“Surviving Compton” Composer Kathryn Bostic Shares Practical Tips & Life Lessons At Berklee

“Un-Block The Music” had the great pleasure of speaking with Kathryn Bostic fresh off of her Berklee 2018-19 Film Scoring Artist Residency. She immediately expressed how exciting it was to mentor students in any way she could to “encourage their self-expression and their individuality.”

Kathryn is a composer, singer-songwriter, pianist and vocalist. She is the first female African American film composer to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and she is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and Vice President of the Alliance For Women Film Composers.  She has composed for films and television shows including Dear White People, American Masters – August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, Middle of Nowhere and Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le, and has written music for several August Wilson plays.

The Film Scoring Artist in Residence Program aims to support the careers of practicing film composers, prepare students as film scoring professionals, diversify the pipeline of talent to the film industry, and increase public awareness of the significance of the film scoring craft.  Kathyrn said, “When I got the invitation from Berklee, I jumped at the opportunity to not only do the master classes there, but I also encouraged them to reach out to high schools in the area to be part of the program.” They chose The Boston Academy for The Arts.

“It is very important that kids know they have purpose and they know they have a unique and important role in life.” Kathryn also encouraged the students to think outside the box of traditional learning and to have confidence.  “In the face of rejection or the face of a course of action, you will still have a sense of your relevance.” She told the students that bringing authenticity to the music that you are writing is key. “Bring your voice to whatever job you are contributing to as a composer, regardless of how formulaic it may be required of you. Bring yourself to that team effort of collaboration. That’s what’s going to make you stand out above the crowd.”

The students, she says, were “so open and so eager to learn more and try different things. So, it was a very enriching experience for me because I saw myself in them as well.”

Kathryn studied at both Tufts University and New England Conservatory of Music. “I started playing piano at 3 years old. I always had music in my heart, but still had doubts about my career path. I wanted to also study in different environments that were more conventional. I was a psychology major at first, and really enjoyed it, but after two months I knew that music was the way to go.  I stayed at Tufts for liberal arts and took music at NEC since they had a consortium, and it worked out well.”


Currently Kathryn is working on a few films, but she is also a singer songwriter. “I am writing and am in the studio right now working on an EP of my own songs.”

Additionally, Kathryn has created The August Wilson Symphony to celebrate the iconic writer’s work. The symphony’s five movements — The Great Migration, The Hill Illumined, Wiley Avenue, The Oracle of Aunt Ester and Exalted Roads of Truth and Triumph — are inspired by the 10 plays Wilson wrote about his experiences growing up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Earlier this year, under the direction of Grammy Award-winning conductor Lucas Richman, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premiered Kathryn’s work as part of “Lift Every Voice: Resonating Music, Words, & Legacy.”  She said, that work will continue. The 5th movement will be performed as part of their education outreach program.

If you want to get a glimpse of Kathryn’s work, check out the YouTube link for “State Of Grace,” her tribute song to Wilson. It is so very beautiful.

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