Composing the Score

In a few years, you may be in a movie theatre watching a film and wondering who’s behind the music that makes the film even better. Chances are, that music could be the creative work of Millsaps senior Leah Guan.

“My favorite class is composition, taught by Dr. (Jason) Rosenberg,” Guan said. “This course led me into the career path that I chose, scoring for multimedia. Dr. Rosenberg encouraged me to think outside the box, in many dimensions, and not be afraid to create something outside my comfort zone.”

Originally from Beijing, China, Guan is majoring in accounting and music, with a double concentration of flute performance and composition within her music major. She will begin her graduate studies at the Steinhardt School at New York University in August.

A combination of academic programs and scholarship attracted Guan to Millsaps, along with the size of the College. “I also prefer the smaller class size and the attention you get as a student in a liberal arts college,” she said.

Guan’s talent and desire to learn isn’t lost on her professors.

“Leah works tirelessly and meticulously, yet always maintains a positive attitude and is eager to receive input from her professors,” said Rosenberg, visiting assistant professor of music.  “Her intellectual prowess, love of learning, and successful studying strategies allow her to consistently earn the highest grades in her classes. Her infectious laugh and big heart also contribute to making the class more enjoyable for me, her professor, but also for the other students in the class. She’s a student that professors hope for.”

Before graduating, Guan will have two original compositions performed in a concert by the Woodwind Quintet of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. This will mark the third concert in which Guan’s compositions have been performed by professional musicians; previous pieces were performed by the MSO’s Brass Quintet and String Quartet.

“Leah is already developing a distinct compositional voice, which is perhaps defined by clarity and playfulness,” Rosenberg said. “Her music feels very ‘clean’ to me – embodying an appreciation of the beauty of simple sonorities – while still maintaining a sense of propulsion and direction.”

Once she has her diploma in hand, Guan will take the next steps toward her career goal of working as a professional multimedia composer.

“In the short term, I would work on scoring for original media works as much as possible, preferably in full length,” said Guan. “Maybe start as an assistant of a known composer who’s already successful, and learn from there to become more independent. Eventually, I hope to establish my own studio.”

And maybe, one day, that studio will produce the music you hear in a movie theatre that makes the film even better.

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