Local Artist Profiles

Nine profiles of local artists


(page 8 of 9)

Composing Dreams


It’s quite fitting that John Paesano won an Annie Award for his work composing music for a children’s television series, because it was his childhood dream all along that brought him to where he is today.

The Birmingham native received the 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award for Music in an Animated Television Production at the 40th annual Annie Awards — the “Oscars” of the animation industry — for his work on the DreamWorks Animation spinoff series Dragons: Riders of Berk. The series was inspired by the box-office hit movie How to Train Your Dragon.

“You’ll have to excuse my public speaking skills,” Paesano joked during his acceptance speech. “I spend 90 percent of my time in a dark cave with animated characters.”

Working with a small team of five people, Paesano secured the job with DreamWorks Animation after a competitive audition. His L.A.-based company, Mad Olive Productions, is a grass-roots music house specializing in original music composition.

Paesano, 36, has been pushing toward becoming a composer since he was 10 years old, when ambition struck while watching the 1987 film Empire of the Sun, directed by Steven Spielberg and scored by John Williams (who’s scored all but two of Spielberg’s major films). Coincidentally, Spielberg also co-founded DreamWorks Animation, so it seems as though after 26 years, things have come full circle for Paesano.

Not only was Paesano’s television series based on How to Train Your Dragon, but expectations were high because of John Powell’s Oscar 2011 nomination for the film’s score. It was crucial for Mad Olive Productions to keep the original musical themes intact while mixing in new sounds.

Average moviegoers might understand the power of music, but they rarely realize how much work goes into scoring a single scene. A combination of computer mockups and live orchestra recordings totaled more than 400 minutes of music for the weekly show that’s already been picked up for a second season.

Paesano got started by taking piano lessons in Birmingham. He went on to study music at France’s Conservatoire de Paris, then graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music for Film Scoring. At 21, he lit out for the West Coast, landed himself an agent, and has been in L.A. ever since. Having been mentored by some of the industry’s best-known composers (Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, et al.), Paesano feels his career has just taken off.

“There’s no defined path to [becoming] a film composer,” Paesano says. “It makes for a very tough endeavor. You never really get into this job to make money; you write music because you love writing music.”

Paesano has recently shifted musical modes — from dragons to sci-fi thriller. He now holds the title of lead composer in his first major motion picture, The Maze Runner, scheduled for release early next year. A live orchestra will be used for the entirety of the film — and for a composer like Paesano, that’s another dream come true.


Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

2019 Cake Over Dates

On Feb. 10, Planthropie's Cake Over Dates pre-Valentine's Day soiree invited guests to Tribe Detroit for a moderated panel discussion featuring female entrepreneurs. Attendees sampled the plant-based catering company's vegan cheeses and desserts, and entered into a raffle for locally sourced beauty and wellness products.

2019 Washtenaw Community College Foundation's 34th Annual Mardi Gras

On Feb. 9, the Washtenaw Community College Foundation held its 34th Annual Mardi Gras Winter Gala at the school’s Ann Arbor campus. Attendees enjoyed a dinner prepared by local chefs and supported the foundation’s mission to provide scholarships to students in need.

2019 Go Red for Women Luncheon

Bringing thousands of women together every year, the Go Red For Women Luncheon was hosted at Ford Field on Feb. 15. The American Heart Association annual event raises awareness on heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in females, and promotes healthy lifestyles for women, and their families, to lead.

Poke Bowl Chain Pokē Pokē is Expanding to Detroit

And Michigan overall, for that matter

NAIAS Charity Preview 2019

The 2019 North American International Auto Show Charity Preview took place at the Cobo Center on Jan. 18. Party-goers viewed more than 30 new vehicles on display and raised funds for a number of children’s charities that provide services to those ranging between infancy and 18 years of age.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. And the 2019 Restaurant of the Year Is: Prime + Proper
    A polished ambience and masterful dishes at downtown Detroit’s Prime + Proper, reimagine the...
  2. 24 Hours With . . . Sophia Bush
    Actress, activist, and co-founder of Detroit Blows
  3. Bottoms Up
    More than 60 years after Black Bottom was razed, the Detroit region named for its rich, dark soil...
  4. Three Generations, One Roof
    University of Michigan Professor Natasha Pilkauskas finds one type of household is on the rise
  5. Live Long and Prosper
    Ann Arbor’s Forever Labs builds a thriving business banking stem cells on the prospect of...
  6. Japanese Exchange
    Adachi brings a fresh Asian-inspired menu to a Birmingham landmark
  7. Another Crack in the Ceiling
    A young, rising female activist shares the impact and inspiration of Rashida Tlaib’s historic...
  8. Smart Cookies
    More than a century ago, Juliette Gordon Low sparked a movement to inspire girls to embrace their...
  9. Pure and Simple
    Drawing inspiration from the spring bridal runways and celebrity brides alike (we’re looking at...
  10. Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles
    The mother-daughter team behind recipe development site, Crowded Kitchen, cooks up mindful dishes...