kyulee choi music
TV & Film

Kyulee Choi is Making Music for Movies and TV, and She Loves It

When it comes to entertainment and the cinematic arts, music makes everything better. Score music elevates any genre of film, television programming, and video games as well, and for many people, a property’s music is what stays with them long after experiencing a piece of media. 

The perfect score can come across as almost magical, but it’s actually the end product of hard work on the part of a team that includes the composer, orchestrator, copyist, audio engineer, and of course many talented musicians. 

You can probably tell from the headline that we’re here to share our chat with Kyulee Choi, an entertainment industry pro who has worked as a composer, an orchestrator, AND a copyist across many different projects, including the likes of the Sling series The Eight and the Sony Pictures feature The Woman King, released earlier this year. 

kyulee choi orchestrator
Kyulee Choi

And we can’t gloss over her work with Joy Music House (JMH), a forward-thinking business that aims to innovate score production by providing composition, editing, and orchestration services. 

It was a lot of fun getting to talk with her about her earliest composition experiences, the nuts and bolts of her day-to-day industry work, and much more. Keep scrolling to read more. 

When did you first start to explore composition?

I wrote my first song when I was 16 years old. Even though I was classically trained as a pianist and a flutist at a young age and loved it, I wasn’t sure I could also write music. At that moment, my mother actually suggested that I try writing music. I still remember the first song I wrote and how I felt. It probably wasn’t very good, but I was thrilled to express my feelings with melody and lyrics. That was the start of my journey as a composer. 

Can you break down for our readers the differences between the composer, orchestrator, and copyist roles? Which role do you connect with the most?

Sure! So, composers literally compose music, such as main melodies, instrumentations, structures, chord progressions, and so on. That means composers decide every core musical element in the music. What orchestrators do is they take a composer’s musical sketch and turn it into a score for the orchestra and assign the instruments according to the composer’s directions. Moreover, many composers write music with a DAW, (Digital Audio Workstation) these days, and they use patches when they write music. When that’s the case, orchestrators need to decide which instruments will play what melody and how the voices are going to be divided. 

Copyists are responsible for proofreading scores and preparing individual parts for live recording sessions of film, TV, and video game music. 

I’ve been mostly working as an orchestrator and copyist. It has been a fascinating experience to be part of various films and TV shows. Being an orchestrator carries a lot of responsibilities. In order to fulfill those responsibilities, I have to be very precise to gratify the composer’s specific directions or intentions. If an orchestrator doesn’t follow the composer’s directions and change things in the music, it could affect the entire piece. In that case, the composer will be very upset. 

A copyist is an important role as well because it means I’m the last person who proofs the scores and parts before recording sessions, which always need to be as perfect as possible in order to prevent time being wasted in the studio. 

Looking back to the start, what was your first film/TV project?

The first project I worked on was The Eight which is a TV show that was streamed on Sling in 2022. It was produced in Saudi Arabia and the show is about a man who was a member of a gang and wanted to take revenge. 

I worked as an orchestrator and copyist, assisting the main composer at the recording sessions. There was actually a lot of pressure to make everything perfect because it was my first project, and it seems like it worked out well! I recently worked with the same composer again, this time on a documentary. 

How does working in entertainment compare to your initial expectations?

It’s not that different from my expectations. I kind of knew that it was going to be very busy because I worked on a few documentary films in Korea as a composer, and it had some brutal deadlines, haha. 

However, what I’ve learned is that I must be absolutely detail-oriented to work in this industry because we work in a fast-paced environment most of the time, so it’s really a must-have qualification to fulfill the job requirements.

What is it like to work with major composers? Have you had the chance to meet some of your favorite composers?

Working with great composers is so cool! I’m always amazed by listening to their new music before it’s even out, and it’s fascinating to get a chance to look at how they really write music while I’m orchestrating and copying their music! It sometimes gives me motivation and inspiration to write new music, too. 

I haven’t had a chance to meet some of my favorite composers yet, but I have met people who have worked with my favorite composers and who have played for my favorite movies and TV shows! It feels like I’m getting closer to them, and that’s a great feeling. 

What has been the most difficult aspect of your film/TV work so far?

For me, the most difficult aspect of working in this industry is maintaining work-life balance. I’m basically working as a freelancer, and we usually work in a fast-paced environment with consistently tight deadlines, as I mentioned earlier, so I sometimes have to work around fifteen hours a day for months, including weekends, and sometimes I’m not working for weeks at a time. 

It’s good to have some gaps between projects when I can work on my own music and projects, but there was a time when I wished it was more balanced. However, I’m just grateful to be a part of the industry and contribute to high-profile projects! 

Before we let you go, can you tell us about any of the projects you’re working on currently?

I’ve actually been working on several projects that will be released in the near future, but unfortunately, I can’t share info on those yet! But I have some really good stuff coming up, so you can check out my Instagram if you’d like to stay up to date.