BWW Feature: Composer KRIS BOWERS with Dear White People and For The People

BWW Feature: Composer KRIS BOWERS with Dear White People and For The People
Photo by Lauren Desberg

Anyone watching (or binging) on a television series might focus on the characters, dialog or scenery. Music adds to the experience of expressing emotions, action, and what is underneath the surface. Emmy-winning composer Kris Bowers scores compositions that step BEYOND the traditional boundaries of genre to form new and thrilling music. Bowers currently scores Netflix's "Dear White People," and Shonda Rhimes' "For The People," starring Hope Davis. He was awarded the Daytime Emmy in 2017 for Amazon's holiday movie "The Snowy Day" based on the book by Ezra Jack Keith first released in 1964.

Bowers recently scored the end credits music for the latest entry in the successful long-running "Madden" video game franchise, "Madden 19," launching on Aug. 10. Earlier this year, Bowers scored the drama "Monsters and Men" which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and will be in general release Oct. 5.

A Julliard-trained musician with a love for jazz, Bowers told that winning the Emmy Award "was amazing. This was the first time I was nominated and to win was incredible. As a composer for film, this is new territory for me, and it is awesome to be recognized for my work this early in my career."

His parents began his path into music when Bowers as a child began to take piano lessons. He studied classical music until he was 9 years old and his parents introduced him to jazz. Bowers admits that during this time he wanted to be a cartoonist and loved sports. Playing jazz, he could express himself playing music. Classical music is an interpretation of someone else's vision while Bowers can create his visualization when playing jazz.

As for scoring a television show, there is a collaborative effort between him, the writers and the director.

"This season in 'Dear White People' is to create a color palette influenced by paintings from the Civil War era. Each color reflects a definition and significance. My theme was to write music based on all of these colors," he explained. "I was composing before any scenes were shot. We would look at a picture and see gold as the dominant color which is the theme of what we were looking at so let's capture that."

Another aspect to the composing for the show this year is using his skills from his background as an accompanist as a jazz pianist. Before, he would view a scene and compose the music from its beats, emotions, and tempos. This year, Bowers would have to envision the scene differently and compose from what he "sees" and "hears" in his mind as well as talking with others involved with the show.

Bowers has received numerous awards and was one of 40 artists selected to perform at the White House for the 2016 International Jazz Day, hosted by President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. He also won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition at the KENNEDY Center in Washington, DC, where Aretha Franklin picked Bowers as a favorite to win during the semi-finals concert. He was named a Steinway Artist, one of twelve iTunes "Artists to Watch" and was one of six composers to participate in the Sundance Film Composers Lab at Skywalker Sound.

Bowers completed another project with his debut album which included Concord Jazz, Heroes + Misfits, that opened at No. 1 on the iTunes jazz chart. As Bowers stated, "I do this because I love it."

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From This Author Debbie Hall


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