Prestigious scholarship could put promising film composer's name in lights

Prestigious scholarship could put promising film composer's name in lights

An Aberdeen music student has secured a prestigious scholarship which will enable him to follow his dream of becoming a film composer.

Benjamin McMillan has been awarded the Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York Scholarship Fund to study in America on completion of his Masters in Vocal Composition course at the University of Aberdeen.

The 28-year-old, from Stonehaven, has also completed a music degree at Aberdeen and says it is his passion for the subject which gave him the confidence to apply for the competitive award, which will see him study for two years at NYU Steinhardt.

“I’ve always loved music and I first came to Aberdeen in 2004 to begin a music degree,” he said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t as focused as I should have been and my grades began to slip and then I was offered a job playing the piano at the Groucho Club in London.

“I spent some time down there and then returned to Scotland and trained as a chef. I spent five years working in kitchens but I was always writing music in my spare time and playing in bands and I realised music was really where my heart lay.

“I was able to rejoin the music course in the third year but this time I had real focus and with the support and encouragement of my lecturers, I gained in confidence and managed to obtain a First Class degree.

“I knew I wanted to continue studying and was accepted to study the Masters in Composition which has really allowed me to explore my own style of music and develop as a composer.”

Benjamin then set his sights on a career as a film composer and was accepted onto the Masters in Film Composition and Music Technology at NYU Steinhardt, a specialist institution which has produced alumni including Disney’s most prolific composer Alan Menken, who has worked on films including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and the composer and producer Mark Ronson.

Benjamin will travel to New York in September to begin his studies – a journey which has only been made possible thanks to the scholarship.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that winning the award has opened up,” he added. “I am hoping to be successful in a couple of other grant applications which will help me to meet the overall cost of tuition and my brothers are organising a fundraising ceilidh but this has set me on my way.

“I will need to work once I’m over there to support my living costs but the scholarship has allowed me to follow a dream I never thought would be possible.

“The support I’ve had at the University has really encouraged me to reach my full potential and were it not for the advice of my lecturers, in particular royal wedding composer Prof. Paul Mealor, I wouldn’t have known that opportunities like this were open to me.

“The course is unique in combining the technical side of music with composition and I’ll also do a placement in one of the big New York studios. I can’t wait to get started and I hope that one day it might be my name on the music credits at the end of a blockbuster.”

Professor Pete Stollery, Head of Music at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We are incredibly proud of Ben and this huge achievement to allow him to continue his studies in composition at one of the most prestigious film music schools in the US, NYU Steinhardt in New York.

“From his final year composition portfolio as an undergraduate with us through to the compositions he has developed during his master’s year, we always knew that he was going to go onto great things, but to get there funded by the St Andrew’s Society Scholarship shows just how much his compositional work is respected!”