Jose Soberanes didn’t come from the conventional musical background that often serves as a launchpad for many conservatory students. He got into music because he and his friends wanted to start a band. And as he learned to play the electric bass and various brass instruments in elementary, middle, and high school, he had always assumed his passion for music would not supercede his original college ambitions.
“I was more focused on going into astrophysics,” he says. “But I also applied to music schools while applying to schools for astrophysics. Both are pretty creative.”
It turns out the creativity Soberanes saw in the musical path he foresaw was exactly what he was looking for. The freedom of SFCM’s technology and applied composition (TAC) program—a department that teems with diversity and ideas as if it were an agora—offered an ecosystem that would hone his artistic sensibilities. With a convincing nudge from TAC Executive Director MaryClare Brzytwa, he enrolled at SFCM.
Now a few years in to his bachelor’s degree—he’s set to graduate in 2020—Soberanes notes the wealth of opportunity at the Conservatory has been a boon. His projects are grand in scope.
“The help I got for my ballet, The Suffocation of Idols, was extremely helpful. And I’m planning a live paint graffiti house in the parking lot [next to SFCM] in September. Who else would give me their parking lot?”
Soberanes’ interest in the curriculum at SFCM goes beyond just music, too. In choosing courses each semester, he makes sure to take as many liberal arts and non-music classes because of his interest in a wide range of subjects.
“I fill up my schedule with Dr. [Nikolaus] Hohmann’s classes [such as Introduction to Western Civilization], Italian, French … I like the non-music classes here a lot. We have enough ‘perspective’ classes here that I can focus on making my own music but take all these influences and inspirations from different classes.”
As a result of being given the freedom to explore interests both musical and non-musical, Soberanes has produced a staggering output of music and projects, often collaborating with his fellow TAC students.
“My freshman year I worked for Kanye West’s company, DONDA, as a researcher. I would be sent off to different museums to research art pieces or make color palettes. Also, I got a gig doing audio engineering for Minecraft and The Walking Dead. This year, [fellow TAC student] Moya [Gotham] and I got together and made some films, some magazines, and created The Suffocation of Idols.”
In considering his past projects, if it appears that Soberanes has his feet in many different pools, it only extends further and will most likely continue to do so.
“I’m releasing my fashion line, soberseason: 1, in eight days. I learned so much design from DONDA, and I’m really inspired by things outside of music. And on April 18, I’m releasing my own virtual reality game—a demo—a horror game based on Francisco Goya’s paintings. The next day, I have a listening party with another student. I’m releasing two albums.
“Everything is for my portfolio,” he notes.
Soberanes sees his portfolio as the key to getting into the industry—a good mindset to have. He feels that being able to show future employers or clients a large body of work will only work in his favor down the road. He also isn’t one to get too excited about the notion of doing the same job day in and day out. He likes the idea of an active and changing work life.
“Someone I admire a lot is Jonathan Snipes, a visiting faculty member in the TAC program. He lives in LA. He’ll fly out to Seattle and work with a dance company there, then he’ll go to Pittsburgh and work on musical theatre, and then he’ll be somewhere else working on films. That seems like a lifestyle I’d like a lot.
“The projects I’m doing are getting bigger and bigger. I want to collaborate with different companies, but right now, I want to make good quality stuff.”
And what’s his advice for prospective students?
“There are people who come here and want to be film composers. The resources are here. There are people who want to be recording engineers. The resources are here. You want to be an experimental artist? Why not? You can be anything here. Just come.”