Falling in love with music

October 26, 2021
Erika Alejar

Denise Santos (BS COMTECH 2010) stood out among other film and television composers to win 'Outstanding Music Composition' at the 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards for her work on "Primates." 

Santos said that she did not expect to win or even get nominated in one of the most prestigious TV awards globally. In a press release, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which produced the 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, stated receiving more than 2200 entries from television and streaming/digital media outlets. 

 "We just took a chance because it is not often that we get to work on something eligible because there are categories for a show to be eligible to be submitted. So, we just took a chance. “Santos shared." And yes, it all just went through. And we got it. [Up to now] I still don't believe it."

Santos scored the winning piece with her writing partner Adam Lukas.

Santos and Lukas at the 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards

'Primates' is a three-part nature documentary commissioned by BBC in the United Kingdom which features the daily lives of primates – their search for food, the tending of their juvenile, their way of protecting themselves. 

The documentary was special to Santos because it was her first big project for Bleeding Fingers, a music production company founded by multi-awarded film scorer and record producer Hans Zimmer, Russell Emanuel, and Steve Kofsky. The project also required them to 'score to picture,' which meant that they had to write the music matching the movie instead of writing the track and sending away the finished composition. For the young artist, composing is being able to be a part of something bigger than oneself. Santos said that as a composer, they are not just doing it for themselves, but for a film, a cause, or a story that they find meaningful. "The best part is being able to contribute to the industry that hopefully affects positive change and influences people to think better or even just think."

When asked what made her fall in love with music, she replied, "I don't know if there's an explanation. When you fall in love, you just fall. It just hits you, and then you fall." She continued that it could be the ability of music to remind her about family, friends, and experience, that it is such a nostalgic tool. However, her musical journey was not at all a smooth sail. She almost gave up on music and shifted her course, taking up management.

In her four years of college at Ateneo, Santos took a liking to her Philosophy classes. She was also an active member of various student orgs, such as the Ateneo Christian Life Community (ACLC), exposing her to the values of justice, integrity, ethics, stewardship, and community. One of the key takeaways from her stay in Ateneo was to live a life with meaning, a life that examines. This, Santos added, is what makes life worth living. For her, a life without music is colorless. Realizing that her biggest strength is making music, Santos pursued her first love, applying what she learned from her business management classes.

To her fellow Ateneans who wish to get in the industry as composers, producers, and the like, Santos echoed her mentor's advice not to stop learning. Learning, she noted, is not limited to formal education, to which not everyone has access. However, there are numerous avenues to learn, especially with the help of the internet. The Filipina composer said that reaching out to more experienced people and finding a community with the same interest could contribute to a person's growth and craftsmanship.

All photos courtesty of Denise Santos.

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