Video Game Music Symposium at CSULB

On Saturday, May 13th, 2017, the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University Long Beach presented an all-day symposium on video game music and sound. This was made possible in part by a grant from the CSU Entertainment Initiative. Attendees included CSU students state-wide as well as various professionals in the early stages of their respective careers. The focus of the symposium was on collaboration between various audio groups within the video game post-production industry. Hence, guest speakers and panelists included composers, orchestrators, sound designers, mixers and dialog/voice directors. Russell Brower, Lead Composer and Senior Audio Director at Blizzard Entertainment gave a very inspiring keynote presentation. He was followed by composer Timothy Wynn (Sonic Fuel Studios) and Voice Director Michael Csurics (Brightskull Entertainment). Throughout the day, in an effort to foster future collaborative opportunities, attendees were encouraged to introduce themselves to others outside their area of expertise.

The afternoon consisted of panel presentations – the first on building and sustaining a career in the video game industry. It was moderated by Film/TV composer and CSULB Film Scoring instructor Perry La Marca. Panelists included Adam Gubman (composer), Penka Kouneva (composer/orchestrator/recording artist), Jeffery Alan Jones (composer/sound designer/mixer), Michael J. Lloyd (orchestrator) and Braden Parkes (sound designer). The second panel consisted of a presentation by the audio team from Riot Games. It was moderated by writer and CSULB Film instructor Adam Moore (who is also the faculty advisor for CSULB’s Video Game Development Association). The panel included composers Sebastien Najand and Edouard Brenneisen as well as sound designers Bryan Higa and Kyle Vande Slunt.

In the evening, the CSULB Symphony Orchestra presented a concert of video game music. The orchestra was conducted by Johannes Müller-Stosch. Composer Adam Gubman acted as a very enthusiastic Master of Ceremonies for the program. In addition, most of the composers were in attendance. The program consisted of music from Wildstar (Jeff Kurtenacker), Heart of the Storm, Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 (Russell Brower), Cookie Jam 2 (Penka Kouneva), Cinema Fanstastique (Jeffery Alan Jones), Journey (Austin Wintory), Delicious – Emily’s Christmas Carol (Adam Gubman), Darkness 2 (Timothy Wynn), League of Legends (Riot Games) and Heart of Darkness (Bruce Broughton).  

Comments from Penka Kouneva:

I was excited to sit on a Career Development Panel with esteemed colleagues Adam Gubman, Sally-Anne Kellaway, Jeff Jones, Braden Parkes and Michael J. Lloyd. I made a few points to inspire the students — that 20’s is the time for exploring their passions and for building their skill sets. That a career as an artist takes long time to cultivate and requires tremendous drive, constant learning and reinventing one’s skill set. This is why exploring one’s passions is vital because then it takes years of hard work and building relationships and one needs to be always highly motivated and driven — through rejections, challenging jobs and an ever-changing industry.  I also made the point that in our career as artists every meaningful scoring job comes through a referral. A person with access to opportunities (jobs) must believe in us, in our skills, in what we bring to the table in order to open a door and get us hired. It is a career based on colleagues, mentors and friends opening doors for us. So building credibility, reputation, body of work and people skills is vital.

I was very inspired by what the other panelists said and remember distinctly Braden Parkes’ suggestion to students interested in Sound Design to take time off and spend a solid chunk of time developing their reel. To focus and build their chops, before they go out there in the world and network. I also remember Sally-Anne’s trajectory starting as a FMOD expert and then pivoting into VR/AR audio, where she is a leader. I enjoyed Adam Gubman’s always eloquent words and giving spirit. Adam was also a fantastic MC of the orchestral concert. The concert was a happy event, with spirited performances of great game music. The music by Russell Brower (StarCraft II and Diablo 3) was a stand-out, also Adam Gubman’s Delicious for which he played the piano part, and Tim Wynn’s ominous Darkness 2 Suite.