We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikhil Koparkar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikhil, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I feel fortunate enough to have moved around a lot when I was younger. This constant adjustment to new people and environments, as well as the desire to make a career in the music industry as I got older has made taking risks is a consistent part of my daily life. I honestly believe that success in a field as volatile as the music industry has a lot to do with one’s relationship with uncertainty. At the beginning, it’s a scary prospect, knowing that one is diving into such a super competitive field, having to play the part of business owner, administrator, composer, legal consultant, business development manager, etc. The best antidote to that uncertainty I’ve found, is commitment: To an ideal, a standard one holds for themselves/career, and the price that comes with it. It has been the wellspring by which, especially in recent years I can draw inspiration from or take solace in. The question I’ve started asking myself recently is “what kind of person do I need to become to be ready when an opportunity arises?” It’s taken the pressure off of the inevitable risks, and made me focus more on process than outcome. Last year, I decided to try and pitch for a big fantasy TV-series, something that would traditionally be considered “out of my league” at the time. Asking myself, “What kind of person do I need to become..” led me to write a custom theme and hire the Budapest Orchestra to record it, something that was a huge financial stretch at the time. It forced me to reach higher, and push myself beyond my self-limiting beliefs — and really underscored for me (pun intended) the importance of committing in the face of uncertainty. This was the single riskiest and most fruitful decision I could have made, as it led to an agent, invitations to pitch for other films/series (some of which I’ll be working on in the coming months), article features, and positive feedback from fans of the books and members of the production team. It’s a lesson I’m intensely grateful for and passionate about.
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’m a composer for films, TV, games and trailers. I absolutely love being able to collaborate with filmmakers, musicians and creatives from all over the world, and use instruments from different cultures in my music. One of my recent projects was writing the official theme song for the Peruvian national soccer team, Cusco Futbol Club — this included recording sessions in NYC, LA, Budapest and Peru and will be played in all their stadium games, which is pretty surreal! I also recently gave a Talk At Google, based on a collaboration album I did with santoor player Kunal Gunjal called Nature Of All Things. We combined his ancient dulcimer with a western orchestral ensemble which was a blast to experiment with! Lastly, I wrote a 90 minute live orchestra score for a fantasy film called The Candle & The Curse, which also combines instruments from India and China with orchestra. Many of these instruments have been played the same way for hundreds or even thousands of years, so it’s a never-ending source of excitement and inspiration to test their boundless potential. This career has certainly not been easy, and I’ve had to learn most of my lessons the hard way. I’ve taken comfort in taking special care and effort to keep it fun and adventurous, to constantly work on my writing process, and help others where I can (through advice, music help, or a pep talk). There is so much out of our control, and the only way I can conceivably reconcile that is to approach it with positivity, the willingness to learn and contribute.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA is the one place where the desert, the mountains and the beach are all within driving distance. So, I would start with Griffith Park or Mt Wilson Observatory for some hiking/stargazing, Santa Monica pier for a sunrise dip (if you haven’t tried this, there’s few things more beautiful than being the water as the sun rises over those mountains), and Sawtelle for one of the many magical food places (I’m partial to Killer Noodle because I appreciate lethal amounts of spice in my foods).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I feel like there’s often a romanticized version of the archetypal success story: a self-made person rising through the ranks as a product of their own determination, knowledge and talent/skill. At least in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way. Any of my successes are a direct result of other people’s willingness to help and share their knowledge, experience or connections. My parents put me in piano lessons when I was 8 years old, and gently coaxed me to keep at it when I wanted to quit. They and my sister fully supported my desire to write music for a living from day 1, and without their support I don’t know that I would have the fortitude to do this. People here in LA and SF like Arun Ganapathy, Nomi Abadi, Robert Mai, Katt Newlon, Katie Garibaldi, Kunal Gunjal, Adam Gubman, Ryan Richko, Greg Nicholett, Ian LeCheminant, Linda Baynes, Catherine Joy (and the whole Joy Music House crew) amongst MANY others have been sounding boards to my crazy ideas, given me unwavering support and countless opportunities to create and collaborate on a variety of projects. They have all been instrumental to me loving what I do — this profession is nothing without the people who make it worth while, and I feel incredibly lucky that I got to know so many quality ones.
Photos by: Irving Ong, Joy Music House and Katie Garibaldi