Jonathan Thomas Maiocco – My Musical Journey
I actually wasn’t interested in music when I was younger. My parents had me and my three siblings start on violin at the age of five – but I never practiced. What I really wanted to do was be a gymnast and go to the Olympics. I focused on gymnastics and dance for a long time, but at twelve, I found myself with Achilles tendonitis, suddenly sitting around not being able to do anything. I remember one day my mom gave me a couple of fiction books to pass the time, and I tore through them. I had never been into reading, but I loved it. When reading, I would see in my head something kind of like a movie. I would subconsciously add a “film score” to the “movie” I was watching. This is how I started writing music.
I dabbled in acting, directing, and screenwriting for a bit – but then I started composing, and that’s what I chose to focus on. My parents got me the cheapest notation software they could find, and I started writing music to the books I was reading. I sent the music to the authors. (Most of them replied, surprised to find this teenager writing music to their books.) To be completely honest, the music was actually pretty bad – but I didn’t stop.
The catalyst to my musical journey was in 2008. I entered the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship with a piece I had written for The Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t think anything about it, until my mom came home one day telling me she got a phone call from Mike Post, that I would have won the contest, but I was too young. To be completely honest, I had no idea at the time that Mike Post was, but after learning he did the music for Law and Order, Rockford Files, etc., I began to get the picture that this was a big deal. He invited me to LA to spend some time with him in his studio, and to watch him compose to a Law and Order episode. I remember sitting in his studio, staring at all the instruments and equipment, jaw to the floor. (I had no idea what any of it was!) I also remember sitting down with him, and for about an hour, he gave me the low-down of the industry, what I should do and shouldn’t do, the equipment I should get and shouldn’t get, etc. The biggest piece of advice he gave me was this – “Go get that education – go get that degree.” Being 14 at the time, that was the last thing I wanted to hear – more school? No thank you. But looking back, that was the most influential advice given to me.
In 2009 and 2010, I was honored to participate in the NYU/ASCAP Foundation Film Scoring Workshop in Memory of Buddy Baker. In 2011, I won the Lynn Freeman Olson Award for a piano piece I wrote, Café François, which was later published by Willis Music, a division of Hal Leonard. My junior year of high school, I dual-enrolled at Southern Poly, and then my senior year, I dual-enrolled at Georgia State University. I was primarily focused on finishing core-classes, and the spring of 2011, I was accepted into the School of Music, and then graduated from high school that May. I had applied to other music schools, and had been accepted into several. I considered leaving GSU, but in the end, I didn’t want to – I had great relationships with the professors and the students, and I loved the environment of the city and campus.
Georgia State University.
I took piano lessons with Dr. Haydon starting Spring 2011 – and looking back that was monumental in my journey as a musician and person. In preparing for my junior recital, he really pushed me to my limits. I remember specifically, one week before my recital, I almost quit. It was in the middle of a practice session, and I had decided that I had had it – I was done. When I talked to Dr. Haydon about it, he simply said, “If you’re going somewhere and it’s an easy road, it might not be a place worth going.” He really showed me what it’s like to pursue big dreams – especially the hard ones. It might not be easy; but that’s what makes it worth it.
In Fall 2012, I started composition lessons with Dr. Demos, and that really was the start of a new direction in my composition journey. Through the past three years, Dr. Demos has really stretched me, as a musician and a composer in ways I never thought were possible. One of the biggest challenges I had at GSU was back-to-back undergraduate and graduate recitals. (Spring 2014, I applied and was accepted into the 4-in-1 Program at GSU – this was such a huge honor – but that’s a lot of work and music!) Through the time crunch and deadlines, he was so encouraging and so supportive. I especially remember this past year, in writing for my graduate recital, I came into one of my lessons and told him I couldn’t finish the band piece I was working on, Beautiful Innocence. I vented to him and complained how hard it was to write, and how I wasn’t going to finish it. I remember he kind of laughed, and said, “You can do it.” His belief in me was so encouraging, and really taught me to trust my instincts as a composer. (By the way, the band piece Beautiful Innocence went on to win the GSU Symphonic Wind Band Composition Competition, and was the finale of my recital. And to think that Beautiful Innocence almost didn’t exist!)
One thing I love about GSU is the collaborative atmosphere. On both of my recitals, I had about 40+ performers. Everyone’s willingness to collaborate, be involved, and “give it their all” is so encouraging. I’ve met so many great people and have developed countless life-long friendships.
The question I keep on getting is this – “Oh, music composition? What are you going to do with that?” Granted, it’s a valid question – but I’ve had to come to the realization that 9-to-5 isn’t the way of the creative industry.
I’ve released three albums over the past three years (Epic Music, Epic Music II, and Galaxies) so I might get into stock music – but we’ll see. I love film composition. I’m working with Matt Dickstein (GSU Alum) on a film right now, and Brittany Hester (another GSU Alum) on another film. Currently, my dream is to be a music producer, and work with artists. I would love to be the creative force that enables them to pursue their dreams. I have several artists that I have worked with (James Harris and Isaac Austin), and I’m currently in production with two other artists. My summer project is my own personal singer/songwriter album – I’ve been writing the songs all semester, and will start production as soon as the semester is over.
My own personal motto is “one step at a time.” Jesus talks about how we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow – and I really have taken that to heart. I’m not worried about the future – a journey is meant to be taken one step at a time, and so that’s how I’m going to take it. I don’t have all the details – and that’s totally OK. I just want to live everyday to the fullest and enjoy it, as it is, the good and the bad.
Jonathan Maiocco is a graduating composition senior from the studio of Nickitas Demos. He is graduating with a Master of Music degree in composition.