We had the good fortune of connecting with Cassiel McEvoy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cassiel, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
This is a question that I am asked so often, and yet one that I still don’t have. a concrete answer to! I honestly think that I always knew I would end up in a creative career because it was just such an integral part of my upbringing. I started playing the violin when I was four years old and it quickly became an important part of my identity, and I filled much of my free time with orchestra rehearsals and chamber music. I was also a theatre kid, performing in musicals and singing in my school and church choir. Within my family, the arts were deeply encouraged–my mom is a visual artist, and my dad’s large family is full of musicians. Every family gathering involves some kind of jam session!
I think I grew up with a huge appreciation for both the scores and soundtracks in films, but I remember the first time I ever specifically noticed a score was during that scene in The Incredibles when Dash runs on water. By the time I was in high school, I had truly fallen in love with film music; my family always knew to stay super quiet if we were watching a movie on the TV so I could study the score. I remember having ever so distant thoughts of adding composition to the mix, but I was afraid! Performing is scary, sure, but writing music, for others to hear? The thought truly terrified me.
I went on to study under Blair Milton at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, where I was given millions of opportunities to broaden my musical horizons, including playing in musical theatre pits and even touring Asia with the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra! During my junior year, a violin related shoulder injury temporarily stopped me from playing, but it was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to realize my passion for composition in addition to performance. Once I started writing music rather than just playing it, it felt like the world opened up for me– I started hearing things differently, noticing more in everything from symphonic works to pop songs. My playing was more confident, and I found a new way to process my emotions.
I feel lucky to be getting a master’s in such a niche area of study– it’s truly a privilege to write music, a privilege to be able to bare your soul to the world in such an intimate way, and to be able to use my violin to compose in this genre.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I was born in New York, grew up in New Jersey, went to high school in California, college in Chicago, a brief stint in Florida when I worked at Disney World, back to Chicago, and then made my way full circle to New York for grad school. Throughout all of this moving, my one constant outside of my family was my violin. There is a strange sort of comfort in being alone with your thoughts and a wooden box, creating something beautiful that slowly improves as you put the work in. I learned to crave this feeling, and it is the one that I now love when I am composing. Whenever things get hard, or I have a mental block, or I am overwhelmed with the scope of a project, I try to find that feeling again.
I think my musical background, in particular my classical training starting with learning by ear through the Suzuki Method, coupled with a love for musical theatre, gives me a unique perspective in film scoring. I love to write slow builds but I also love to highlight melodies, and I always incorporate my violin in some way or another. It’s a bit improvisatory– I like to create a bed of repetitive textures that I play my violin over, giving a melodic structure to the sonic palette that I’ve created. This is truly my favorite way of composing.
I gig, teach, compose, orchestrate, and arrange. Last year I even had the chance to be in an AJR music video! I do nonprofit work with groups like The Harmony Project, Supplies for Dreams, and America Reads to help bring arts education to underserved communities. I plan to continue this work and specifically focus on film music- after all, this is the most accessible form of classical music that exists.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I feel like it’s such a common misconception that New York is a city of concrete- while there are certainly aspects that can feel that way, I would love to spend my time showcasing my favorite outdoor spots! We’d take a long walk through Central Park, walking around the reservoir and taking a break to sit on the rocks by the lake, then end up at Mama’s Too on the Upper West Side for some of the best pizza I’ve had here. We could bike along the path next to the West Side Highway at sunset, stopping to hop in a kayak along the way, or head over to the High Line and grab some ice cream en route. We’d go to a concert on Pier 17 and walk along the river under the city lights. We could walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and bring a picnic over to Domino Park, eating dinner looking at the beautiful Manhattan skyline, or head to Prospect Park to see the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, I am so grateful to my parents and brother for their unending support. At every step in the way I know I can count on them for anything, and I feel truly indebted to them.
Additionally, I want to thank my teachers and professors at The Colburn School, Northwestern University, and New York University, each who have encouraged me at every step of the way. At NYU’s Screen Scoring Program in particular, I have found a collaborative environment under such compassionate mentorship, and I feel so fortunate to be in such a supportive program. In particular, I’d like to thank my violin teachers Joey Corpus, Henry Gronnier, and Blair Milton, and my private composition instructor, Jamie Lawrence, for his endless knowledge, patience, and kindness over the last year.
Finally, I want to thank my friends and family for being there for me at every step in the way. They are the reason I am who I am today, and I am truly so lucky!!
Todd Rosenberg, Justin Barbin