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15 Minutes of Fame: Student composer brings WoW music to video game choir

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

You have to admit: Running your own choir to perform video game music is a pretty sweet gig for a portfolio-building college student. "We perform student arrangements of game music, and last fall we decided to do a WoW medley," explains Video Game Choir Founder/Director Julia Seeholzer, aka Bloodsong of Perenolde (US-A). "The choir and orchestra are all student-run, and we're all incredibly passionate about video games!" Julia's passion obviously extends to World of Warcraft; her thoroughly professional tip to WoW Insider concluded with a friendly, "Now, back to my raiding..."

The Video Game Choir is made up of students from Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known primarily as a school for jazz and popular music, the Boston, Mass., school also offers degrees in composition, contemporary writing and production, film scoring, jazz composition, music business/management, music education, music production and engineering, electronic production and design, music therapy, performance, professional music, and songwriting -- a perfect meeting spot for enthusiasts of the burgeoning field of video game music.

Main character Bloodsong, 85 night elf marksmanship hunter
Guild <Rock Lobster>
Realm Perenolde (US-A)

15 Minutes of Fame: How does someone come to found a choir that sings video game music?

Julia Seeholzer: I first got the idea for the choir my freshman year in college. I've always been heavily involved in one choir or another (or two, or three ...), and I've always been an avid gamer. I knew about groups like Video Games Live, and I wanted to do something similar but in my own way. There's so much incredible game music out there, and I thought it would be interesting to arrange it for choir. I started the group in September 2009.

What's your role with the choir?

In addition to starting the choir, I also act as its musical director. I run auditions, direct rehearsals, arrange some of the music we sing, and I also sing with the choir during concerts.

Now you're a student yourself, is that right? What's your actual area of study?

I'm a junior at Berklee College of Music and am currently a dual major in both composition and electronic production and design.


This is a pretty unusual direction for a college music program. Is Berklee's program fairly unusual?

Being a contemporary music school, Berklee is always on the look out for new ways to expand its programs of study. In the past few years, they have added a video game scoring component to their film scoring department. Students can now minor in video game scoring, which is an exciting and rapidly growing part of the music industry. That being said, Berklee is the only school of which I know that offers such courses.

Where do you hope to head with your interest in video game music?

I am certainly going to pursue a career in composition. I would love to write big orchestral scores for games like WoW some day. There will always be a place in my life for game music, be it professional or recreational (or both).

Let's get back to the choir itself. Tell us a little bit about the group -- how many voices, how competitive are auditions, how frequent are concerts ...?

The choir has grown a lot since it started. At our first concert, we had only 12 singers, but this semester we're up to 26, and we hope to expand further. Auditions are somewhat competitive, but all students who try out are passionate about both gaming and music, so we have a pretty talented pool to draw from. We have one formal concert per semester and usually one or two casual concert events per semester in addition.

Who chooses the music selections and prepares the arrangements?

I encourage members of the choir to submit their own arrangements to perform. Everything we perform is arranged by either myself or other choir members. We try to keep a variety of music in our repertoire, from games of all genres. Of course, it also has to translate well to being performed without any instruments, which can pose a challenge both to the arranger and to the singers.


So how did you fit into the process for the recent WoW music performance?

I've been a serious WoW player for the last five years, and I've always loved the in-game music. When we decided to include orchestra in our concert last December, many of us were excited to do a WoW medley. Chelsea, the choir member who arranged the medley, has also played WoW, and we had a great time choosing what pieces to include. A number of us were involved in recruiting an orchestra (also comprised of Berklee students) to perform with us.

Oh, you work with an orchestra, too?

Because we perform mainly a cappella, the orchestra was assembled solely for that December concert and is not a regular part of our group. However, we hope to do more with orchestral arrangements in the future and will certainly call upon the same students with whom we performed before.

How about your focus in game? Tell us about your WoW playstyle.

I'm a bit obsessed with achievements. I spend a lot of time collecting pets, mounts, titles, raising reputations, and questing. I definitely participate in all world events as well (must get that Violet Proto-Drake!). I love the lore associated with the game, as well as the inside jokes hidden throughout. I also raid regularly with my guild.

Let's talk a little about WoW's in-game music. How do you think WoW's soundtrack music has changed over the years?

I've certainly noticed great development in WoW's music over the years. With each expansion, the music morphs and changes to fit the lore of the zones, instances, and events, while still maintaining a universal style instantly associated with the WoW series. I also think the sound has grown more epic, which is partially a result of moving from using samples to live orchestra. I love listening to the game music while playing, because I feel completely immersed in the lore in a way I wouldn't otherwise.

How do you feel about the Cataclysm soundtrack? What are your favorites?

I really enjoyed of the Cataclysm soundtrack. One of my favorite things is that the composers have taken themes from previous soundtracks and rearranged them to fit the new expansion (a lot of Stormwind music, for example). I also love that much of the new music has been implemented in vanilla zones, along with the older music. I think it fits really well with the old music, while adding variety and new interest to the older zones.

My three favorite tracks are "Breath of Al'Akir," "Nightsong," and "Uldum." The use of brass is beautifully appropriate for a majestic cloudscape, and when the tempo picks up in "Nightsong" with drums and driving strings, you can just picture night elves running through the woods. As for "Uldum," I love the use of choir over sparse orchestration in response to the zone's bleak desert setting. Generally speaking, I love how much choir is used throughout the soundtrack (how could I not?). My only complaint is that even at over an hour of music, I still want to hear more!

We'd like to hear more, too -- and you can do just that at Julia's website, and follow the singers at the Video Game Choir website.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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