girlfriend to celebrate our ten years together, and another time to go to a friends wedding. Both times were magical and reconfirmed that LA was the place for me. 2019 was also huge because I became more involved not just in game music, but sound design. At first this was just a means to an end. A way to get more indie gigs and work, but soon it became my main interest.

2020: The Move

2020 was intense for everyone. Career wise I went all in on sound design. Learning middleware like FMOD and Wwise, working on demo reels, and attaining all the knowledge I could. My goals became clear. I want to make an impact on the world through sound. Specifically through sound design. I want to work at a AAA studio in Los Angeles doing sound design for games. This goal is a long term one and I didn’t plan on moving to LA until I either got a job at a AAA studio or around 2022 when my finances were in better order. Than a global pandemic hit and changed the world. For my family it meant out all our jobs were on hold or a moved to remote work. This moment gave us time to reflect and evaluate our lives. And when we did, my family and I came to the conclusion it was best to move now. To move to LA and restart our lives there.

What’s next?

LA wasn’t some wide eyed dream for me. It had to work for my love. Slowly, demonstrating time and time again, the value it can bring me. With each visit, each interaction with local Angelinos, I became more and more convinced that this was where I belonged. Now I’m here two years early ten toes down ready to bust my tail off and make the biggest impact I can on the world through sound. LA earned my heart, earned my love, and I’m excited to give that love right back to the LA community. Let’s get to work.

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How a bag of Cheetos changed my life

Today I want to get personal. I want to talk about how a bag of Cheetos changed my life forever.

The year is 2010. I’m working at Walgreens as a stock boy. I’ve been working there for 4 years and have enjoyed my time working there. This job puts some money in my pocket, let’s me buy things, and I liked the people I work with, then things changed.

Long story short management switched up on me. I went from the golden boy to the whipping boy. Suddenly, everything was my fault, I could do no right. Everyday people were looking for reasons to blame me for whatever was going wrong.

I remember things got to the point where every day I left work mad and frustrated. I’d be sitting in my car just thinking about how pissed off I was about that shift. How angry it made me to have a day like that. I felt like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. Every day wasn’t my saddest, but every day was my angriest.

In general me working a retail job was always a square peg in a round hole. I’ve always been a person who struggles with authority. Well, what I really struggle with is having an idiot in charge. I’m okay learning and working with people who know more or can help me grow, but to listen to someone just cause you say I have to and still go along with that them when I know this is not the best way to operate this job, yeah I can’t respect or listen to someone like that. So in this retail/ corporate environment I was always going to struggle cause I can’t “play the game” enough.

Still things went well for so long that even though I knew this about myself I figured I was in a situation where there would never be a problem. I worked and was managed by smart people. But that’s only true until it’s not. And once the morons came to town the conflict began and it felt like things got to the point where even the management I liked turned their back on me. They didn’t disagree with my complaints, but at the end of the day they sided with management over me cause they to were playing the game. So now I was alone and frustrated.

Things came to a head on a night shift I was working. I was doing the closing process which involves sweeping, mopping, filling up the chips, dairy, and soda sections of the store. I was filling up the chips when I realized my truth. I was fucked.

I was 22 and totally lost. This job was leading me nowhere and I was going nowhere fast. This was no longer a place where I could move up in the ranks. This was no longer I place where I could build good relationships. And, if things got real bad here, this may not even be a place I could put down as a reference. And if I can’t put this place down as a reference then I’ve really messed up cause then I’m 22, 23 years old with no college degree and no job on a resume! I was freaking out so I stopped filling up the chips and just stared at them.

While I was staring into the dark abyss that was my life, a manager named Bob walked by. Bob was his actual name, and he was one of the managers I was still cool with. He understood my situation, empathized with me, and he and I were cool and able to talk about life beyond retail. Because of this I felt comfortable talking with him. So when he walked by and said “What’s up?” The way people always do in the corporate world like 10,000 times a day, I actually answered. I said something like “Not good. Like what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Naturally Bob was taken a back for a moment. He was shocked I spilled my guts out just like that, but he quickly adjusted and was able to have a conversation with me. He turned to me and said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else. What is it that you want to do for a living?” My answer was quick and immediate. “Music. I just want to do music.” “Then you should focus on doing just that” he said that to me and walked away. After he said that I regained my composure and finished filling up the chips, but after that conversation my life changed.

Things didn’t go back to normal for me the next day. I was changed forever. The next day I was googling how to go back to school. Figuring out what I wanted to do in the music industry, and how I could accomplish that. It took me many years, but that moment led to me going to college, being a professional pianist, teaching, composing, and now working on sound design. Everything changed for me that day when I filled the chip aisle. And that’s how a box of chips changed my life.

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Where I See Myself in Five Years.

Where do you see yourself in Five Years?

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Where do you see yourself in five years? This is a question people ask at job interviews all the time. So today I decided to unpack the question and answer it with 5 predictions on where I’ll be in five years. These are in no particular order and they are a mix of my professional ambitions along with some personal goals. 

 

Prediction 1. I will be living in LA.

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I don’t know when my love affair with Los Angeles began but I know I never want it to end. I’ve visited many times in the past four years and plan on moving there in the fall of 2022 at the latest. While I love the environment and culture LA has, I mainly want to go for work. As a composer and sound designer, living in LA puts me in a great position to work with game developers, studios, and musicians. The energy the city has along with my tremendous work ethic will put me in a position to reach my fullest potential. I love Chicago and always will, but I feel that living in LA will give me the opportunity to live my ideal life and it aligns with my mission to impact the world through sound. 

 

Prediction 2. Working as a Sound Designer at a AAA Studio. 

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This has been a goal of mine for a while. I’d love to work at a AAA studio in LA. I want to work with a team at a scale larger than what I am currently capable of doing alone. The collaboration, scope, and impact I can make through audio in this environment is why I wake up every morning. Can’t wait to make this goal a reality. 

 

Prediction 3. Be done with work by 6PM.

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As a freelancer the work can never stop. It’s awesome being your own boss, but are you a good boss to yourself? I’ll be honest, I’m not the best boss. Overwork myself, promises of downtime never occur unless we are on the verge of a breakdown, and there are poor benefits. By 2025 I will be done with work at 6PM. I want to spend my evenings relaxing and spending quality time with friends and family. Obviously, if I get that AAA position this should be an easier goal to achieve, but even if I’m still freelancing and doing it all myself I want to commit to being off by 6PM. If I need to get things done I can wake up early. I need to spend my evenings with the people that matter. 

 

Prediction 4. Working on other Music and Non-Music based projects. 

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I love making things. It’s why I’m in audio. Whether it’s making an SFX, composing a song, or writing an article. I love having an idea, exploring its potential, and sharing. It with the world. Since my main goal is to work as a Sound Designer at a AAA studio, making music making will ultimately be taking a backseat. I’d like to keep exploring my music creation as a side project and keep making other non-music-based projects. Whether that’s writing about sports, writing about games, or even making videos, I plan to still be making different projects that are not work-based and are just fun things I want to share with the world. 

 

Prediction 5.  I will be married.

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Obviously, this is a personal one and not 100% under my control (but really what is?) but by 2025 I want to be married and ideally have a child. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for 11 years so it’s time to make this official. I plan on asking her to marry me this year (it’s coming up 😬)  so this one should be the easiest one to accomplish, but as anyone who has been in a serious relationship can tell you, it can also be the hardest. We’ve been through a lot, but until death can be a mighty long time. I’m committed to getting married and making it work and I’m excited about starting this next chapter of our lives. 

So there it is. In five years I see myself living in LA as a sound designer at a AAA studio, done with work by 6PM, married, and working on cool music and non-music based projects. Where do you see yourself in five years? Comment below!