Composer, Orchestrator, and Copyist Kyulee Choi Collaborates to Craft Fantastic Scores

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Here at Jam Addict, we’ve talked to a good number of composers working in entertainment, but few are as multi-talented as Kyulee Choi.  She works not only as a composer but also as an orchestrator and a copyist, and that’s without even getting into her own songwriting work and music production. 


Choi is truly passionate about her work, and she remains dedicated to music, whether it’s helping to craft media scores, playing music, or analyzing and appreciating the soundtracks of any movie or show she happens to be watching. 


You may have even heard some of Choi’s work in the original streaming series ‘The Eight’ or the action-drama feature ‘The Woman King‘, starring Viola Davis.  


Choi has been working with the team at Joy Music House to provide seamless music services to major entertainment industry clients, and she’s been finding new ways to deliver music that’s a perfect match for each project. 


But that’s enough of our rambling, let’s hear directly from this expert composer and orchestrator.   


Jam Addict (JA): You’ve played flute and piano for a long time. Do those skills continue to feed into your current projects? Also, do you still play?


Kyulee Choi (KC): As a composer, my first composition process starts with sketching chord progressions and melodies with piano, so my piano skill definitely helps me. Without a piano, it will take much more time for me to start! Also, I use DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), especially Cubase Pro, to compose music which means my piano skill makes my workflow faster by recording everything with my piano and virtual instruments on Cubase Pro.


kyulee choi

As an orchestrator, one of the most important things is knowledge about classical music theory and how classical instruments really work. Since I know how to play the flute, it allows me to decide easily how I should orchestrate woodwinds such as whether this technique really works or not and what musical range is comfortable for players when I’m orchestrating. Totally better to learn from playing than just reading it from books.


I still play piano and practice, but I don’t play flute right now because I left it at my home in Korea. But I really want to get one!


JA: We’d like to hear about your work on “The Woman King” which went on to generate box office sales, generating a revenue of $91 million.  Your work was directly honored by Hollywood Music in Media Awards, winning Best Original Score in a Feature Film and also by the Grammy Awards where it was Nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media. What can you tell us about these productions?


KC: When I was working on ‘The Woman King’, I worked on this with the Joy Music House. My responsibilities and oversight as a copyist included proofreading scores and preparing individual parts for live recording sessions of film, TV shows, and video game music.


Copyists are the last people who proof the scores and parts before the recording sessions. We were being very critical of our work to gratify the film’s musical intentions.  The PR production was a tremendous success achieving significant recognition with a highly coveted Grammy nomination for best song and also the highly respected Hollywood Music in Media Awards honoring original music (Song and Score) in all forms of visual media including film, TV, video games, trailers, commercial advertisements, documentaries, music videos, and special programs.


HMMA nominations and winners have historically been representative of key awards shows announced months later.


JA: Has your entertainment work changed the way you experience shows and movies in general? Do you pay more attention to the score?


KC: Yes, definitely! Ever since I fell in love with media scoring, I always pay attention to the scores when I’m watching movies, TV shows, video games, and even commercials! I intentionally focused on the soundtracks before, but now I find myself listening to the soundtrack carefully even without trying!


The reason why I concentrate on soundtracks is that I consider them as one of my learning points. For example, if there’s something serious going on in a movie, I wonder what kind of music would fit the scene and start listening to the music to see how the composer actually did for the scene.


What I do is that I usually can hear the chord progressions and intervals between the notes in the main melody by my ears, so I sometimes analyze the music while I’m watching a movie.


kyulee choi music

JA: Is it a necessity for anyone working in entertainment, and music specifically, to enjoy collaboration?


KC: Music is all about collaboration! Even though we can now produce music at a home studio ourselves, I think it’s crucial to collaborate with other musicians. The reason is that there are a lot of divided steps to create one successful album and there are people who are specifically expertized in each step such as song writing, lyric writing, mixing, mastering, etc.


Also, a great team can motivate and challenge each other to improve their album or project. For example, people in the team I work for are all at different levels of expertise, and we help each other to complete the projects successfully. It always works the best!


JA: Tell us a bit about your work with other award-winning productions such as The Eight which went onto receive the Hollywood Music in Music Award as well.


KC: HMMA nominations and winners have historically been representative of key awards shows announced months later.


As an orchestrator and copyist on this show for 11 episodes I oversaw the soundtrack for each episode. The soundtracks are mostly orchestral music and we recorded live instruments to perfect the score and create a sound that is orchestrated in each episode.


JA: In addition to your entertainment work, you’ve also recently released a single. How does it feel to change gears to solo work?


KC: Yes, I recently released my single, Sugarholic, in September. It’s actually very different from the entertainment work I do. As a media composer and orchestrator, I need to follow the client’s directions and intentions exactly, so I can’t add any of my musical ideas or thoughts unless I’m told to do so. 


However, as a singer/songwriter I can freely express my feelings with my melodies and lyrics! Since I’m doing a lot of work in the entertainment/media industry, I get less time to spend on my songs than before, but it’s actually easy for me to change from one to another because I’ve been doing it for around ten years now. I just do what I have to do depending on the projects I work on haha. What I focus on is thinking about the story I want to tell with my music.

kyulee choi

JA: Any parting words for aspiring composers and orchestrators?


KC: I know it’s hard to get into the industry, but I want to say there are always people who are willing to help you out. The key is to get to know more people in the industry.


I still go to events related to the industry when I have a chance. The reason is that orchestrators/composers aren’t usually hired by employers and almost everyone is working as a freelancer, so it’s crucial to broaden your relationship with other musicians to get more opportunities.


Secondly, some students who just graduated come and talk to me about how they’re afraid to say yes to opportunities because they don’t think they will do a good job or they’re not ready. I’ve also been there, so I know how it feels. However, I never say no to any opportunities because I might not be perfect, but the more important thing is my willingness to try to do my best as much as possible and communicate with the clients with a positive attitude, and make the projects better together.


Also, if we think about what we can learn and how much we can improve our skills from it, there are no reasons not to grab a chance!

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