Fans of The King’s Speech, The Hobbit, or Martin Scorsese’s Hugo may not know it, but they’re also fans of Amy Baer ’05. Baer has made a mark for herself in recent years as a composer, providing the emotional undercurrent to more than a dozen feature films and shorts in addition to television and musicals. Her hard work has paid off, too – in 2007, she also received the Elmer Bernstein Award for Film Scoring.
“Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what it is you want to pursue as a career,” she says. “Even if it’s in the realm of ‘music’ or ‘history’, you never know what positions actually exist in those fields until you start working and meeting other people in corresponding professions.”
Baer’s interest in composing took flight during her junior year at Scripps after working with music professor Hao Huang, former Bessie and Cecil Frankel Professor of Music Jane O’Donnell, and Pomona College’s Tom Flaherty.
“I was told ‘you must love what you write!’” she says. “That’s a direct quote, and even today I use it as a basis of whether or not a piece is working or captures my voice as a composer.”
Extracurricular activities shaped Baer’s drive towards music as well. As a member of Claremont Shades, the a capella group, and Chamber Choir, she immersed herself in music in every way she could.
“Knowing that I wanted a career in music,” she says, “I took every opportunity I could to become a well-rounded musician: becoming familiar with everything from working with choirs and instrumentalists to managing performance halls.”
Baer and her husband currently live in New York City and often work together, most recently as co-head composers for Standby, an original musical accepted as an Official Selection of the New York Musical Theatre Festival’s 2013 Next Link Project, which aims to aid, guide, and showcase new talent. She’s quick to stress that this kind of work is not about luck, but about knowing her strengths and weaknesses, refining her skills, and, most important, remembering why she loves music in the first place.
“Be honest with yourself,” she says. “Ask ‘what do I like to do?’ What are the first thoughts that come up? If you like to read, pursue work in publishing companies. If it’s planning parties, look into event coordination.
“Keep your eyes open for any potential opportunity to showcase and develop your skills. Meet as many people as you can in your field, and keep yourself inspired.”