Jessica Rae Huber
Film and television composer Jessica Rae Huber B.M. '12 has created additional music for projects such as The Walking Dead, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Outlander, and has worked with composer Bear McCreary as assistant composer and scoring manager for his music production company, Sparks and Shadows. "I love telling stories. It's my way to be involved in the way our culture consumes really good stories, and that's what I'm passionate about," Huber said over the phone in her adopted home of Los Angeles. "I love being a part of that process."
After earning a degree in communications and women’s studies, and spending five years as a worship leader in a church, Huber decided to enroll in Berklee as her husband pursued continued graduate studies in Boston. "It was a cool experience going to Berklee with a little bit more perspective, to appreciate that experience more," Huber said. "I was really serious about film scoring because I had that goal. I already had lived a bit of life but was able to be really focused and do the internship program." That program is how she ended up working with McCreary right after graduating from Berklee and moving to L.A. for the next five years; she has since turned her focus to her own freelance career. "At a certain point if you want to be a composer, you have to do it," she said. "If you only work with someone else, most of your time is spent on their career, and you don't have enough time to focus on your own work."
Huber added, "There are a lot of ways you can write music and make money. I continue to do consulting for composers. I've become a bit of an expert on scoring workflow, managing how to get everything done. The industry nowadays, composers will take multiple jobs. Hardly anyone, unless you're John Williams, works on one thing at a time and then on to the next. Because I worked at one of the busiest music production companies and I managed stuff for Bear, I'm able to help other composers do the same thing. That's the way I fill my time while I pursue work that has my own name on it. Going freelance allows you to have more time to do that."
The Future Is Female
"People always talk about the statistics, that there are only two or three percent of female film composers: well, there are a lot more women film composers than that, they just don't have their names on things," Huber said. "There are actually a lot of us here working in the field, we do everything from writing for other people [to] orchestrating. They might be singers, instrumentalists, or assistants, but there aren't a lot of women who have been able to break that top ceiling of big giant movies in Hollywood."
Along with fellow alumna, film composer, and vocalist Tori Letzler '12, Huber took part in The Future Is Female: A Concert for Women in Film, presented by FIF Concerts and Events, Inc., a nonprofit organization Letzler founded to encourage and inspire female composers in an industry where women made up only 3 percent of composers who worked on the top 250 grossing films of 2016.
"It would be nice to be known as a composer and not the adage of 'a female composer,'" Huber said. "And I think that time is coming."
Advice for Alumni
When asked to give advice to fellow female composers looking to break into the industry, Huber said, "This seems like an obvious thing, but you have to take yourself seriously first. It has to start from an internal place. First you have to be excellent at your craft and take yourself seriously because when you can be unflinching in the way you promote yourself, talk about yourself, and then do the work, people can’t really argue with that."
She added, "I try to take things in stride, knowing it’s a hard industry inherently no matter your gender or age. Yes, you might have more challenges in the minority, but accepting the difficulty and knowing who you are is very important because people want to hire someone with their own specific voice. You have to know what you’re saying."
She noted that a very viable path and a great way to learn is to start as an assistant working for someone else. "A lot of people come into internships and assistantships saying, what can I get out of this? You're going to get a lot out of it, but your first job is to help someone else. Having that service mentality is a quality that nobody undervalues."