By Matt Yuknas, DYAO alum 2008
I am beyond thrilled to continue our new alumni blog by introducing you to an incredibly talented musician and composer, Sean Hennessy. By far, Hennessy has been one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Winning his first concerto competition at the age of 13, Sean went on to attend Northwestern University School of Music for Trumpet performance and completed his graduate studies at the University of Southern California focusing on Film Scoring for Motion Pictures and TV.
When school ended, Sean continued to thrive in Hollywood, composing for documentaries and various Indie films such as Trouble with the Truth and Shades of Grey. After moving back to Colorado three years ago, Sean formed a jazz sextet called the Hennessy Six. They can be heard throughout Colorado Springs and at the annual Vail Jazz Festival.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to Sean about his career, and time with DYAO.
How did you get into film composition as a career?
- “I have always loved film music so one semester I took an internship with 20th Century Fox. The experience was amazing, I got to be a fly on the wall in meetings with director Ron Howard as he worked with composer Thomas Newman on the film Cinderella Man. As my internship was nearing its end I was able to meet with the president of Fox Music Robert Kraft. He really enjoyed the samples of music I provided him, and helped me get into USC to study film composition.”
Where do you find inspiration for your compositions?
- “I tend to watch the film and just see what comes to me. In a way I have to become the actor and exemplify the feelings or emotions they are feeling and how the director wants the viewer to feel. Outside of film however, I never seem to feel inspired at home, so I love to work at a busy coffee shop. I’m also influenced by nature and listening to other musicians, but a busy coffee shop would be my preference.”
Do you have a routine? Lucky pencil perhaps?
- “No lucky pencil, but I do have a routine I like to stick to. A busy coffee shop is by far my favorite place to work on my compositions. When I lived in Hollywood I had a favorite coffee shop that I would go to at night near the studios. This was a great opportunity for me to talk with other film composers that would come through.”
What is your favorite composition that you have written?
- “My favorite would have to be a three minute piece I wrote for an 80 piece orchestra called I’ll See You Soon. It references the journey we take as musicians incorporating the highs and lows we all face. The piece tends to center me, and allows me to refocus on why I love living in the world of music” (To hear I’ll See You Soon, follow this link: https://www.seanschaferhennessy.com/)
What do you find is the most challenging aspect of composing?
- “I find getting out of your own way can be very challenging. I tend to be over analytical, and if I can guide this tendency to be used as more of a tool, I can better create from the heart and soul.”
What are you currently working on?
- “Right now I’m working on making my first album. The concept of this album is encapsulated in the title, The Road Less Traveled, and it’s unusual instrumentation. The album is written for a jazz sextet with orchestra. We will be recording the album this summer, and hoping for a release sometime this August.”
Why did you join DYAO?
- “When I switched private teachers my freshman year of high school he told me about DYAO, and since I wanted to be more involved in music, he recommended I join. I was very intrigued by the opportunities DYAO would present, especially the side-by-side concert with the CSO.”
How did DYAO prepare you for a future as both a composer and musician?
- “Overall, DYAO inspired me. The repertoire we performed was incredible. Being able to listen to other incredible musicians definitely helped fuel the fire to turn music into a career.”
What was your favorite experience with DYAO?
- “I have had so many great experiences with DYAO that it’s hard to pick just one. The
side-by-side concerts were always something I looked forward to and enjoyed doing, but I think my favorite would have to be the time a few of us played for a Kathy Lee Gifford special in Vail.”
That’s a unique experience! Tell me more about that gig.
- “Over one summer DYAO contacted me, as well as some other members, asking to be apart of a small orchestra for a Kathy Lee Gifford special in Vail. This was my first experience playing commercially. I remember Kathy Lee was a bit of a perfectionist, and really knew how to crack the whip. The coolest part though was that we played a song with N’SYNC who had just risen in popularity. After the show I went out with some of those guys and had a great time!”
If you could give your high school self any musical advice, what would it be?
- “To not be nervous in sharing my compositions. That’s something I wish I had the confidence to do earlier in my life. I would also tell my young self to not be afraid or limit yourself. You can’t always be perfect.”
To finish up, what are some helpful tips you could give to aspiring musicians and/or composers?
- “Start doing the business side of music as soon as you can. School doesn’t do a great job of preparing you for the business aspect of music. Know that there is not one path to success. Keep an open mind, and don’t think that your goals are intangible.”
For more information on Sean Hennessey you can visit his website here: https://www.seanschaferhennessy.com On our next DYAO alumni blog, we will be featuring Greg Dickson. Stay Tuned!