Markus Siegel Headshot

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Classical with Production)

Year of Graduation: 2017

 Top Career Highlights:

  • This might seem like a really simple and insignificant achievement but getting paid for the music I have written for the first time was a big milestone in my career and an incredibly proud and encouraging moment
  • Writing the music for a feature film for the first time and having it released across the UK and US
  • Making the first step towards Los Angeles by being accepted onto the MFA Music Composition for Film/TV/Video Games programme at Columbia College in Chicago

Having written the music for a feature film, Markus hopes to move to Los Angeles permanently, and establish his career as a composer.

A former student on our BA (Hons) Music (Classical with Production) degree programme, Markus believes his grounding as both a classical musician and producer has enabled him to pursue his passion for creating music for moving image. 

Here, Markus provides his top tips for those looking to work in the industry and discusses the importance of networking. 

What first sparked your interest in music for moving image?

When I first watched 'The Road to El Dorado' I was completely enamoured with everything about it, especially the music. This and 'The Lord of the Rings' are the two films I remember watching and wishing I could one day write music like that. At this point I wasn’t even aware there was such thing as a film composer, I was very young. It was only a couple of years before coming to Leeds Conservatoire that I actually became aware of media composition being a possible career path and I realised that I was already making this career choice subconsciously over the years just through my love of film.

What attracted you to Leeds Conservatoire, and the course in Classical with Production?

At this point I didn’t know exactly what sort of career I wanted to have. I loved classical music, music production, playing in bands and of course cinematic music. I couldn’t make my mind up and I needed a bit of time to try things out and decide what I loved and what I was good at, so this course was absolutely the ideal place for me to be.

It turned out to be the right decision for me and a lot of doors opened as a result. I fully believe that in today’s music world you need to be extremely well-rounded in everything from your craft, to business and entrepreneurship and I feel like this is what Leeds Conservatoire provides to its students  - a strong foundation in all these areas.

How important is your grounding as both a classical musician and producer when composing music for moving image?

It’s crucial for the kind of music I want to be writing. In the media music world your music absolutely has to sound great from a production point of view but at the same time it needs to be interesting, so you need to be a good musician whilst also being a good producer.

I love writing orchestrally so for me the classical education I got was essential. I was introduced to elements of music theory that allow me to thrive now and create music that I am proud of harmonically and melodically. The production side of things introduced me to a lot of aspects of music production that I went into a lot more detail in my own time.

What was the most important lesson you learnt during your time in Leeds?

It's impossible to say what the most important lesson was because you only improve as a person and musicians through a collection of tiny little snippets of information that you pick up along the way. However, something that I came to realise during my time in Leeds is the importance of community. In whatever area of the music industry you go into, you will not be able to do it by yourself, it's impossible. I used to have that mentality of me against the world but it really does not work that way at all. Build a community around you, support each other and grow together. I think that’s the only way you can be successful, whatever success means to you.

How important was the support you received during your studies through initiatives like the Wolfson Music Grants programme?

The Wolfson Music Grant was absolutely crucial to me during my course and after graduation. I received significant financial support from them and I was able to buy a brand new digital piano so I could do serious practise at home. It was also essential to be able to teach on. After graduation I spent a few years teaching piano and I wouldn’t have been able to be as successful as I was without it.

What’s your journey been since completing your studies?

It has been a really interesting one. I stayed in Leeds after graduation and started doing odd jobs like tech work for a band that was gigging a lot, I used to help my dad with his business every now and then, whilst also building my piano teaching business. I started getting a lot of teaching work by the end of the 3rd year out of my undergrad and I managed to save a lot of money to move to the next step in my career. Whilst working to pay the bills I was writing music for a few films and documentary projects as well as some production music. I just used this time to improve my craft and connections so eventually I could move forward and rely more on my composing work more than any other jobs. As I was looking at my options for the next step I came across a Masters course in Chicago which I saw as the perfect place for me to get to the next level in my career and get opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get.

How pivotal has networking and the ability to establish connections with other people been in your career so far?

As I said previously, you cannot do it by yourself and relationships with other creatives are so often over looked by students and I was one of those people. My connections have gotten me jobs, projects and other opportunities that would not have happened otherwise. It’s also important to know that networking is more about creating new relationships and friendships rather than trying to get something from someone. If you’re not being genuine in your intentions it will show and it’s a waste of time for both parties. Connections are what the music industry is built on so just make friends with other creatives.

What are you hoping to go on to do after you’ve completed your Masters?

I’m planning on moving to Los Angeles and working in the media music industry, improving my music and getting to know other composers and filmmakers. Hopefully some assisting work will come after graduation if I can be useful to the right composer or studio and I can work my way up. If all goes well I’m planning on moving over there permanently. The basic plan is, write great music, spend time with great people and make a living from it, that’s the dream.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get a foot in the door within the music for moving image world?

First and foremost you need to know your craft of course, and you need to be ready for your opportunities when they come along. Write as much music as you can and analyse the music that inspires you. I think this is the only way to find your voice and figure out what you can contribute to the industry. At the same time, start making connections with people, whether that’s with other composers, musicians, filmmakers, video game developers, whatever area you want to work in. You’ll be surprised by people’s willingness to help and talk to you, just send them a message. Everyone’s path will be different and sometimes it might feel impossible to get to where you want to be, but one little step at a time gets you there as long as your heart is fully in it. One last point I’d like to make is, know what you’re good at, what you can improve on and what you’re really not very good at. Self-awareness is key to whatever you do.

Visit Markus's website, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram or SoundCloud.

Read about our combined BA (Hons) Music (Classical with Production) programme.

Find out more about what our talented graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

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