We had the good fortune of connecting with Itamar Ben Zimra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Itamar, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The word risk might have a negative connotation, but if you are a risk taker it means you’re always asking questions, trying to reinvent and get out of the comfort zone. With all things in perspective, too much risk taking and imbalance makes a constant of uncertainty which might not be healthy, but I believe taking a chance is the only way to make your dream come true. One of the biggest moves I’ve made about 5 years ago was to leave my home country and push myself forward as a musician by relocating my life to the US and study at Berklee college of music in Boston. I knew this place was not only a gathering spot for talented musicians and a hot music scene, but also a melting pot of people from all cultures, languages and music around the world. Just as an example, being in a classroom where 10-12 different countries are represented was the norm, and it was never taken for granted. However, this meant I had to leave my family, friends and the comfort of home, focusing only on finding and upgrading the musician in me. There were a lot of uncertainties but words can’t explain how this experience expanded my world, made me a different person, and for sure a better musician. Maybe the biggest decision in my life, and many followed after it. Had I not taken the risk of trying to be independent in place where I knew is miles away from home I wouldn’t get the opportunities, collaborations, exposure that led me to where I am now. In a way, Berklee made me realize that telling stories with music and composing music to films is my passion. I can talk about many risk taking examples, from a perspective of daring to make a musical statement in a piece I’m composing, to big geographic relocations. The next big move for me was relocating to Los Angeles after Berklee and continuing the journey in the city of films. Leaving Berklee college’s “green house” of secure environment to create, falling and getting up again, this move felt like I’m moving from the pond to the ocean, the big league. But yet again, combined with hard work, perseverance and support from friends and family, I have proven to myself that the more I dare and push myself the more things happen. And with the right direction and intention, the right guidance and a little bit of luck only good things can happen. These days I’m composing full time for animation TV series produced by Warner Bros. Animation and I still can’t digest that it’s real. Every step of the way, with all the doubts and risks, was a piece of a never-ending puzzle that as I move forward I try to understand the big picture. And I think it’s a good thing we never get to end our life puzzle, always trying to fit a new piece, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. Imagine if we get to a place where all the questions are answered and the puzzle is done… what’s the fun in that?
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m a film composer and passionate about telling stories with music, originally from Israel, and now living and working in LA for the past 2 years. I have been writing music for animation, short films and one documentary feature, some of which won awards in festivals across the US such as St. Lous film festival, Chelsea film fest and Seattle film fest. Currently I’m working as a composer for Warner Bros. Animation and writing nutty music for TV. The nuttier the better, animated characters can take it! It will be an understatement to say how excited I am about this as this is the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of. It has been 3 months into this crazy journey and I couldn’t feel any more fortunate. The beauty in film music is the combination of two art forms where the sense of story of the filmmaker meets the sense of story of the composer. It’s a very collaborative field. The richer the two worlds the deeper and more meaningful will be the combined result. I love the freedom of expression the music can have in animation. when the world around you is “imagined” the music can be more adventurous and explorative. Since I was a kid I loved fantasy and hero stories and always loved cinema. Later I discovered the magic of music as a separate yet inseparable entity in these stories that makes them come to life on screen. At Berklee collge of music I started composing to picture and graduated as a film scoring major. The next obvious step was relocating to Los Angeles, where the biggest stories and films are made. One of the main challenges in trying to shine in an ocean of Los Angeles based composers is to get an opportunity, and then have what it takes to make the most out of it. Of course it takes a lot of networking and building connections in order to create trust that will lead to a successful relationship in such a collaborative work. But at the end it’s the background and musical language the composer brings to the table and their ability and openness to see someone else’s story and do musical justice to it. It’s a tough competition in a very closed industry, every composer is special in their own way. But this has a bright side that I think kept me believing in myself more: There will never be another ME. So, I better get the most out of me and be confident in what I have to offer.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best experience would be to make hiking trip. You can’t compete with the nature around. We’ll start from the nearer ones, Topanga, Malibu etc. and then plan our way further, Maybe even get up to Yosemite! which I’ve never been. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As musicians we try to explore get influences as much as possible to enrich our world. I wouldn’t be the musician or person I am today without my mentors, going back to the moment I picked up the clarinet till today as I write music for films. Eva Wasserman taught me the importance of sound, that’s your voice! and when speaking music you want your voice to be heard, clearly. Albert Piamenta taught me the language of improvisation and enriched my vocabulary as a player (and later I realized, as a composer too). He exposed me to jazz and music from around the world. It’s hard to pick, but every person I met along the way influenced and in some way helped me get where I am. Thank you Thelma Yelling high school for the performing arts, thank you Berklee college of music… And of course, the unconditional support from home, my parents and my sister. The emotional motivation, the advices… and sending tahini every once in a while!
Yossi Zwecker Nitsan Ben-Zimra