Xander Johns was picked as the winner of the SFCM TACtok contest in which students were challenged to create the soundtrack for the SFCM’s new TikTok channel.
By Mark Taylor
It’s not everyday you meet a jazz musician turned composition student, yet that is the unique music background of Xander Johns. Growing up in a musical family Johns started on the saxophone like his father, but after an injury left him unable to play, he was inspired to try something different. He now relies on that distinct point of view when he makes new music.
The Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) undergraduate student created Lights Out for his submission to SFCM’s TACtok contest and was picked as the winner. “It was something I really came up with all at once, and I didn’t overthink it. I tried to internalize the values that SFCM wanted to invoke, then I started writing and it just flowed out of me in a couple of days.” John said.
SFCM looked to TAC students to craft a genre-bending soundtrack for the Conservatory’s new TikTok channel. Students were challenged to create soundscapes that were bold, exuberant, joyful, and viewed through the lens of innovation and inclusivity. For inspiration Johns turned to a variety of genres including jazz, classical, and even pop music, “I listen to music constantly, some of my recent inspirations are Vulfpeck, Porter Robinson, Kim Petras, Origami Angel, Ahmad Jamal, and Daft Punk.” In his creative process, Johns relies heavily on instinct, ‘My composition process can change pretty drastically depending on what the music is calling for, but I normally start by singing and playing the piano. I want to rely on my intuition as much as possible,” Johns added.
While today he is a TAC student studying with Lenny Kiser, Johns’ musical origins are actually in Roots, Jazz, and American Music, where he was a saxophone performance major, “During my sophomore year I injured my wrist skateboarding, which prevented me from practicing saxophone and piano for months, so I started putting a lot of time into the Ableton class I was taking, and into exploring electronic music,” Johns continued, “Something really beautiful about that class was that we were enthusiastically encouraged to write any style of music we wanted. This was really liberating for me. Music production has really allowed me to express my creativity in new and different ways than on my instrument.”
Johns’ work, Lights Out is being featured on SFCMs TikTok channel in hopes of giving a larger platform for students to showcase their work. You can hear more from Xander Johns on his Soundcloud and Instagram accounts.
Learn more about studying TAC at SFCM.