Creating an Orchestra

Creating an orchestra

Academy alumnus and composer Mark Cofer at work in Nashville, Tenn. Photo courtesy of Mark Cofer.

Mark Cofer always had a love for music, but it wasn’t until he became a student of the School of Music Production & Sound Design For Visual Media at Academy of Art University that his passion for film composition began to soar. As one of the first graduates of the online program, Cofer has gone on to create scores for major motion pictures and trailers like Disney’s latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Independence Day: Resurgence, all from his home in Nashville, Tenn. 

“When I first started school, I knew I wanted to do something with music, but I was still narrowing down what that was,” said Cofer, who previously earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of California Santa Barbara. “But when I started to work with film music, I fell in love with it. I loved the orchestrating outlet, media instruments and creating an entire orchestra in my bedroom.”

Throughout his Academy career, Cofer set out to explore many different styles of visual media music composition from horror to daytime TV shows. One of the first projects that impressed his instructor and friend, Associate Director Dirk Epperson, was a project just for fun. Cofer composed music for the originally scoreless Frankenstein (1931).

“It was really, really excellent,” said Epperson. “It was fun, but parts of it were just stunning.”

It wasn’t too long after that when Epperson received a call from producers of the film, Art School of Horrors, who were looking for a young composer.

“There was just no question,” Epperson said about choosing Cofer for the role. “Not only is Mark a great composer, but he had a real feel for horror.”

Epperson sang the praises of Cofer, calling him “talented and experimental” while expressing the creativity and uniqueness of Cofer’s portfolio work, which showcased his ability to master a variety of styles of music. His portfolio project was formatted in the framework of an old black and white TV, that changed channels, each displaying Cofer’s completely different musical compositions from an upbeat day time TV show intro to a drama. 

“Mark was bright. He brought a really high level of professionalism and creativity to his portfolio,” said Bradley Hughes, director of the School of Music Production & Sound Design For Visual Media.

Hughes emphasized that Cofer embraced the curriculum the way Academy instructors constructed it and that it “really took him to the next level.”

According to Cofer, it was his portfolio that landed him a gig with Whatnot Industries after interacting with creator Russell Spurlock at the 2016 Spring Show. There he composed music for a TV game show, Bet on Your Baby.

The show was shortly canceled, as were other shows Cofer initially worked on, but it wasn’t long before his talents caught the attention of film producers and his career began to take off.

Cofer said his career today wouldn’t be possible without the Academy’s online program and its flexibility and accreditation. It allowed him to balance time with his newborn daughter Adeline and develop his skills before the industry world. 

“It really benefited me as a student in allowing me to hone in on each of my skills and develop them before people were paying me,” he said. “Being able to show my work in the Spring Show snowballed into being where I am today.”

Creating an orchestra

Academy of Art University School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media alumnus and composer Mark Cofer. Photo courtesy of Mark Cofer.

Creating an orchestra

Cofer and his dog. Photo courtesy of Mark Cofer.

So where is he today? His latest work for Pirates of the Caribbean has yet to hit the big screen as with his work on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,but something else he balances with his family time, is his time as a part-time Academy instructor. 

Cofer said his inspiration behind being an instructor was the opportunity to share his passion for film composition, something he calls, “the heart and soul of a movie,” and his own wisdom with young Academy students. 

“I thought it would be fun [to] take what I’ve learned and what got me where I am today to help mentor and teach other people,” he said. “I really care for the success of my students and really want them to have success like I do.”