My Fulbright scholarship 1987–89 paved the way for my subsequent career in the most typical of forms – as John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I came to Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1987, fully expecting to further my studies in jazz composition. However, a few weeks into the first semester it became clear to me that I had already had excellent training at the Jazz Department of the Hochschule fuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz, and that I was about to repeat a lot of what I had learned there.
So I looked for a different composition-related major and found Film Scoring, which I knew nothing about. I developed a strong interest in the subject, and also – inspired by the work of some of the great film composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Hermann and John Williams - in the kind of music that had inspired them (which were masterworks in the classical, romantic, impressionistic and contemporary classical styles).
Upon receiving my diploma in Film Scoring at the end of 1989 I returned to Austria to start teaching at my Austrian alma mater, the Jazz Department in Graz. But my desire to become a film composer kept growing, and in the fall of 1993 I left Graz to enroll in the one-year course “Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television” at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After having completed the program I stayed on, working as an assistant and orchestrator for other composers and doing some composing for animation. During the off times I would write concert pieces, some commissioned and some just to practice my craft, basically as a hobby. My professional goal was still to become a full time film composer. However, at some point in the early 2000’s, when I realized that there was a certain demand for my concert work I decided to make my hobby part of my professional career.
Fast forward to present day, where I spend half of my time writing concert music and the other half orchestrating for film and TV projects.
It would be fair to say that my time at Berklee, made possible by Fulbright, opened my eyes to the musical possibilities that constitute my current career.
Gernot Wolfgang was an Austrian Fulbright Student at Berklee College of Music in 1987 and is a composer. His recent album, PASSING THROUGH (TROY1624, 2016), was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY® Award in the category Best Classical Compendium. Photo courtesy of http://www.gernotwolfgang.com/.