In recent weeks, we’ve interviewed various female musicians and composers who we think are making an impact on the industry today. Militia Vox, Elizabeth Rose, Nathalie Bonin, and Helene Muddiman have all been kind enough to offer us their time, discuss their professional journey, and offer their thoughts on where the industry is headed next.
Today, we’re turning to our very own Katherine Beggs, one-third of Cutting Room Music and an extremely talented singer, writer, composer, and producer. Keep reading to get her thoughts on career opportunities for female composers, how the pandemic has changed the music industry, and the challenges she’s had to overcome so far.
Can you offer some perspective on the current state of the music industry? Are there enough female writers/composers out there, or is it a male-driven industry, in your opinion?
I think there are so many incredible female writers, producers, and composers. However, because the industry is male dominated, I think a lot of talented women do not get the recognition they deserve. I think women face more barriers to be respected in the industry, unfortunately. So many women are doing amazing things, they just tend to get overshadowed by the same men we hear about over and over again.
How hard was it for you to break through into this industry and achieve success? Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey?
As a 21 year-old, I feel like I am just at the start of my professional composition journey, but it was a long time coming and it required a lot of work. I started composing classical music when I was a sophomore in high school. I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to pursue composition in college. I had a tough choice to make between going to a traditional university and going to a conservatory, but ultimately decided to study music there. As I took more production-based classes, my interest shifted more into production, songwriting, and film score as opposed to classical chamber music. During the start of the pandemic, I started working with Mark (Roos), but I had no idea that I would be asked to join the team at Cutting Room Music. I think my hard work over the years and luck coincided, but I have still so far to go.
Did you have any female musicians or composers to look up to growing up? Who were your biggest influences?
Yes, I had so many! I think there were more female musicians in the pop world that I could see right in front of me, like Taylor Swift; I’ve been a fan of her since I was 10. In terms of composers, I was never really exposed to a lot of successful female composers, but as I got older I learned about them. Some include: Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Wendy Carlos, to name a few.
Do you think it’s important for aspiring young musicians to have a mentor? Did you have a mentor in your early days as a musician?
I think having a mentor is extremely beneficial. I don’t think I would be where I am today without my mentors. Reena Esmail, an amazing classical composer, was my greatest mentor when I was new to composition. She helped me navigate the craziness of conservatory applications and auditions, and really elevated my level of musicianship as a composer. Mark and Adonis of Cutting Room Music are definitely some amazing mentors, too.
What do you want young female composers to know as they try to build a career in the music business? What advice would you give them?
I would say to not let the men intimidate you. It can be really intimidating to pursue a male-dominated field, especially when a lot of these men have big egos. I definitely felt this when I had to go through conservatory auditions and I was the only woman. Once I realized that I was just as good, if not better, than the men, I let my capability and skill speak for itself.
How did the pandemic affect the music industry, as far as you’re concerned? Are you noticing any huge shifts or changes in the way things are done now, compared to 2 years ago?
I think because the pandemic halted in-person interaction, a lot of artists had to face inward. It was challenging for musicians who could not collaborate as easily, perform live, or jump on film projects because of Covid19. Artists had to find ways around these barriers. For me, I had way more time, so I really focused on becoming a better producer and writing more songs. I think taking the external element of music away was hard, but it forced me to see what I could come up with in my bedroom. I ended up writing some of my favorite songs during the pandemic. One thing I’ve noticed now coming out of the pandemic is that collaboration across long distances is actually easier than ever, because we had to figure out how to do it when we were remote. Meetings in general, too, are so much more efficient across time zones because of Zoom. Covid19 made us better problem-solvers and more efficient musicians.
Can you name the most challenging or most exciting project you’ve worked on so far? Or is there a project that holds a special place in your heart?
This past spring, I had the opportunity to help produce an EP called Black Elements. It was the culminating project for a course I took at Brown University called “Black Protest Music.” In this class, we studied the history of black music in America and attempted to answer the question of what constitutes protest music. On the EP, members of the class wrote, sang, played, and produced on all 6 tracks. It was the biggest collaboration project I’ve ever been a part of and by far the most challenging, as we were all remote. The end product was nothing short of beautiful and inspiring. The EP in itself was an act of protest and resilience against society’s racist and oppressive structures (in the midst of a global pandemic, nonetheless).
Last but not last, what were the biggest challenges you’ve had to face throughout your career? How did you overcome them?
I’m still at the start of my journey as a musician and composer, so I’m sure the toughest challenges are yet to come! I’d say the biggest hurdle to overcome when first starting out is having confidence in your talent and having the courage to pursue what you love doing.