We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelangelo Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelangelo, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Growing up in Austin, Texas, I was exposed to many different genres of music, (its the “Live Music Capital of the World” after all!), so naturally, I was surrounded by inspiration. My dad plays mariachi music, so I was especially exposed to that! But funny enough, I really started to get into music at my local Target. When I was in sixth grade, I was passing through the aisles where I found a small Casio keyboard that lit up when you pressed the keys and I was obsessed with it. I got it and instantly loved it because it was fun to play, plus I just really liked the lights :).
I started piano lessons in middle school before beginning to write my own music in high school. Going to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to study composition taught me the fundamentals, thanks to the help of some great mentors I had there. Right afterwards, I got my Masters at NYU Steinhardt’s Screen Scoring program where I was able to further shape my craft with guidance from the wonderful faculty at the program.
My background and education has absolutely been a giant part of who I am today. As a media composer, I like to keep the mindset that I’m not being paid to compose, but rather to help the director, or whoever I’m working with, tell a story. As a film composer, I’m first and foremost a storyteller, and it’s so important to always have that mindset because it helps you become a better communicator. Merging the two art forms of film and music is so special, and I’m always looking to learn more and discover new things so that I can become a better version of myself. I’m still early in my career, but I’ve found success by being able to learn how to communicate with people on the film/media side, as well as people on the music side. Being an effective communicator allows me to have as great of a finished product as possible.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In a world where there’s so many composers, it can be really hard to set oneself apart. I like to think that being able to musically think outside of the box helps with that. I like to include small “Easter Eggs” in my scores, things that people wouldn’t know that’s there unless I told them (like recording my pet chickens, editing the recording to make it something usable, and putting them into a piece of music to create new sounds). Keeping an open mind, musically speaking, has lead me to find and nurture my own voice. I love to blend genres in my music and am always looking for new and unusual combinations of instruments to play with. I love to combine sounds that don’t usually go together and blend them seamlessly. Recently, I’m especially proud of a new project that just got released, a Spotify Studios podcast called “FOGO: Fear of Going Outside.” It was so much fun to work on because I was able to really let my personal musical voice shine, plus I got to work with some wonderful people!
I got to where I’m at professionally thanks to so many wonderful mentors and collaborators that have given me opportunities. Because of them, I was able to learn so many things (and still learning to this day!) about the industry and what it takes to become a successful film composer. They’ve played an integral part into helping me become the composer I am today.
I’ve learned that it’s essential to keep a positive attitude and to try your best to not be discouraged when you hear a “no.” When you work in a creative field, you’re bound to hear so many rejections, especially when you’re starting out, and I found that it’s important to not take it personally, have a thick skin, and learn from your mistakes. So many things can change with just one “yes.” If everything in your life was easy, where are the lessons to be learnt? So many lessons and success stories originate from failure, and somewhere along the line, we have to pick ourselves up and overcome whatever obstacles we’re facing, and when we have a batch of our own stories of how we’ve overcome challenges, it provides lessons that will last a lifetime.
I like to think that having a high work ethic, being reliable, and staying organized are some of the most important factors behind my success. As a film composer, I often have really tight deadlines, and I’ve learned that having a mindset of telling myself that I’m gonna get the job done no matter what deadline or no matter the circumstances has helped me along the way. Being ready, having a plan, paying close attention to detail, being open to criticism, and connecting with people on a personal level has help me greatly along the way. A lot of this job is psychological, and in my experience, telling yourself that you can do it, even when daunting situations arise and you may not feel as confident as you’d like to be, can do wonders. Also, being a kind and fun individual is key, and I think it’s so important to always remain humble.
Above all this, I’ve overcome challenges by always trying to find inspiration and by always keeping the spark that made me want to do this in the first place, alive. No two projects are exactly the same, and that special feeling of hearing a piece of music of yours in a film, tv show, podcast, commercial, etc. is a feeling that is constantly refreshing and exciting all at once. As long as you love what you’re doing, and you’re having fun doing it, that’s the most important part.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love getting out and trying new restaurants or going to events or such. I’m definitely the type of person who likes to go out, so I’m always on the lookout for new places to eat, grab a drink, or explore, so my preferences change just about every week. I love going to the shops on Santee Alley or spending the day on Santa Monica beach! I’d always be down to go watch a basketball game at Staples.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
All of my family, mentors, collaborators, friends, but most of all my parents. Ever since day one, they’ve been my biggest supporters and encouragers of what I do and I wouldn’t be in this position without them. Because of their support, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pursue my dreams. They’ve been with me on this journey of mine since the very beginning and I really look forward to sharing my future success with them. I’m very blessed to get to do what I love and I know that their impact on who I’ve become both as a film composer and a man is boundless. Love you, Mom and Dad!