Working Through the Pandemic

Posted: August 17, 2020 in Press

Namhiya Ati: Kerwin, you’ve remained quite busy during the global pandemic; receiving numerous commissions. How have you been able to manage with the quarantining?

Kerwin Young: Hi Namhiya, it’s always a pleasure speaking with you. Since my last public concert in St. Louis, Missouri, back in February; and after my residency with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music in Boonville, California, opportunities have been increasing. Gabriela Lena Frank is a huge supporter of fellow composers, and I’m extremely grateful that our paths crossed during my ACO-DSO residency a year ago.

As a composer and recording producer, isolation, seclusion, and being off to oneself for extended periods of time is part of the lifestyle. Much of my life is self-quarantined; so there’s nothing new there. Of course, whenever I go out I’m wearing my mask; which doesn’t invite any conversation from others.

NA: You’ve received a number of commission; some of which have yet to go public. Can you elaborate on the ones which have already gone public?

KY: You know, I have been busy. Following my residency with the GLFCAM and the Del Sol Quartet, I was commissioned by the Tesla Quartet. For them, I composed PEace on the Left, Justice on the Right. The work was inspired by a chant from the brother of George Floyd, which I heard over a live, national news broadcast.

I also composed a solo viola work for Edwin Kaplan, violist with Tesla Quartet, entitled “Eva’s Ashes”. It should premiere sometime between now and the end of September. Just follow the GLFCAM link here.

One commission that totally blew me away was from Play On Philly! I got the chance to collaborate with teaching staff as well as fifth through twelfth grade students. On top of that, I got to write for orchestra! The resulting piece was based on motivic ideas expressed by the students, and I called the piece “Nature’s Karmic Vengeance”. Working with Play On Philly was an enriching experience. I had just finished a two-week course teaching Hip-Hop production at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and then I began my duties with P.O.P. I only had 3-5 days to compose the piece; so it was kind of like writing for television with the quick turn-around. I’m used to that anyway. But, I had a lot of fun!

Also, ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) commissioned me to write a series of miniatures work for oboe, viola, cello, and baritone. I’ve recently completed that assignment, and the premiere will either be sometime around October 31st/November 1st; somewhere in there. That piece is called “Coming Forth By Day”, and it was written for the annual Day of the Dead Festival in Houston, Texas.

Other commissions for works-in-progress include a string quartet, an orchestral work for an undisclosed youth symphony that I hope will include a collaboration with Lupita Nyong’o, and a duet for violin and harp. These will keep me busy through the late spring of 2021.

Also, I’ve just been accepted into BMI’s 13th annual Scoring for the Screen Workshop with Rick Baitz. I’ve been applying to BMI film scoring workshops since 1992, and I never got in until now.

Staying busy is important, right? But, keeping true to one’s career and doing the work you want to do…staying on that path no matter what pays off.

NA: Congratulations on all the commissions. Perseverance certainly pays off, and you’ve struggled more than enough. You deserve it all, Kerwin! You’re certainly not a newbie to media scoring and have had moderate success. What has kept you applying for media scoring opportunities?

KY: Networking is always a must, and industry practices are always evolving. Both of these aren’t readily accessible through common internet searches. While large budget, studio films are finally bringing me onboard, I have to keep busy during the pandemic by any means. So, whether I’m composing a two-minute cue each day, online watching tutorials from Trevor Morris, Junkie-XL, and Christian Henson; or if I’m applying to a film scoring opportunity, I’ve got to keep busy and informed. There’s always new software and applications to learn. There are always new sound libraries coming out to test. And, one’s workflow has to be quick and efficient with a full comprehension of all the required integration. Daily practice is essential in this field.

I’ve also upgraded to Nuendo. I’ve switched from Sibelius to Dorico, and I’ve upgraded my external hardware devices. I have to use it all as much as possible, in different ways; to be comfortable handling everything on a consistent basis.

NA: I see. So, we should be seeing your name on the big screen after awhile?

KY: Yup, after the summer of 2021. Hopefully, by then, all international Covid restrictions will have been lifted. Just to think, it only took me 26 years! (Kerwin laughs)

NA: So, what’s next?

KY: A home and a family, but I still need to meet a woman. Everyone wants to get onboard after the train is in motion; no one wants to be part of the journey. I’ve had a long-ass journey already, ya dig what I’m sayin’? That’s always been a huge problem. Getting to know someone takes awhile. I’ve never been one to move fast.

NA: She’s closer than you think. She’ll come as a surprise and right on time just as your commissions. Just keep on, Kerwin. It’s always a pleasure interviewing you for the EOK Times.

KY: Thanks Namhiya!

Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Announcing: “Alternating Currents” Commissioning Project

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the financial difficulties many freelance composers and performers are facing, we are happy to announce the Tesla Quartet “Alternating Currents” commissioning project. We have selected 12 freelance composers whose work has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic to write short works for string quartet, and we will record these new compositions and premiere them on our social media channels under our “Quarantunes” video series. The Tesla Quartet is delighted to be partnering with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music to grant $500 to each composer. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of New Music USA and the New Music USA Solidarity Fund in helping to identify composers-in-need.

  • Eliza Bagg – Los Angeles, CA
  • Kevin Day – Arlington, TX
  • Adeliia Faizullina – Los Angeles, CA
  • Beatrice Ferreira – Montreal, QC
  • Gilbert Galindo – Queens, NY
  • Grey Grant – Ann Arbor, MI
  • Clifton Ingram – Boston, MA
  • Bonnie Lander – Baltimore, MD
  • Adam Maalouf – Brooklyn, NY
  • Leyna Marika Papach – St. Paul, MN
  • Kalia Vandever – Brooklyn, NY
  • Kerwin Young – Fairburn, GA

In the spirit of togetherness and collaboration, each composer has been asked to create an original work of one to three minutes based on the Andante cantabile movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet in A major, Op. 18 No. 5. Composers are encouraged to use the theme or any of the movement’s variations as inspiration for their own works. This new set of variations will ultimately become a new complete work that we will be able to perform alongside Beethoven’s original music. It’s the Tesla Quartet’s own little 250th birthday present.

Because of social distancing precautions, the quartet will record their parts in isolation and edit the video together to create the complete work. The composers are also encouraged to embrace the technological constraints of live video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype to design works that specifically take advantage of issues of latency. The Tesla Quartet will premiere the first new quartet in mid-June. A complete schedule of release dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Tesla Quartet’s “Alternating Currents” commissions are supported by the Tesla Quartet in partnership with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and support from private donors. Special thanks to New Music USA, the New Music USA Solidarity Fund, and the GLFCAM for nominating these composers.

Be sure to follow our social media channels to stay current on all the project updates and composer features. We can’t wait to share this brand new music with you!

As always, stay safe and wash your hands.

Ross, Michelle, Edwin and Serafim


18 MAY 2020

KY New Web Logo A

Namhiya Ati: Kerwin, once again it is a pleasure to interview you. Given the fact we’ve always conducted our interviews online, the current COVID-19 pandemic with its restrictions has not affected our ability to communicate. I thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with the EOK Times

I’m sure this is a constant question, but how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your lifestyle? And, by what methods have you managed to continue working?

Kerwin Young: No need to thank me Namhiya, I’m always available for the EOK Times. For starters, being a composer and recording producer, much of my existence is in isolation. Since I began in 1988, nothing much has changed. It’s definitely been a lifestyle in perpetuity; so when the regulations were put in place, I didn’t have to make any adjustments. The only difference is when I go out shopping, I wear a mask and gloves. But, other than that, my lifestyle hasn’t changed at all.

As for work, all of my concert performances were cancelled and rescheduled for later dates. All of my commissions were postponed, and I had a couple of major ones in the pipeline that I now have to wait for. Orchestra and chamber ensemble concert seasons have all been pushed back to 2021/2022. This now means that I also have a delayed income; since certain expected 2020 commissions will not materialize for another twelve months. As a result, this pandemic has put a dent in my financial planning; as with many other earthlings during this time. We’re all affected. Though on a positive note, I’ve been able to teach online as a guest lecturer with college universities. In June 2020, I begin my second summer teaching the Hip-Hop beat-making lab with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I’m definitely looking forward to that. Of course, that too will be an on-line course.

Other than these few things, I’m still composing my Symphony No. 8 “End of Reign”, and I’m continuing to collaborate on various projects. For example, I’m producing a rap album with an artist named Khasan. He and I have been working on and off together since 1992. A few years ago, we did a song for the motion picture Dirty Grandpa, called I Want It All. I’ve got a recent commission from ROCO for a fall concert. That’s about it. Whatever future work I acquire, I’d be truly thankful. 

I’ve been spending hours on Zoom and YouTube, getting deeper into my software applications (Digital Performer, Cubase, Dorico). Both MOTU and Steinberg have been offering free online tutorials three times a week; so I’ve been soaking it up. One major issue that I’m having is I desperately need a new laptop to continue working. I’m unable to continue with my current laptop, and I don’t see it surviving through the summer. I can’t afford to purchase a new one, and I specifically need a gaming laptop with a minimum of 32 gigs of ram, and with a one terabyte ssd, like the ASUS Zephrys S17 (2020 edition) or the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo UX581. I need this to happen before the start of my first class lecture on June 22nd. Wish me well. I’m always working with less; most of the time…

NA Congratulations on your ROCO commission and teaching assignments. Yes, we are all thankful for whatever work we acquire. I know that you live in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Have you been able to engage the film/television and gaming industries there? Have you been in touch with universities there for online teaching?

KY: I’ll answer your second question, first. When the pandemic hit, I contacted the staff at Kennesaw State, Georgia State, Emory University, Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse, and Spelman Colleges. I mentioned six schools, correct? (Kerwin chuckles) Not one of these schools responded; not one. Major universities and conservatories in other states; however, responded immediately, but here at home… forget about it.

As for media scoring in Atlanta, it’s been an-going quest. Still, one hundred per cent of my work comes from outside Georgia and abroad. However, opportunities that did arise here in Georgia, they were all inadequately funded, and/or presented some reluctance to pay the black guy on the gig; ie: me. I have to deal with a lot of racism and ignorance. Look, there aren’t many black composers. We don’t have any representation, and most black composers are unsupportive of one another. At the end of the day, we get nowhere. You touched on a nerve Namhiya. Though there are successful black composers as Dara Taylor, Segun Akinola, Wilbert Roget II, Michael Abels, Tamar-Kali, Kurt Farquhar, and Kris Bowers, there isn’t any hub for us to convene and learn from one another. Michael Abels founded the Composers Diversity Collective, but it requires a fee to join; when some months ago it was free. Given the current circumstances, many of us cannot pay to join anything. We have to pay for food, water, and shelter. Twenty-four years ago, the Black Filmmaker Foundation supported me at starting up a sister-wing called the Black Film Composers Foundation if I could get two or three established black composers to sit on the governing board. I won’t mention the composers I contacted, but each of them refused. That was in 1996, and still nothing has changed. You see where we are today, still nowhere. 

I think of Wil Vodery, the first black composer in Hollywood. He worked really hard, did a lot; mentored George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, but where is his lineage? Henry Mancini vouched for Quincy Jones to get Quincy in on the action, and Quincy recommended Donny Hathaway; but who else has come from Quincy’s lineage? Where are they and who are they? What about J.J. Johnson, Oliver Nelson, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and Benny Golson? Each of these men paid enormous dues, but were very successful. Who did they open the door for, and where is that lineage, if any? The question must still be asked, who came from these lineages? I’m not criticizing anyone, nor the actions of those who came before, but the lines remain broken. We have failed to put a system in place that serves to represent and unify us. Getting on as an orchestrator or copyist is just as difficult as getting on as a composer. I’ve joined all the major organizations; including the L.A. local, maintaining membership fees and dues, and I put in the leg work for a lot of years. But, none of this made a difference. Queries go unanswered. The dissemination of information is selective. To add to the pot, promises are never kept. A lot of people who know me, they don’t realize that I’ve composed music for major films, major television network series, and video games. What they also don’t know is that I was never credited. Being denied an agent before beginning the work is tough, but being denied an agent after the work has been acquired is a lot worse; and in my case, 25+ years later is even tougher. You have no idea the sacrifices I made and continue to make so that I can keep busy and afford the means to sustain myself.  It’s not easy, and no one gives a shit. 

I find that success in any field, I don’t care what field it is; success comes from a form of nepotism. It’s about who you know. Having an agent, a lawyer, an inside connection is all nepotism. I’ve been told by certain established composers that this isn’t true, but they’re delusional. You’re lucky if your talent lands you work; which for most people isn’t the case. It’s a daily battle. How to get inside and have work is a constant fight. This is the flavor of the game. So, living in Atlanta; where there are lots of film and game production studios, much of the music they acquire is either from a  library, or they hired a composer who does not live in Georgia. Although the films and games are produced in Georgia, the music is outsourced. And, not being represented by one of the agents who negotiates these type of deals will leave the job-seeking composer out on their ass. 

NA: This is certainly a handful of truth and insight to swallow at once. Throughout your career, you’ve demonstrated an enormous sense of perseverance and fortitude; and I gather these are attributed to your martial arts background?

KY: True indeed! Without my martial arts training, there’s no telling what would have become of me. My martial arts training includes the spiritual aspect as well. In both music and martial arts, I’ve been blessed to work and study with the masters. It’s been rewarding in that sense, and so far, I’ve able to through the toughest of times.

NA: Has this global pandemic forced you in any way to restructure your business or to revise your business strategy?

KY: It most certainly has, Namhiya. Because of fear, there will definitely be a decrease in social gathering. Virtual communication will continue to increase and allow for a greater amount of virtual collaboration. In either situation, we can still work, but it requires this type of foresight to know in what way one’s business can expand in the midst of such dynamics. The downside is that certain laws have already been implemented to pay unsustainable royalties for on-line streaming. However, depending upon which medium one is engaged, the royalty rate can be much higher. There’s online teaching as we’ve mentioned earlier, and that offers an added option toward re-structuring my business. Instead of teaching on a seasonal basis, it would be wonderful to teach full-time. However, rejection letters from university review boards are frequent, and the common lay-person has no idea how frustrating this becomes over time. The amount of rejection letters I receive is overwhelming, and a bit ridiculous. 

I think the idea of online concerts presents a problem for composers. Composers will not earn as much from the streaming of a concert performance as they will from a concert performed in a live venue. Going back to the laws that have been passed, the royalty rate is much higher from venues than from streaming services. Another point to mention is that composer commissions for new works will have to increase in the amount paid. In fact, I urge that composers demand higher commissions. So, these are some of the things I’ve looked into during this time.

NA: Not having any solidarity among black composers poses a problem, but among the whole of composers, I’m sure there is a circle of composers in which you engage. You’ve recently composed a work, Eva’s Ashes, as part of the GLFCAMGigThruCOVID in an effort to raise monies for performing artists. You collaborated with violist, Edwin Kaplan of the Tesla String Quartet. How was that experience? How are these works to be premiered? How did this opportunity arise?

KY: Absolutely, there are a handful of composers in which I communicate. None of these are media composers; but we do share upcoming opportunities and happening insights among ourselves. As you know, I was already a resident composer with the Gabriela Lena Frank Composer Academy of Music for Cycle-12 (January/2020 – June/2020). Through this affiliation with GLFCAM, several composers were paired with professional musicians to compose a short work to be premiered on-line. GLFCAM will stream all of the premieres via their YouTube channel. We each have about two weeks to compose the new work. Edwin and I Skyped to discuss the work, its concepts, our likes and dislikes; our musical tastes, etc… It was pretty straightforward, and then after taking a bunch of notes, I went off and wrote the piece. The title of the work came about from a phone conversation with my brother, Saladin.

NA: You also have another premiere rapidly approaching with the Del Sol String Quartet. Will this conclude your residency with the GLFCAM?

KY: Yes, it will. Prior to COVID-19, all of the GLFCAM resident composers were scheduled to reconvene in San Francisco, for our concert premieres with Del Sol. But, since all that has been compromised, it’ll now all be on-line. These too may also stream live via the GLFCAM YouTube channel; though I am uncertain at this time. Namhiya, there’s also another premiere with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra that had been postponed. That concert has not yet been re-scheduled, and as soon as I learn of the premiere date, I will post it to my website events calendar.

NA: We’ve discussed the madness you face in the Georgia media world, but are there any media composition activities in which you are presently engaged?

KY: Just for fun, I’m participating in the Spitfire Audio Westworld Scoring Competition to keep my media scoring chops up. They’re offering a few prizes, but I already own much of their gear and am participating in it just to maintain the practice.

NA: What words of encouragement would you care to impart to our readers as we close this interview?

KY: Continue to manage your diet as best you can, exercise daily (stretching, deep breathing, and muscular-skeletal isometrics), practice cleanliness, and utilize the time we have to build stronger networks; building international networks through collaboration.

NA: Kerwin, it is always a pleasure interviewing you. I hope that by our next interview, you will have received your new gaming laptop and will have acquired work as a media composer.

KY: Thank You, Namhiya, I sure hope so too.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times


Our Modern Marvel

Posted: December 30, 2019 in Press

01 January 2020 interview conducted by Namhiya Ati, EOK Times


NA: Congratulations with the release of your latest Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album, Pan African Dub. What’s the inspiration behind it? I know you’re a one-man band playing everything, but are there any guest musicians on the album? How long have you been working on it? Pan African Dub (Album Cover) 2

KY: Thanks Namhiya. Pan African Dub has been in the making since 2014; since my UMKC days. Yes, I’m playing everything, but there are a few guest musicians featured on the title cut, “All Praise to the Rising Sun”. Additional keyboards are provided by the masterful Eddie Moore, and Xu Xuesi. On violin, there’s brother Omari Imhotep Abdul-Alim featured on “Chopping the Claw (of the Colonizer)”. Accompanying me on vocals is Edna Sophia. This album is a gift and tribute to my ancestors. I was also inspired by the great producers Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Charles Stepney, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Thom Bell, and Johnny Pate.


546bb894b88d4 I originally intended for the album to feature spoken word artists and rappers, but I couldn’t get the cooperation I wanted. It was never intended to be a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album, but…shit happens, and I had to improvise and keep it moving. This is also the ninth KATMM album to be released, and it’s been twenty years since 1999, when I completed the first album, Blackopolis. KATMM began in 1994, in Roosevelt, Long Island, in case you’re wondering. I had the Kasuf part down, and Chuck D suggested I add “and the Mazz Muvement”. Blackopolis was the first album I made with a DAW (digital audio workstation); at that time I used Cubase.

NA: Wow! I learn something new each time we meet. Do you plan on re-releasing older KATMM material?

KY: Absolutely. In fact, I’ve begun re-mastering much of the albums for re-release. There’s almost 150 songs, eight albums before this one. I’m also planning to release a KATMM Greatest Hits album. That’s gonna be a banger!

NA: You bring it on! Over the last two months, you must be completely gassed by your progress as a media composer. I see that you now have your business team in place with a new manager, and finally, an A-list agent.

KY: That’s right. It took forever to get this in place. It’s still a tough journey Namhiya. I haven’t had a manager since 1994, and I’ve been seeking the representation of a film score agent since 1992. Count those years, multiply the rejections, and you’ll get a glimpse of my world.

In 2019, and as recent as October, I got burned on a number of films and documentaries; for reasons of either not being paid adequately, bad contracts, or no contract at all; just some real shady shit. I happen to score films both internationally and domestically; so acquiring the right agent is long over due. Kenny Gamble always says, “The day you quit is the day you get it”; so you gotta keep on, and maintain the flame, keeping that candle burning. I’ll be starting on a short feature film soon; a film written and directed by one of my good friends. I’ll keep you informed so we can do a spot on that once everything is set in writing.

NA: Good, good. Let’s do that! I want to jump along and ask about all your current commissions for new works and their related concert performances. What concert works are you presently, and how much progress have you made with your Symphony No. 8? Have you finished?

KY: Symphony No. 8 is still being edited. I thought I’d be completely done by now, but I did mention previously that by March-May 2020, I would have a final draft. I’m on course with that.

As you know, after my residency with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, I was commissioned by Inscape Chamber Orchestra to write new work they will premiere in April 2020. The piece I’m writing is called Soccer Dance, and it’s inspired by the one and only Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) who will celebrate 80 years in October 2020.

Another new work is The Legacy of “Lefty” LaMarque, a work commissioned by Janet Grace Riehl; in honor of the left-handed ace of the infamous Kansas City Monarchs. This work is a collaboration with Lefty’s brother Joe, who is a master artist. The two of us were commissioned to create original art and music that honors the legacy of Lefty LaMarque. The premiere coincides with the 100th anniversary of Negro Leagues formation. If you don’t already know, I’m a huge baseball fan and the KC Monarchs, to me, is the greatest baseball team ever!

As far back as fall of 2017, Joe LaMarque and I planned our collaboration and sought support from the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Unfortunately, we did not receive any support. I also wanted to compose a suite for jazz big band in honor of Lefty, but securing a venue and the musicians never manifested. Thanks to Janet Grace Riehl and the IMI Chamber Players, Joe and I were finally able to bring our collaboration to life; only this time for woodwind quintet. It premieres in February 2020. Perhaps, the Negro League Baseball Museum may get involved? We’ll see.

Another concert work in the making is a string quartet to be workshopped at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music over the next six months. I’m really looking forward to that. In June, The Del Sol Quartet will premiere six works by the current resident composers at GLFCAM.

Also, in the works are two collaborative orchestral works with two phenomenal women authors. I chose these collaborations after reading their books, and I decided that I will adapt their work to music. It’s for the children.

NA: Categorically labeled an “under-represented” composer, what are your thoughts on diversity?

KY: To me, diversity is just a word on a checklist that organizations must address at least once during their fiscal year to ensure they remain funded; and to appear politically correct before their peers in the business arena; regardless of how shady they may actually be. The word means nothing. Essentially, it’s a charity write-off by a hoard of heartless hosts.

NA: This is a touchy subject for many, and you are absolutely correct. For you, what are some solutions to combating this?

KY: Guilds and constant networking; without changing oneself or conforming to an alien agenda; an agenda far removed from what you seek. Guild membership is essential for any profession, and proper networking will prove successful over time. It’s easy to be a “Yes” man or woman, but to hold fast and do for self, that’s a tough road to travel upon; and oftentimes a lonely one. Just for an opportunity and a piece of the action, I’ve seen a lot of people lose themselves in an impatient pursuit of someone else’s agenda; willingly forfeiting their own identity and culture in exchange for someone else’s. Screw all of that.

NA: Heavy! If I recall correctly, you also mention these very things in your college lectures, true?

KY: Yup, all the time. In life, you’re gonna struggle with something no matter what; no matter who you are, rich or poor. I always say, “It’s far better to struggle at the thing you love, than to abandon it and struggle with something you hate.” I live by this wholeheartedly.

NA: Kerwin, this has a been another enlightening interview. I look forward to our next sitdown once you’ve begun scoring your next film. 

KY: Most definitely Namhiya.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

24 August 2019,

NA: As the fourth quarter gradually approaches, you’ve accumulated quite a number of accomplishments this year. Within the months of July and August, you’ve seemed to garner more accolades than the preceding six months. You’ve certainly been the talk amongst the EOK Times staff. Job well done, Kerwin.

In July, you were named a Teresa Carreño Fellow with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for the 2020 season. Congratulations! Each year, only a select few composers are accepted into the GLFCAM. For what ensemble will you be composing during your residency?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. The EOK Times has been very supportive, and I give thanks to you all. I was surprised when I received the news. Gabriela contacted me personally, and I was quite excited. I’ll be composing a new work for the award-winning Del Sol String Quartet, based in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to an intense residency. I finally have an opportunity to hear one of my string quartets performed. The last string quartet I composed was in 2015, Mark Lewis in Hong Kong. It’s never been performed, and although I plan on composing a totally new string quartet, I’ll carry that work along with the hope to test it out.

NA: Amazing. I was going to ask whether you’ve written for the chosen instrumentation before. Knowing you prefer to compose for larger forces; specifically orchestra, what are some of the challenges that a composer like Kerwin Young faces when selected to write for an ensemble of this size?

KY: Hmnn… Well, to be truthful, before I began composing for orchestra, I spent a lot of time studying Bela Bartok’s six string quartets. The Bartok string quartets were the only chamber music I looked at. I forgot how I was introduced to his work, but that must have been sometime during the late 1990’s. I still have the double CD I purchased at Tower Records, performed by the Novak Quartet. Of all the string quartet scores and recordings I’ve acquired, I appreciate Bartok’s the most.

NA: Bartok’s string quartets are among the greatest ever written. When does your residency begin, and when will the Del Sol String Quartet premiere your work?

KY: The residency is set to begin in January, with the premiere coming in June. So, I’ll need to pace myself and wrap up the work by late April 2020.

NA: Are you composing other works that may pose any deadline challenges?

KY: Yes! Inscape Chamber Orchestra is commissioning me to compose a new work for  an April premiere. That will definitely overlap with the writing of my string quartet; though only during the early stages. But, an overlap is an overlap, and it does require much time management. I also spend a lot of time composing for picture; so, that too must be maintained. Plus, I’m also composing my eighth symphony.

NA: You’ve begun your eighth already? Unbelievable! How far along with that are you, and how did your commission with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra develop?

KY: Ha haaaa (Kerwin laughs) Yeah! I’m onto the fourth movement now. I’ve got complete sketches for the preceding three movements, and the motivic ideas are fully developed.

The Inscape commission came about after a series of correspondences. I approached them about a collaboration, and through our on-going discussions came the commission. I love their ensemble, the flexibility of it, and the fact that I can write without feeling restricted due to the instrumentation. That’s going to be a FUN piece; though on the short side.

NA: For your eighth symphony, is there a working title? When do you think you’ll complete it?

KY: No, there’s no working title yet. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m a bit undecided on that. It’ll all come together once I begin to wrap it all up. At the pace I’m writing, I may complete it by February or March 2020. It’s safe to say that I’ll complete it by May 2020; that’s realistic.

NA: Have you scored any films in the past few months?

KY: Yeah, I’ve been collaborating with director, Deidre Thomas. We’ve been working together since 2003. I scored her first film, which was also the first feature film I scored. Looking back on my past work, I can say that I know what I’m doing now. Composers need lots of opportunities to grow, fail, and learn. I’ve had my share since 1994.

I haven’t scored any releases yet this year, though I’ve scored a lot of projects currently being shopped. I’ve been upgrading my rig all year, and have added on some really cool gear. I’m writing everyday, messing around with new ideas, new software, and crafting new scoring templates across Digital Performer and Pro Tools. I’m keeping busy.

NA: In the pop world, are there any new releases, or expected releases? What new projects are you currently working on?

KY: DJ Cool and I produced a song for Gambit’s new album, Underground Kingpin. We have a cut on there called “Super-Sonic” that was originally intended for a 2017 documentary film about NBA Hall of Famer, and Super Sonic legend, Spencer Haywood. The project never went beyond the initial Seattle premiere; so Gambit decided to repurpose it and include it on his new album.

Relating to other recording projects, sheduled releases include three new albums within the next few months. There’s a soundtrack album, a world/reggae album that I’ve been producing since 2014, and the third is a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album.

The soundtrack and world music albums were mastered this week. I used Studio One 4 Pro for the mastering and arranging of the albums. Studio One also has an amazing batch processor that allows one to check the overall loudness and peak of the entire project or individual songs. It comes in quite handy for checking the LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale) for each song. In the Projects window, I can make all the necessary adjustments until it suits my needs. In compliance with the loudness standard for online streaming, I also find Presonus, Nugen, and IK Multimedia to have the most accurate metering plug-ins available. I own the TC Electronic’s Lm2, but in my opinion, it’s not as accurate as the others.

Sorry to get on the subject of production and mastering, but I’ve been doing that for many years, and it’s a vital part of the creative process.  The albums will be out during the fall.

NA: Hearing a sneak peak of your releases, you’ve got a wide range with sounds I never heard before. That’s saying a lot from a woman who grew up in India, and was educated in South Africa and Europe.

KY: I just thought of Jimi Hendrix, and the question, Are You Experienced? (Kerwin laughs)

NA: We’ve discussed your residency, your commission, your eighth symphony, your media composition, and your upcoming album releases. Now, let us focus on your diplomatic duties pertaining to cultural exchange.

In 2017, you traveled to Egypt with Next Level as a Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador. Your on-going activity with Next Level recently brought you to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for two weeks in June 2019, as part of their Hip-Hop Institute. It’s now August 2019, and Next Level has appointed you Performing Rights Associate.

First, congratulations on your new post. Second, how did this new position develop, and what exactly does your position entail?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. You know, I’m truly honored by this, and humbled. My on-going advocacy for song-writers, producers, and artists to own and control their publishing; and to spend as much time focusing on the business aspects of their career as they do on the creative, has come full circle. It’s no secret that I lost millions early in my career for lack of a publishing company and proper representation. When I became aware, I made sure to share my experience and remedies with those coming up alongside me and behind me. Long story short, I’ve been educating and building others through awareness of performing rights and intellectual property since 1992.

Mark Katz (Founding Director, Next Level) and Junious “House” Brickhouse (Director, Next Level) through their observation, brought to my attention the combination of music and entrepreneurship that I’m so passionate about. It was suggested that through this type of dialogue and awareness, Next Level representatives could better address much of the challenges encountered by artists in the U.S. and abroad. Through the sharing of information and implementation, we can better assist the artists we engage. Many of the international artists we encounter have enormous talent, but either lack the economic resources or the government support. So, born out of this, I was brought on to continue the work I’ve already been doing. Once again, I’m honored. Next Level has taken something I’ve been doing for much of my career to a global plateau.

NA: Your road is quite unique. It’s quite an honor to be in your presence, and having your permission to conduct these interviews. All of your activities are new seeds yet to sprout. Until next time.


Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Kerwin Young Completes 7th Symphony

Posted: April 23, 2019 in Press

History was made on April 22nd, 2019, when Kerwin Young penned the last note of his Symphony No. 7. Few American composers can make claim to such an accomplishment, and Young now joins an elite group of living composers with seven symphonies or more. Congratulations Maestro!

NA: Kerwin, you continue to shock and amaze us through your relentless output. What has inspired you to compose seven symphonies? What challenges are you currently faced with?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. My teacher, Chen Yi, would always tell me to continue writing. And, since I don’t make distinctions between different styles of music, I just continue to create. Sometime around 1999 and 2000, I made an assessment of the landscape as to what composers were not doing, and I decided to fill that void and to not stop.

As for challenges, it’s the same ol’ thing of composers not having their works performed, and not being commissioned to write new works. I’ve never been commissioned to compose an orchestral work. Never ever; not yet. Aside from recent performances and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reading, I’m invisible. No one’s paying any attention to my work or career achievement. I’ve been doing this for 30+ years, and there’s a type of sophisticated; yet purposeful rejection at play, making it quite difficult to earn a decent living.


NA: Are there any orchestras interested in performing your work(s)? Any conductors? What orchestras or conductors would you love to collaborate with?

KY: The only orchestra at the moment who has taken any interest in my work is the University City Symphony under the baton of Leon Burke III. If there are other interested orchestras out there, it’s their little secret. No one has expressed any interest in me or my work yet. I would love to have my music performed by the L.A. Phil (Dudamel), the Berlin Phil, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the NY Phil.

Tirelessly, I’ve solicited my music to all the college orchestras and lower tier orchestras, and they’re all unresponsive and exclusive; just as the majors. So, I don’t bother myself with any of them. Instead, I focus on the big guys. I’ve earned the right.


NA: When I think of living composers of color who possess a large body of work, I immediately think of you and Wynton Marsalis. How long is your latest symphony, and is it a multi-movement work or in one movement?

KY: You just compared me with Wynton Marsalis?! Whoa…I dig that Namhiya! This is why I love you! Symphony No. 7 is seventy-five minutes long. It’s in D minor, and its got four movements. There’s no choir in this one, and unlike the previous six symphonies, it’s without a subtitle. As with my favorite saying, “Music speaks louder than words”; I will allow the listeners imagination to determine a subject. Oh…, that might take years to happen, lol!

Before I began my initial sketches, I listened to a lot of seventh symphonies by my favorite composers. And, then I said to myself, keep the music personal and true to ME. A lot of people expect a symphonic composer to write in a European tradition, but I’m not European. I’m Kerwin, and I decided long ago to write Kerwin’s music. When I’m producing an artist and writing music for an artist, I have to cater to the artist. When I’m composing a film score, I have to satisfy the producers, the directors, and the film. But, when it comes to concert music; there’s a lot of music that I want to hear that I haven’t heard yet; so I’m writing it.


NA: You mentioned your UMKC Conservatory days with your professors. What else from those times has found its way into your sound palette? 

KY: Well, without Bobby Watson, I would have NO proper knowledge on the function of harmony. Originally, after the Paris Conservatory rejected me on account that I was too old at 32, I only intended to return to school to brush up on harmony and orchestration. I’d been writing songs, producing, and transcribing music for years; but I lacked the applicative sense of how to handle harmony over a long span of time. What my music theory classes were wasting whole semesters on, Bobby Watson covered with me in one day at the piano! Bobby made everything click, and when I got it, I was off and running! In fact, and for the record, Bobby Watson and Chen Yi were my main teachers while at UMKC, and I also learned quite a lot from Zhou Long. I had other classes like Ear Training and Piano which are necessary essentials. But for the rest of it; regurgitating useless information for the sake of passing an exam, there’s nothing I held onto from any of it.


NA: Now with seven symphonies forever attached to your list of concert works, have you prepared any plans for future symphonies or other large works?

KY: Yes. There are approximately eight orchestral works that I’ve begun sketches for. Those particular works are massive undertakings. These do include future symphonies. I don’t plan to compose another symphony as long as my seventh; so, I’ll be sure to keep them under an hour.

I think if I were scoring major motion pictures; which I’ve been pushing to do since 1994, I wouldn’t be writing so many large orchestral works. But, since I’m not in demand for neither, I’m writing until I can’t write anymore.


NA: Kerwin, It’s always a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything you would like to add?

KY: Thank You Namhiya; the pleasure is all mine. I would like to add that I want a residency with a major orchestra. I want all of my symphonies programmed; including my Kasuf Tetralogy. And, if any filmmakers catch wind of this, 2019 is my 25th year trying to score my first feature film. I want to score feature films with great stories, and I’m looking to collaborate with any serious filmmaker that would bring me on board.



Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

Kerwin Young is among four composers honored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra readings scheduled in early March 2019. National recognition by any major orchestra is no small feat, and definitely a well earned accomplishment through much persistence. Kerwin’s American Caravan is scheduled for two readings during an intense week of events. During the DSO residency, each composer will participate in educational outreach with a youth ensemble, performing and analyzing re-orchestrated and reharmonized versions of their work.


I had the pleasure of catching up with our beloved maestro after his return from Saint Louis, where Titus Underwood (principal Oboe – Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and Peter Henderson (Piano – St. Louis Symphony) premiered Kerwin’s “A Composers Passion“.

Kerwin mentioned how this chamber work, originally composed as a movement for Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, ended up not being used. Young says, “This piece had been a dedication to Leontyne Price, and it was written with a lot of deep feeling. I know when I’ve got something good; so I put it aside, knowing that it would eventually get performed. Thanks to the Intercultural Musicians Initiative, it’s premiere was very well received, and it was a memorable event.” 

Kerwin, still composing Symphony No. 7, had this to say: “I’m almost done with Symphony No. 7; I’m neck deep in the final movement now. I want it to be longer than my Symphony No. 2, which is sixty-six minutes, and my longest work so far. I also want it to be more epic than my previous six symphonies. I’ve got it around seventy minutes now, and I’m lovin’ it! I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m taking my time finalizing it. It’s basically complete; I’m just fine-tuning some things here and there; filling in the gaps and making corrections. I’m writing music that I want to hear, and with a look that I want my published scores to be known for. I think every composer ought to do that; have an identity”Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age

Kerwin has also expressed the significance of 2019 being a year of assorted anniversaries and celebrations. On the downside of things, 2019 makes 25 years at unsuccessfully acquiring the opportunity to score his first feature film. On the upside, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album; and it’s been 30 years since Kerwin’s first Bomb Squad album projects: Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy, 1989) and Amerikkkaz Most Wanted (Ice Cube, 1989). Kerwin had this to say, “If you only knew how much I want to be scoring major motion pictures! That’s what got me writing for orchestra in the first place. What I’ve had to go through thus far….It soon come!” 


Namhiya Ati, 19 February 2019.








Kerwin Young begins 2019 composing the film score to Miss Jackson, a dramatic film short directed by Seneca Robinson. Maestro Kerwin Young is quite pleased by the creative chemistry this composer-filmmaker collaboration offers, and looks forward to a lengthy alliance.

Symphony No. 7 now has the first three movements complete, and Young affirms to have a final draft by mid-March 2019. The running time is already at the 50-minute mark, and Young surmises it will exceed the duration of his Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West), which is sixty-six minutes.

On January third, The American Composers Orchestra awarded Kerwin with a composer residency through its EarShot program with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Congratulations Mr. Young!

2019 is also the 25th anniversary of Public Enemy’s Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age album, which was produced by Chuck D and Kerwin Young.

More to come…..


N. Ati

Kerwin Young With Namhiya Ati, Part 2

Posted: December 11, 2018 in Press

Interview conducted by Namhiya Ati, 10 December 2018

Ati: Hi Kerwin, again it’s a pleasure to interview you. During our previous interview, you were composing your seventh symphony. How is that coming along, and what difficulties have you encountered, if any?

KY: I’ve since completed the first two movements. They’re rock solid, and I’m into the third movement right now; with some material for the fourth movement fleshed out and fully orchestrated. For me, writing the second movement always poses the greatest challenge. Deciding on what material from the opening statement that I ought to develop first, and how I will map out the musical journey for the second movement is ALWAYS my biggest hurdle. I’m always thinking about the audience and how I want to keep them engaged and enthused by what they’re hearing. I also want to write something that I’ve never composed before, and make it as dope as I possibly can.

Ati: Are there any talks for a premiere of Symphony No. 7?

KY: At this moment, no. I’m quite certain this will change over the next four months. Keep in mind that there are six other symphonies that remain unperformed as well; not to mention my ballet suite, and orchestral fantasies. The only performed orchestral works are Season of Autocracy and Rabat Waterfront Fantasy. I’ll probably wrap up composing sometime in January or early February; with another month of editing the final score.

Ati: Do you compose many chamber works?

KY: Nah. I like writing large works too much. On occasion I will write a much smaller work, but getting those works performed is just as difficult. If I’m going to write anything, I like to make it a worthwhile investment. So, I go large all the time. My end game is film scoring; so I like to keep a large landscape in sight, developing thematic material over a vast timeline.

Ati: Do you receive any guidance or wisdom from your peers; older composers?

KY: I wish. Chen Yi and Zhou Long continue to be helpful; they’re the only ones really. In my opinion, many of my so-called peers / elders have failed us. They really don’t care, and many of them practice that old-school plantation division without realizing it. They haven’t formed any sort of support system or composer community for those coming up behind them. To many of them, if one doesn’t have a doctoral degree; then that composer cannot be apart of their little club. Many of them are gatekeepers against real progress, and they’re so caught up in their foolish ways, they don’t even realize how ignorant they are.

For instance, while studying at UMKC, I contacted several of my elders; and many of them were unresponsive. If they did respond, it was quite short and uninspiring; at best offering a simple “good luck” as the only advice. And these are well known concert composers I’m speaking of! And I saved the emails.

Ati: That’s terrible.

KY: Truly!

Ati: Have you considered pursuing a doctorate?

KY: While at UMKC I did, but I have no interest in promoting western thought. If I should ever go back to school for whatever reason, it would be in pursuit of film scoring. As you know, I’ve been pursuing scoring a feature film for 26 years now. I’ve never had representation, and though my music has been in several blockbuster films, I’ve yet to score one. The only reason I would consider schooling for this is NOT to learn anything, but to build relationships with filmmakers and agents.

Ati: What filmmakers are you into this week?

KY: Hmnnn…..this week I’ve been checking out Ryan Coogler interviews on YouTube, his film work prior to Black Panther, and some of the films that he’s referenced as his personal inspiration. This week, I’m also into Steven Caple, Jr., and some Coen Brothers films that I’ve never seen.

Ati: I’m sure you’d love to score a Ryan Coogler film. Have you made any progress at securing film scoring work since our last interview?

KY: Ludwig Goransson is Ryan’s composer, and he’s a bad-ass cat who’s got that on lock. The ideal situation for any media composer is to have a working relation with a great filmmaker. I have yet to secure any work; though I pursue it daily. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s been 26 years now, and I’m still pushing. It’s unnecessarily difficult. I’ve got several scripts to films that are still awaiting production approval. But, even if or when they get approved, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be the composer. Will the producers fight to have me onboard? Or, will the producers hire a top gun with a track record? You never know; yet I remain optimistic. I don’t have any composer friends in the film industry; though I would love to.

I’m also collaborating with fresh-on-the-scene filmmakers who at the moment are only making 5-6 minute shorts. While that’s kool to an extent, and I can build a working relationship with the filmmaker and practice my craft; that particular work won’t go anywhere. I have to get some REAL work, you know what I mean?

Ati: You’re living in Atlanta, Ga, and the film scene is really happening there. Have you been engaging the Atlanta film community?

KY: I have been since 1999. I began scoring student films at Clark Atlanta University, thanks to the late Wynton Mayo. From that, I began meeting filmmakers at the Atlanta Film Festival, and collaborating on films with local filmmakers. None of those films, except for two, ever hit the market. There’s nothing from those films that I can put on my score reel or add to my IMDb page. Atlanta is a hub filled with tight cliques of who you know. There are a number of film organizations in the A-town, but they’re not welcoming to media composers; at least not to a black one. Scoring a film in Atlanta is just as difficult as getting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to program one of my orchestral works. It’s the same superficial bs on both sides that makes it appear as if they practice harmony in business relations. We know they do not! Both arenas already have their token negroes to make it appear as if they include all. The last thing they want is some bad-ass black composer who has also produced Public Enemy. This seems like a hard pill to swallow for most of those people. They don’t want to show that type of diversity. Promoting a white dude with these same attributes isn’t a problem, and they’ve made that the new normal; we see it all the time. My experience over the last 31 years has shown that these folk do not wish to support or promote this type of diversity from the black community.

Ati: That’s a handful Kerwin!

KY: Damn right it is.

Ati: I’m sure you see a change coming, or otherwise you wouldn’t continue your pursuit. Is this a correct assumption?

KY: Yeah, that’s accurate. Just look at all the years gone by though! All because of this type of stereotypical practice. It’s wicked. I’ve definitely experienced an excess amount of intentional rejection. And, then I’m also refused an agent too. Explain that to me? Like how can a cat like myself, a composer of 7 symphonies, platinum & gold recording producer, grammy nominated, and in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not have an agent? Explain that to me. Who lobbies for me? It’s madness. I want my orchestral works performed, and I want to compose for film and television; just to earn a decent living doing what I love. Other people have made it damn near impossible for me to obtain this. I need help…I can’t keep doing it alone. I have scoring credits, and I’ve held a college professorship teaching media scoring as well.

Ati: Your determination is an inspiration to many I’m certain. I commend you for your constant encouragement to young composers and recording producers; sharing your life experience. Keep on Kerwin!

KY: Thank you Namhiya!





2018 has been a very busy year for composer Kerwin Young, who is now in the midst of writing his seventh symphony. The year has seen the completion of Symphony No. 6 (The Plagiarist), his ballet suite Dumas-Pushkin Suite, the revised Reclamation, and three new orchestral fantasies: Chasing El Diablo, Over 200 Films, and American Caravan; attributing to more than one hour and thirty minutes of performance time. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerwin Young during a recent Ethiopian celebration in Washington, D.C.


Interview conducted by Namhiya Ati


Ati: Mr. Young, what drives you to compose so much music, and why for symphony orchestra?

KY: Since high school, I’ve always wanted to write music for film. I’ve faced so much rejection and intentional refusal that I chose to compose for orchestra until that day when I finally breakthrough as a media composer. I enjoy writing for orchestra, as I can paint sonic pictures, and remain creative at a high level. Also, I wanted to destroy the stereo-types associated with someone who’s produced a large body of work as a recording producer, mainly hip-hop.

Ati: Prior to your beginnings as a recording producer, did you have any music training?

KY: Certainly. I began as a musician at a very early age; it came natural to me. When I began grade school, I played alto saxophone in the school’s band for four years. Then it was 1984, and I was knee deep in the happening culture; I became a disc-jockey doing parties. Then, I became a professional disc-jockey, and then a recording producer.

Ati: At what point did you begin to study music composition, and why?

KY: 1994 was the year, and I had grown tired of making beats for rap artists. It didn’t challenge my creativity. Much of the lyrical content wouldn’t get any radio airplay, and I felt it a waste of energy creating music for someone’s personal gratification. And as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to compose for film, and so I began that process by studying orchestration and instrumentation at home. I would transcribe music from recordings, as well as visit the local university library. And, of course, the study of filmmaking.

Ati: Now you are composing Symphony No. 7; a pinnacle very few composers achieve in one lifetime. You’ve had quite a busy year composing several orchestral works; including Symphony No. 6. Is this work a commission? 

KY: No, Symphony No. 7 isn’t a commission. Like all of my orchestral works, they are born out of my love of symphonic writing. I write a lot of large works; works that exceed the standard instrumentation for even the top orchestras like the New York Phil or the Berlin Phil. I write really fast too. I write on the bus, the subway; away from the piano. I can compose a fifteen minute work in 3 days. I write all the time; I’m really comfortable composing for the orchestra. Of course, every once and awhile I have to check a few things out concerning fingering or register, but that’s common, and one never knows everything. I’m always learning new things. This is also why and how I’m able to compose so many orchestral works in a year.

I think if I were a college professor or busy scoring films, I wouldn’t have the luxury of composing for the orchestra. But, since neither of those offerings have yet to come my way, I remain busy writing. I don’t see anyone else writing as aggressive as I am, so why not do it. I’m almost half way into Symphony No. 7, and it’s going to be a lengthy, kick-ass piece. It also conforms to the standard orchestra; give or take two extra musicians: 3233/4331, timp+4, hp, pno-cel, strings. I would love to be commissioned to compose for orchestra, and I know it’ll come.

Ati: Wow! You also have a vast background with several accolades. As a member / producer of Public Enemy for 30 years, you guys are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You also served as a Next Level / US Cultural Ambassador to Egypt last December. Why is it so difficult for you to acquire work as a film composer? Don’t you have an agent?

KY: That’s a handful Namhiya! I wish I did; seriously! I do not have an agent. I’ve been trying for over 25 years now; and I’m always made to wait or told that I don’t have enough credits or this and that. Makes me kind of sick to a point. Then there’s the spiel about not accepting any unsolicited material. I’ve mentored guys fresh on the block who have agents. It’s almost as though I’m invisible, but I won’t quit.

Ati: How do you manage to keep abreast without any scoring gigs; besides composing for orchestra?

KY: Each day I compose music to a film clip; many times the same bunch of clips. I work out different scenarios each time; trying different methods. Then I mix the music; rendering it out as an mp3 or wav file for my score reel, and as an mp4 for my show reel. And, I’m always learning new software; working in different DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations). I remain a student of the craft.

Ati: Have you any experience scoring a full length feature?

KY: Absolutely; though quite infrequent. I’m quite comfortable scoring an 80-minute film or a 6 minute short. I’m just not getting any work. I really do need representation; it would help my hustle just a tad-bit more. I find a lot of work opportunities, and I get close to it; but if I had proper representation, I could close those deals.

Ati: What is your DAW of choice? What DAW’s do you work with?

KY: My main axe is Digital Performer. It kicked my ass getting over the learning curve! There’s a few shortcuts I can still learn, but I’ve got it down now. I’ve tried Cubase, but I’m not a fan of it. I did most of my old Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement albums with Cubase; with much success. Depending on the project, I may work in Studio One or Pro Tools. I’ve got lots of options here. I may sit at the piano and sketch into one of my Moleskine’s, and then input that either into Sibelius, or via step record into DP or Studio One. It depends on how I wish to work. I may also start in Sibelius and then spit out a music XML file into DP, or sync Sibelius via rewire with Pro Tools. When I’m scoring to one of those film clips I mentioned, I can choose any of these options. Then there are my options as to how I want to stream the video. Do I want to run it in DP, or do I want to slave Pro Tools to DP? Do I wish to run picture in Sibelius and compose? In Studio One and compose? I’ve got choices, and I love the flexibility of choosing, because when presented with a real scenario that might force me into a corner, I can at least remedy the situation quite fast. At least I want to think so.

Ati: Are there any sound libraries that you prefer, certain instruments? With your background as a hip-hop producer, it was customary to build your own, unique sound palette. Do you maintain that practice now as a media composer?

KY: Absolutely! When I think of all the composers whose work I admire, they each have a unique sound/style. I’m a big fan of “self-borrowing”, because that sound, that repetition of tonal/sonic identity is one’s style. So, maintaining the long practice of creating unique sounds for oneself remains important. There are so many libraries out there too. I really love Spitfire Audio! I’m a Spitfire junkie! They’ve created the perfect community for media composers in my opinion; not just sound libraries. Other sound libraries I really dig are Strezof-Sampling, 8Dio and ProjectSam; oh, and East/West. I’ve always been big on synths too; so I’ve got a large arsenal in that department. I also play several instruments, which contribute to my overall sound as well.

Ati: Are there any film directors whose work you admire?

Ahh…I thought you’d never ask. I always think on this. Here’s a few, but definitely not my full list; just the top of the stack: Antoine Fuqua, Tomas Alfredson, Denis Villeneuve, James Cameron, and Dan Gilroy.

Ati: You may be closer than you think as far as your film scoring pursuits go Kerwin. It’s been a great honor interviewing you, and I’m certain that this is the first of many to come.

KY: Thankyou Namhiya. It’s been an honor to share with you a few hours of our life.

Kerwin Young Sets the Record Straight

Posted: August 28, 2018 in Press

Contrary to belief, and due to much ignorance by interviewers who constantly reject publishing the facts I give them, I come from a traditional music background.

I may not have had piano or violin lessons, but I was first chair alto saxophone in my elementary school band for four years, where I learned how to read music. I also studied with my dad, who was a legendary trombonist, and he taught me how to transpose parts and read both alto and bass clef when I was a pre-teen! I also sang in a church choir (to my reluctance) from 1977-1983, and we performed at Carnegie Hall.

I was in my school’s band from 1979-1983, and rap music was in full force (The Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, Sequence, Crash Crew, Funky Four, Run DMC etc…). I was feeling the current music scene a whole lot more than Sousa. I was feeling pop music in general, and not just rap music. So, quite naturally I discontinued playing in band.

I did, however, resume playing the saxophone in 1994; but I switched to tenor saxophone (heavily influenced by John Coltrane). I was also mentored by famed drummer Roy Haynes, who was a local resident in the neighborhood.

Yes, I was a professional disc-jockey, which did launch my career spinning alongside DJ Tommie Allen at the Spectrum Café, in East Meadow, Long Island, five nights a week (August 1988-Spring 1990). I was an under-aged dj in a grown up environment. Everything was overlapping. I graduated high school in June 1988, and I had already begun working with Public Enemy a year earlier.

Here’s An Unknown Fact: I actually began needle dropping and making mix/pause tapes in 1978! That’s one year before Rapper’s Delight!! My eldest brother would bring home party tapes in 1977 and ’78, so I was well aware of the beats used underneath the mc’s. I had a thorough knowledge of pop music since the age of 4, and my dad always kept me with a musical instrument since that time as well. I grew up when the radio was not stylistically segregated and splintered as it is now. The playlists were quite diverse. AM radio was popular when I was a youngster. FM didn’t become mainstream until 1979, and that’s when the division became more and more apparent. I was exposed to all genres of music as a child, and I was also fascinated by movies and film music.

I began composing to paper in 1994, and by 2000, I had completed 2 large orchestral scores, and was writing my first symphony (symphony no. 1 took ten years to complete). In 2002, I enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, and they told me that I was too old! Stunned by this, I spent the next six years off the grid, disgusted; though remaining creative. In 2009, I enrolled at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to resume my studies in orchestration and harmony. However, at that time, I had an enormous body of work already.

Rap Artists Kerwin Young Has Worked With

Posted: August 23, 2018 in Press
Tags: ,

Several people have requested that I post a list of all the rap artists I’ve worked with over the years. There may be a listing somewhere in a previous blog, but here is a dedicated blog that addresses this concern.

Here is a complete list of artists that I as a producer have collaborated with since 1989. This list ONLY pertains to artists who have had recording deals with national and/or international releases.

  1. 5ive-0
  2. 8-Off the Assassin
  3. Apache
  4. Brothers Grimm (aka The Gravediggaz)
  5. Busta Rhymes
  6. Chief Groovy Loo and the Chosen Tribe
  7. Chuck D
  8. Cracka Jacks
  9. Daddy-O
  10. Dr. Dre
  11. Dream Warriors
  12. Eric B. & Rakim
  13. Fric-n-Frac
  14. Grandaddy I.U.
  15. Ice Cube
  16. I.G.T.
  17. Intelligent Hoodlum (aka Tragedy)
  18. Interrogators
  19. Kings of Pressure
  20. Leaders of the New School
  21. Lejuan Love
  22. Luke Skywalker and the 2 Live Crew
  23. MC Trouble
  24. Mobb Deep
  25. Poison Clan
  26. Prodigy
  27. Professor Griff / Professor Griff and the Last Asiatic Disciples
  28. Public Enemy
  29. Punk Barbarians
  30. Queen I-Asia
  31. Roc Marcy
  32. Rich Nice
  33. Rahiem (of the Furious Five)
  34. Schooly D
  35. Sista Souljah
  36. Smooth Ice
  37. Son of Bazerk
  38. Sonny Skillz
  39. True Mathematics
  40. Undercover Anarchists
  41. Young Black Teenagers
  42. Yung Joc

Super-Mega props to my buddy Brian Tyler for a kick-ass score to Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone. A few months back, I read in Film Score Monthly that Brian had the gig, but totally forgot; until I saw his name appear in the opening credits. What I love a lot is that it’s a far breath away from the more action driven music we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Brian Tyler. I’m also loving the show as a whole, and I plan to continue watching. HOT!


Music I’ve been diggin’ on lately is Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead, Sun Ra, Fletcher Henderson, and Giacchino’s score to Incredibles 2.


As for my personal endeavors, I’ve edited my Symphony No. 1, Bolivar, and U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves. And, after some amendment to Reclamation, and Symphony No. 5, I can begin to focus on the new works in progress as Guanyin of the Southern Sea.

Of course there are ALWAYS recording production projects I’m working on, but I NEVER mention those until after they’ve been released; and that also goes for project ideas I’m working on. But, I’m still pushing to score my first major motion picture, and to be busy composing for media and concert orchestra (earning); not jumping through hoops for anyone. It would be great if I were busy doing that.





Hot off the press is the newly composed and completed ballet suite, Dumas – Pushkin Suite. Mentioned in my latest blog, it remains highly anticipated in Europe (France, Russia, Prague, and Berlin). It’s a homage to two of the greatest literary artists since the early nineteenth century, Alexandre Dumas and Alexander Pushkin. It’s a twenty-two minute epic suite for orchestra.

Up next, I am completing my long awaited concerto for zheng, orchestra, and women’s chorus, Guanyin of the Southern Sea. This work has been almost nine years in the making! Revision after revision. It should be completed no later than December 2018. I’ve contacted some incredible zheng performers as well. I have to admit that I’ve actually known some for quite awhile. This work has taken so long because I’ve been wanting to figure out how to approach writing for zheng, not repeating myself when compared to previous works I’ve written for zheng. The guzheng is one of my favorite instruments, and I don’t like repeating myself. Oh yeah, here’s a little side note…Guanyin of the Southern Sea will receive premieres in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, and Singapore.

Revisions to Reclamation and Bolivar are also underway; with no set deadline for either. I’ve got enough concert works in the shed (incomplete sketches, proposed ideas, and finished works needing amendments) to keep myself busy in-between media scoring assignments.

Film scoring mock-ups, utilizing the many sound libraries for my mock-up cues, have provided me with a new inspiration. I’ve been re-introduced to certain combinations of colors that I’ve long since abandoned or have forgotten about. Since the fall of 2017, these colors have found their way into my concert works. Some pretty awesome combinations of instruments that I’ve been using. I’m sure you’ll like to know which! But, now is NOT the time.

Once upon a time, my scoring process was quite different! I started out as a media composer before sound libraries existed. I’ve come a long way from pencil and sketch paper, external modules and synths racks to the current one-stop DAW.  So, I’ve grown with the new advancements in tech and so forth since the early 1990’s. It’s wonderful! However, I continue to blend the new with the old.

While on the subject of media scoring, I use a few different DAWS depending on the size of the project and the required speed of turnaround. Pro Tools is always a mainstay for mixing and mastering. On the creative side (the writing end of it), I prefer Digital Performer and/or Logic Pro for the larger projects, and for projects that have a lengthy timeline for turnaround. On the smaller projects; those often requiring a quick turnaround, I’ll work in Studio One Pro. Although the video engine in Studio One isn’t the greatest, it serves my needs for that particular workflow. I use what works best for me; what I’m comfortable with. I could care less about what other composers are using. A composer and/or producer must use those tools that best serve him/her, and that can perform at a high level. It’s about creating the optimum workflow for oneself, and finding the tools that best serve YOU and the people who have hired you.

When prepping my scores, I use Sibelius. I also fidget around a bit with Notion whenever working in Studio One. On larger projects, when I have the time to write and am not rushed, I’ll sketch my cues down on paper with orchestration notes and harmonic outline. I’ll input that into my DAW and will go from there. However, on the smaller projects, I’m at the piano going through sounds and trying things out that way.

Regarding templates, I’ve got a few custom templates for scoring; but generally, I’ll start from scratch with each new project. If I’m really pressed for time, I’ll load up one of my pre-assigned, custom templates and get right into it. Though generally, I like to create a new palette for each assignment. In this regard, it’s the same as when I’m composing a concert work. There’s a story, and that story needs to have a certain ambience to support it.

Until next time!



Kerwin Young Scores Big in Europe

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Press

Kerwin Young composes new orchestral suite adulating two literary icons, Alexandre Dumas and Alexander Pushkin.

His Dumas-Pushkin Suite is highly anticipated in both France and Russia. It’s only a matter of time before America recognizes it’s genius composer, Kerwin Young. He is by far, one of the most relevant composers of the 21st century.

A little reminder: Kerwin is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of Public Enemy (the Bomb Squad 1988-2018); who gave the world a new social consciousness through music.

Orchestral Notes, Two

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Every orchestra in America that isn’t serving it’s community with music composed by living composers, and programming that does not engage or reflect the ethnic diversity of its city or community at large, should be terminated. Any orchestra not serving it’s community and/or humanity is misusing the power and gift of music! It’s no good.

Conductors and programmers alike should be fired; as many are no doubt working against the culture rather than with it.

Why be a part of something that doesn’t act toward the interests or benefit of the people? We need new orchestras! We need new orchestras led by forward thinking programmers, conductors, and musicians who appreciate all music, and who are willing to develop orchestras for presenting fresh ideas on top of a respected, proven foundation.



Orchestral Notes, One

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights

When an orchestra decides to program a particular orchestral work by a composer, generally that means they are committed to honoring the instrumentation.

After seeing the L.A. Phil perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad”, I refuse to let ANYONE convince me of diminishing my designated instrumentation for any piece I’ve composed!

To all you composers out there, be bold, and write the damn music that you envision being performed. Do not, under any circumstances, rescind and make it less than your true intentions. The instrumentation for Shostakovich 7 is 3343/8661/timp+7, 2hp, pf, stgs, and it’s duration is 80 minutes. Be BOLD!

What do you say to that?!
Write the damn music that you want to hear!!!!


Guanyin of the Southern Sea - Nelson Atkins Museum 2Kerwin Young composes Guanyin of the Southern Sea, a fantasy for guzheng, women’s chorus, and orchestra. Young is no stranger to Chinese instruments, having composed solo works for zheng, as well as suites for pipa, erhu, and guqin. His work has been performed by Music From China, and he’s also been honored by the Chinese Music Society of North America. A student of Chen Yi and Zhou Long while at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, Kerwin made plans for the current work in 2012; though it has taken quite awhile to begin working on it.

Historically, Guanyin is revered as a goddess of mercy, compassion, and kindness, and a guide for those who travel the sea. She also represents purity, harmony, and peace.

When asked what inspired the work, Kerwin responded with the following:

My mom and I, while visiting Savannah, Georgia, sometime during 2005-06, heard this beautiful instrument resonating along the waterfront. I stepped away from my mom and walked toward the sound I was hearing. From a distance, I noticed a canopy, and underneath saw an old man in a white tee-shirt playing a long, table top zither. At the end of the song, I approached the elder musician and asked what the instrument was, and how it was tuned. I learned that it was the guzheng, and that he was from China. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, and since then have been drawn to its warm sound. I collected the notes I received that day, and eventually added to them while studying at UMKC.

While in college, I befriended quite a few zheng players; many who were invited guests of Chen Yi and Zhou Long. I studied with Chen Yi from 2009-2015, and really absorbed quite a lot. I composed three solo works for zheng, and in 2012, had a successful premiere of I Walk Alone at the Nelson-Adkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo. At the time of the premiere, the Nelson-Adkins Museum had on display, a giant, life-sized statue of a Guan-yin (see the photo above). I was awed, and began fantasizing about a prospected work for zheng and orchestra.

Kerwin originally intended for this work to include two full-sized orchestras; one Chinese, and the other western. That idea, although a great one, was significantly chopped down as Kerwin began to flesh out some of the orchestration for his thematic ideas.

He did retain some Chinese instruments within the work, and those are the yangqin, yunluo, diyin daluo (better known as the tam-tam), xiaogu, and huapengu.

Both the brass and percussion sections are heavily stacked. The sopranos and altos, being the core of the women’s chorus, add a wealth of sonic flavor. Kerwin explained how his choice of instrumentation is necessary for telling a variety of stories within the overall work. He says, “On one hand, you’ve got the main subject of the Guan-yin representing her basic descriptives/attributes, and on the other hand, the mythology amongst cultures from Southern India to Japan; which open up new doors for my artistic expression.

2017 has been quite busy for Kerwin, who since January, has composed three major orchestral works: Symphony No. 5, Season of Autocracy, and Bolivar, totaling approximately one hour and ten minutes worth of music. Kerwin expects to complete Guanyin of the Southern Sea by late October 2017.


Ka’ness M’dolothongo – Author, Biographer

One of our era’s brightest composers of prolific orchestral works, Kerwin Young again puts the pencil to the paper for his third orchestral work in 2017. On the heels of Symphony No. 5 and Season of Autocracy, there are no signs of Kerwin slowing down anytime soon. His new work, Bolívar, is well underway; with an expected completion in September.


A short orchestral work inspired by the life of Simón Bolívar, Bolívar, when completed, will serve as a grand prelude or overture to Kerwin’s collected orchestral works. When asked why the sudden outpour of creativity has his attention, Kerwin replied,

“I’ve always composed mass amounts of music concurrently. Always! No one’s been paying attention to my career. While no one is commissioning me to compose new works, it should be noted that none of my orchestral works have yet to be performed. I refuse to allow any of these to deter my passion. Besides, I enjoy telling stories through music, and I’m taking advantage of what time I’ve got, as I await to acquire film scoring opportunities for feature films.”

Kerwin, who composes an average of two to four minutes of music daily is proud of this capability. Though it may seem rather small, I assure you it is quite the opposite. Kerwin admitted that prior to composing in this fashion had shown a lack of self-trust, and had a constant battle between what he wanted and what has been accepted as standard. Once he abandoned from the traditional path, his own way was made clear.

I’ve totally dismissed anyone’s view of how things should be done musically. I’ve got my own way. When I’m composing a new work, I’m free from having to accommodate the personal wishes of a film producer, director, featured performer, or commissioning party.  I can let loose and really dig into what I want to say musically, and I also have the freedom of choosing any instrumentation I want. I don’t really care if these works ever get performed, but I will make certain to compose and orchestrate my works according to my tastes. And, these works will have a life of their own because of it. Screw any adherence to any standard instrumentation. If you’re a composer, and you hear the most odd; yet unique instrumentation for the work you’re writing, you ought to follow along with that notion. To ignore oneself is slavery, because that is a sure sign that you are governed by an outer force. When you don’t trust yourself, that right there is a problem. There can be no true self expression; no freedom of expression with such limitations. You cannot be afraid. Write! Compose! Create!

Big salute to Kerwin as he continues his work, and by the way, he’s got eight orchestral works to follow. Among the slated eight are two opera’s, another symphony, two suites, an orchestral fantasy, and two dramatic shorts.


Ka’ness M’dolothongo – Author, Biographer

Image  —  Posted: July 1, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

New Orchestral Work

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Within a few days of completing Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance), I began a much shorter work for orchestra, Season of Autocracy; which I’ve just completed.  With a duration a little north of nine minutes, it’s now edited, compiled, and ready for marketing. I feel quite confident about this work being programmed by major orchestras during this life on earth.

Next on the plate is a long overdue work for zheng and orchestra, followed by more works for orchestra.  Yes, I enjoy composing for the orchestra; but more importantly, I enjoy telling stories through music. Whether or not any orchestra commits programming my work, I will continue to compose the music I hear; regardless of the instrumentation.

I’ve written several epic orchestral works fit for an over-sized film studio Regardless as to whether I am commissioned to compose these works, it’s all about the artistry and the freedom of expression. I will continue to write whatever I feel like writing. A lot of people scrutinize my passion, by stating these works will never be performed and such. But hey, these works could also be a source of musicological study for future generations. I’m writing a serious book of orchestral literature that will speak to many. Composition is the best meditation; plus it’s great practice as it keeps me learning/studying scores, various textbooks, recordings, conducting techniques, films, etc…

Until next time….



Desperately Needed Gear

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Press, Studio Buzz

The most agonizing moment is when you’re right in the middle of mocking up a bad-ass orchestral cue, and your computer freezes! That just happened to me! Luckily, I’d already saved the session. After re-booting, it froze twice more.

I’ve long needed a new laptop! Fortunately, the current mock-up is part of my daily mock-up regiment (daily mock-up exercise); whereby I merely do film cues so that I’m prepared for the real thing. Had this been an actual gig, I could handle the glitch. It’s imperative that I freeze the midi tracks (bouncing to audio) once I’ve settled on an idea. This would eliminate a computer lock-up; or at least minimize a re-occurrence.

So, mock-up practice is a great exercise for composers; especially when moments like this occur. Being prepared for the unexpected, and knowing how to handle the situation is a necessity for any assignment.

But, still, the main point here is that I need a new laptop. It’s exceeded its life expectancy. I also plan to go back to Mac! I started with Mac, and then went to PC.

Someone asked in a chat, “why do you practice mock-ups?” The main reasons are:

  1. You’ve worked up a catalog of cues that you can use to promote yourself
  2. You’re prepared for when the real work comes
  3. You’ve grown accustomed to your gear (DAW(s), sound libraries, and fx plugins, and hardware)
  4. You’ve developed a work flow and have built a diverse template that ensures for a successful final product
  5. You can develop a method for transferring midi data to notation, and vice-versa; working between your DAW and notation software.


Speaking of notation software, I’ve been using Sibelius since 2002, and I absolutely love it. I’m still using 7, and I haven’t found a need to update beyond that point. As a college professor, I had to learn Finale for lecturing purposes; though I hate using it. Steinberg’s Dorico isn’t quite there yet if you’re writing huge orchestral scores. Although the engine is awesome, it still lags behind. Notion by PreSonus is great, and it would be far greater if it were built into the Studio One software; making it compatible with Digital Performer and Logic Pro. I also find Notion to be what Dorico hopes to be. The score editors in DP and Logic Pro are decent; in fact, these two DAWs are complete!

Depending on the type of project you’re working on, or if you’re asked to conduct a demonstrative lecture, having DP, Logic Pro, and Studio One at your disposal would prove quite beneficial. I plan on incorporating all three to fulfill live demonstrations, lectures, tutorials, and basic client fulfillment. I’ve already got Pro Tools, which I use solely for post production. But, for the purpose of lecturing, and cross-platform collaboration with others, it’s imperative that I use all three. Each one offers a unique attribute that another lacks. For example, Studio One, DP, and Logic Pro can all import video/film, but not all can export MOV, AVI, or MP4 files.

In a conversation this morning with an artist/producer I know from Roosevelt, Strong Island, I mentioned “managing a music publishing company is like managing a farm. There are many facets to attend to; more than you think.



Quote  —  Posted: May 27, 2017 in Press

2Q17 Update

Posted: May 26, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Symphony No 5 Cover PageI just wrapped up Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance). It’s approximately 46 minutes, and it about wraps up my lengthy orchestral works for awhile. The next group of orchestral works I’ve got lined up are all single movement works, and a lot shorter than my five symphonies. However, Symphony No. 6 has quite a large percussion section.

I can slow the pace down a bit now, taking my time to write the slated works on my to do list. There are about 9 works I’ve got slated. Until I lock down a major motion score, I will continue to compose works based on either a non-fictional subject/character, folk-lore, current events, or my Kasuf series. Like Bartok or Penderecki, my orchestral works could easily be adapted to any motion picture. Though, they do need to be performed and recorded first; which is another drama in itself. Knowing that most orchestras haven’t evolved to accept the works of living composers, having one’s work programmed, performed, and recorded is quite a task, and requires strong political connections. Seriously!

Today is May 26th, Miles Davis Day, and I’m playing some Miles of course. I’ve got some edits to make to my violin suite. I really need to get the score done so I can market it.

Stay tuned, and hopefully the next blog I write will make mention of a film I will be underscoring.



Symphonies and Film Scores

Posted: May 18, 2017 in Press

photo 2I’ve just completed the fourth movement of Symphony No. 5. I’m working on movement two now; then I’ll be left to make final edits, which I do along the way. So far, the work is 40 minutes long. When finished, it’ll be a little under an hour. I’ve got enough extra material for 4 more orchestral works. BUT, I’ve still got my work for zheng, orchestra, baritone and choir to complete. And, there’s also Symphony No. 6. Both works are rather short compared to Symphonies 1-4, and Reclamation.

Over the past year, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I ought to screw the idea of waiting on orchestras to program or perform my works! Media offers the greatest opportunity for musical innovation and opportunities. Although I’ve been scoring films and television since 1994, the opportunities as a media composer continue to outweigh those offered by any orchestra…anywhere.

My daily routine consists of the following not in any specific order:

  • Compose for a few hours (either at the piano or without; with a dedicated project moleskine and a Tombow mechanical pencil.)
  • Score studies & conducting (classical rep)
  • Film studies (film analysis and musical accompaniment)
  • Music production (cue mock-ups and recording projects)
  • Several tea breaks
  • Early morning exercise
  • Check out the work and blogs of my contemporaries
  • Net scouring for new gear and tech

I continue to push forth as a composer of feature films, television, and games. I want to team up with a bad-ass filmmaker who’s creating some awesome stories! Epic status!


Recent Concert Works

The recent success of Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, has had seven performances since January, and it is my first breakout piece EVER. Inspired by its success, currently, I’m simultaneously composing Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance), and Symphony No. 6 (Deeqo).

        Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance) has gone through so many drafts since the first sketches in 2015, but finally the first and third movements are complete. I’m halfway to completion, and should wrap up in the fall of 2017.

This work is about the resilience one must possess to forge through life’s challenges. In a recent interview with Spitfire Audio, composer Dario Marionelli stated, “as a composer, you’ve got to be strong“.  Damn if that aint true! Symphony No. 5 is a journey through hard, lonesome times; arriving at a place much better than before; but quite uncertain of its stability. So, it’s a lingering drama! Damn I wish I were writing this for a film!

As for Symphony No. 6, it will be a one-movement work in honor of Fadumo Dayib (a/k/a “Deeqo”), a recent presidential candidate for the country of Somalia. She is also that nations first woman to run for president. Although she did not win, her bravery and self-determination sparked my imagination to compose a work dedicated to her. Symphony No. 6 is now 3 years in the making, and I should be complete by January 2018.

In-between my symphonic writing, I took time to compile a near 3-hour tetrology based upon my Kasuf character. Compiling four related orchestral works, the Kasuf Tetrology concert works order consists of:

1. Escape from the Evil Empire
2. Symphony No. 1 (Empire of Kasuf)
3. Symphony No. 4 (Kasufhetep I)
4. Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West)

What an exciting, epic concert this will be! 


Music Producer/Recording Artist

Another new album recording will be released shortly. This one, a tribute to my Caribbean heritage, influences, and recording producers as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry; along with the many friends representing the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Barbados, British Guiana, and Saint Kitts.

The album, Caribbean Heights is another soundtrack album project, displaying my talents as the one-man band, and multi-genre composer/producer. Why the soundtrack album format? Because I want to showcase a diverse array of my genius, and in what better format is there to do that? Huh? Multi-media! My fascination with film, huge landscapes, and fantasies will continue to drive such diverse projects.


Media Composer

Following Spike Lee’s 1989 cult classic, Do the Right Thing, the first film to include a song produced by Kerwin Young was the movie Green Card (1990). The first weekly television series I composed for was in 1994 (New York Undercover), and the first film I scored was in 1997 (Tar). For me, it’s been a brutal up-hill climb to have more opportunities as a media composer; especially securing projects that are not ethnic specific, but rather more diverse. It’s been twenty years since I scored my first film, but I’m almost there to where I will have a steady flow of films to score. I’m thankful to have a steady career in music; though not as stable as I would have liked thus far. But, steady and consistent is far greater than never working at all. I’ve never had any representation, so I think I’ve done pretty good as a self made man.


Mix Engineer

Just for kicks, I recently mixed a song for a buddy of mine; just to keep busy. Not bad…not bad!


We have to keep busy no matter what, and stay positive. I’ve got more exciting news coming soon about a residency I will begin!!! So, stay tuned!


Posted: January 9, 2017 in Press

nkm_album-coverJanuary 2017 is under way, and I’m releasing three new albums. Each is designed to highlight my film scoring chops, and I hope, will appeal to seasoned filmmakers and film composer agents. Two albums, Nkrumahand The Night Of…, are concept albums composed for an imagined film. No picture exists for these, but the product is an excellent vehicle to promote my score reel. I mean, why wait until a scoring opportunity arises, and then suddenly, I realize there’s not enough existing work samples to convince the interested party that I’ve got the chops for the gig. From a business point of view, this fixes that dilemma way in advance. And oh yeah, the third album, Un-Released Film Scores, showcases unreleased film scores from four independent films I scored between 2007-2008.


With the 60th anniversary of Ghana being celebrated this year, I planned to do a special project for the event as far back as 2013. With drafts beginning in 2014, I decided to use that for my proposed opera about Kwame Nkrumah. I pitched my initial project idea to New Music Alive, but it was not among the recipients; so I took some time to consider other alternatives. The result is this concept album, that highlights the life of Kwame Nkrumah from 1957-1972. The album is a unique blend of symphony orchestra, afro-beat, and funk. As I previously mentioned, I wanted to create something that would interest filmmakers; whereby, my music would accompany her/his work. However, with the Nkrumah album, perhaps interested Ghanaian diplomats would want to engage in some sort of collaboration. The door is wide open now.

The Night Of…! Imagine a lone biker, sort of like Mad Max, but not living in a world of nuclear aftermath. Now, imagine this biker dude on the run; from whom or what is uncertain, but he rides. He’s got issues indeed,  but it all takes place in just one night! Lots of great films have stories that take place in only a day; I thought I’d do that.

Edna Sophia is featured on the title track, Late Nite Drive. Gotta have a female vocalist open up a hot-ass movie!! Skyfall with Adele? Diamonds are Forever with Shirley Bassey? Uh huh! Or, even a falsetto. The Delfonics’ tune “Stop, Look, and You Have Found Love” from the Netflix series Luke Cage has grown on me in a great way. Also, this concept album fuses rock-soul with the symphony orchestra…VINTAGE KERWIN YOUNG!


Unreleased Film Scores showcases work from my intermediate stage, while I was still inquisitive about orchestration and harmony. In retrospect, that was a sixteen-year period, from 1994-2010. Just so you know, I began writing notes to paper in the spring of 1994. I scored my first film in 1997, after some ghost writing and smaller projects in-between. In 2000, my orchestral pursuits intensified, and after being denied by the Paris Conservatory in 2002, because I was “Too Old”, I really went IN! All the while, know this, I never discontinued music production! And, I’ve always played several instruments, as well as reading music since my single digit years. Facts. I’ve always been a student of music, and that won’t ever change. I listen to it all.

Of course, I saved the best for last! None of these projects would have been done if I hadn’t composed Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano for Tami Lee Hughes. That commission took me on a musical journey through time. I learned so much from the research and analysis while composing that work. By the time I was done, I had figured out the harmonic workings (progressions and stylizations) of almost all popular music genres. Thank you Tami Lee Hughes, and thank you Sphinx Organization! By the way, Songbirds premieres this month (January 2017). Click HERE for details.

Finally, I’m halfway complete with my fifth symphony. It’s got that thing!!!! Symphonies 1, 2, and 4 form a trilogy, and are composed for large forces with choir. Symphony No. 3 is a time piece, reminiscent of the years 1759-1817. Symphony No. 5 is untitled (a first), does not include choir; but I manage to include some of the oddities from previous works. Simply, because I can, it’s MY work, and MY sound. Forget about emulating anyone else, or another composers’ approach. The style of those people are all taken; so I must represent me, Kerwin Young. You should do the same. No one can be you, but YOU.

I’m now composing Symphony No. 5 in the second dedicated Moleskine sketchbook. I’m enjoying it. I compose and study in the day, and I’m producing other projects in the evening. My days and nights are LONG.

Until next time.


Closing Out the 4th Quarter Strong

Posted: December 23, 2016 in Press

Just wrapped up two…nope, make that three film score albums for the 4th quarter 2016;
which I plan to release during the first quarter ’17. Two of the three albums were composed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered in 3 weeks! Yeah man! The third lp is a compilation of un-released film scores from 2005-2007.

2016 closes out with the recent Chuautobiography-of-mr-chuck-2016ck D release of the 20th anniversary Mistachuck lp, If I Can’t Change the People Around Me, I Change the People Around Me.

This January, Tami Lee Hughes will premiere Songbirds, the commissioned suite for violin and piano.

For now, I’m back to composing Symphony No. 5 while I await any new assignments.


4Q 2016

Posted: September 28, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press

Entering into the 4th Quarter 2016 presents orchestral recording sessions with the launch of the Atlanta Scoring Group. I’ve been honored as the copyist and orchestrator for Origin-Creative and the ASG. The ASG is the first orchestra in the southeast United States, dedicated to recording for major motion pictures, television, and AAA video games.


As the NBA season is about to begin, expect the release of the Spencer Haywood documentary and soundtrack album! Gonna be awesome! I’ve had the honor of composing an original song for the film, with Chuck D and Spencer Haywood. I’ve produced a handful of songs on the album as well.


Symphony No. 5 has been put on hold while I grapple with the completion of the new violin suite for Tami Lee Hughes. Entitled, Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, the work celebrates five iconic, African-American women. In five movements, each movement is dedicated to one of these women: Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Leontyne Price, Mahalia Jackson, and Missy Elliott. Funded by the Sphinx Organization, through its Sphinx MPower Artist Grant, the work summarizes over one hundred years of music, exploring various genres as the blues, sacred blues (better known as gospel), jazz, opera, and rap.

Having completed one full draft, I’m now re-working the suite so the violinist will have ample time to learn the work. Concert premieres are already being lined up for the 2017-18 season.

Once the work has been completed, I plan on orchestrating a version for orchestra and solo violin.


I’ve recently composed an art piece for orchestra, called What I Think of Academia. It’s performance is meant to be played for 50 minutes. It’s a satirical work reflecting my disgust for what has been termed contemporary music.


Also, in November, the USC Aiken Wind Ensemble (Hayes Bunch) will premiere the wind band version of The Nebraska Plains. The original version was composed for brass quintet in 2011, and it recently received its Chicago premiere this February, by the Fulcrum Brass Quintet. Two performances of any work are great!


That’s about it for now…until next time!






The 3rd quarter is always challenging!! However, I’m well into writing the violin suite for Tami Lee Hughes. The first movement draft is complete, and I’m currently composing two of the middle movements simultaneously. Mind you, there are five movements; each depicting an iconic woman vocalist. I’m going through lots of old scores and am listening to a load of recordings. It’s fun, but tedious.

I should be working on my opera; however, I’ve got the itch to compose my fifth symphony! And, I may do just that. This time, I’m favoring more toward the route of Barber, Harris, Havergal Brian, or Sibelius, to compose a one movement symphony. For this work, I’m considering omitting the use of a choir, as I have previously done with my symphony no. 3. The instrumentation will be large, resembling the force from my most recent orchestral work, Reclamation.


As the third quarter 2016 begins, work as a copyist with Origin has been pretty amazing. The constant work assignments keep my transcribing chops up, as well as my DAW to notational software acumen. Composing for major motion pictures, television, and video games couldn’t be any sweeter than this. I’m thankful to finally have some level of constant activity in the industry. “Big ting a come“, but that will be a surprise!

Thanks to the Sphinx Organization’s Mpower Artist Grant, Tami Lee Hughes (violin) has commissioned me to compose a violin suite honoring five (5) iconic women. I’ve begun my usual research process; studying and the like, which for me, constitutes the composing process. July and August will find me particularly busy at composing.



I’ve also been quite busy soliciting my orchestral works to several orchestras. Below is a diplomatic approach to stating the problem and solution to achieving this goal, I think. Well, at least for me. Orchestras are pretty set in their ways, and one has to be a “pain in the ass” to really get their attention; regardless of one’s demographic. In that process, I’ve written this:

I love composing for orchestra!
My music is tonal and melodic!
I do not create soundscapes of bleeps and blurps that are forgotten,
and/or complained about by patrons and supporters.
For me, the orchestra is like an old wheel with no intentions of integrating new parts.
Can we work together to tweak this?
I’ve spent the past 16 years seeking to have a relationship with a professional orchestra,
but she’s not budging at all.
She teases me with encouragement, but no commitment to any sort of relationship.
Orchestra, how can we go on a date? How can we develop a relationship?
Let’s cut to the chase, “Orchestra, Will You Marry Me?”
Is there one orchestra interested in this composer? Hmnnnn…
Perhaps this can be the premise for a commissioned work?

Albums / Concerts

Spaceship Chronicles (album cover)

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement released its 7th album, Spaceship Chronicles. It’s been doing exceptionally well, receiving great reviews internationally. This will be the last Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement studio album. I will be releasing a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album for the 1Q2017.

I’ve recently posted videos for the last two concert premieres; Cry of the Queenless King, and Cellét.



Video  —  Posted: June 30, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Spaceship Chronicles (album cover)It’s been almost 7 years since releasing the last Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album. During that time, I completed both a bachelor and a master degree in music composition, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, studying with Chen Yi, Zhou Long, and Bobby Watson.

By no means did school prohibit the release of any album recordings. During that time, I managed to produce 9 albums, score a stage play, compose the theme music for two weekly television series, score independent films, and compose over 4 hours of music for the concert hall.

So, what was the cause of the hold-up? It was mere politics that held up any subsequent Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement releases. You know, people trying to stop my productivity. Where are those jerks now? They are off of the scene, like jazz on 52nd street. Adding to that, a series of crappy artist agreements that only an idiot would sign; so I’ve decided that I ought to do this myself. Kinda like when the Isley Brothers left Motown and cut It’s Your Thing. I see this as an identical moment. When you’re around bad business, you get the hell on….you get to steppin’…. I’ve never been one who waits on others to do for me, what I can do better; and do for myself. I enjoy working with others, but in this “I-Age”, comradery is scarce. And in business, especially the music business, jealousy and envy run rampant.

The forth coming lp, Spaceship Chronicles will be the seventh Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album released since 2000. This also marks twenty-one years of Kasuf; since that first sonic encounter in 1995. As with Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement’s debut album, Blackopolis, this album also includes sides from the first Kasuf recording sessions in 1995.

Details? Hmnnnn…..there are 13 songs. This album is a soundtrack for the world! It’s got legs!! It will get around!! It’s everything that all the other albums weren’t. It’s what Bitches Brew was for Miles Davis. A new direction? Not necessarily, but it is a clear path!

Get Ready!! It’s landing on all 7 continents June 24th, 2016!



The month of May brought forth three premieres, including one documentary film (Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story), and two concert premieres (Cry of the Queenless King and Cellét ). All were very successful! Cry of the Queenless King premiered at the annual Composers of Color Conference at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, performed by Dr. Carl Dupont (Bass-Baritone) and Qiao Zheng Goh (Piano). I was on hand for the concert via FaceTime; which was a first. The experience was awesome, the performance was amazing, and to have it premiere alongside other newly composed works by my peers and contemporaries was an honor.

Cellét! St. Louis! Wow! This was my first stay in St. Louis, aside from Greyhound Bus layovers, or airline transfers to/from Kansas City or Springfield. Catherine Lehr Ramos put together a wonderful cello fest. The musicianship was superior, and the hospitality was awesome. I had a great time.

Cellet Premiere Concert 1

Catherine Lehr Ramos seated, Moh & Ja Ghraiz at far right, Kerwin Young at far left

The program kicked off at the Webster University Community Music School on May 30th.  Cellét  featured two Palestinian pop-lock dancers (Moh and Ja Ghraiz). Cellét  was conducted by David Commanday.

Currently in the Works

With a commission from Tami Hughes, via a Sphinx Organization MPact Grant, I am composing an untitled suite for violin and piano, inspired by iconic African-American female vocalists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Other work includes my duties as copyist/orchestrator with Origin-Creative, as we prepare for our initial launch with the Atlanta Film Score Orchestra. I’m currently preparing conductor scores and parts for our first studio recording session. I’m excited to be working in the motion picture and game industries! It’s taken me 22 years and a lot of b.s. to get this type of film work. But, persistence overcomes resistance. Next will be scoring those epic films and games, and having a score agent!

SlamJamz Interview

Posted: May 5, 2016 in Press

Click HERE to read the interview!

Click Here to read the interview.

Link  —  Posted: April 29, 2016 in Press

April 2016

Posted: April 24, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Just finished composing Cellét, a masque for ten cellos that will premiere 30th May 2016 in St. Louis, as part of a cello fest organized by Catherine Lehr Ramos. Cellét was commissioned by Catherine, and will include choreography. A little over ten minutes, it’s been edited, revised/re-worked for its premiere.


I’m also wrapping up production on the Spencer Haywood soundtrack. I co-wrote two songs with Chuck D; one of which will be featured in the film. I’ve also produced a handful of additional songs on the album in various musical styles, including Hip-Hop, Reggae, Afro-Beat, and EDM!; for some legendary artists.


My orchestral suite, Reclamation is almost complete. I’m not yet done composing the lyrics. This work will cost a lot of money to program, and I am committed to continue composing large works such as this. Reclamation could easily be my fifth symphony, but I will reserve that slot for a much larger work. Reclamation consists of five movements, and is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. A great companion piece alongside my master’s thesis, Escape from the Evil Empire, both works offer a magnificent program for any large orchestra with mixed chorus. Their combined performance time is forty-two minutes.


Upcoming work on my first opera is still in motion. It will NOT be done next year as planned, and I expect it to pose several challenges.


I’ve also been re-building my studio, piece by piece! I’m definitely feeling the west coast…I’m rockin’!! Won’t allow the concert-world blues to bring me down.






Still 1Q2016

Posted: March 15, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement’s latest album, Spaceship Chronicles, is completed and mastered! Be on the lookout for its debut in the coming months.

In the film world, I’m producing new music for Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story. New music will be featured in the film as well as on the soundtrack album.

Check out the trailer!


In the concert world, Cellét, a commissioned work for ten cellos will premiere in St. Louis on 28 May as part of a grand cello fest. I’m still working out various ideas for the new work.

Stay tuned in!!



1Q 2016

Posted: February 23, 2016 in Press

January and February have presented new music in film and television, with Dirty Grandpa, and American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson (episode 2).

February 28th, the Fulcrum Point New Music Project, with support from New Music USA, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chicago Academy of Music, and Art Works will kick off its INTRO-IT!: The Black Composer Project. Fulcrum Point Brass will perform 5 works for brass quintet:

Introit by Jonathan Bailey Holland
AC’s Turning by Trevor Weston
The Nebraska Plains by Kerwin Young
Brass Quintet by Anthony Davis
Saóko by Tania León


Wrapping up the 1Q 2016 is a commission for a new work composed for 10 cellos accompanied by dance. The work in progress, Cellét, will premiere 30th May 2016, as part of a cellofest in St. Louis, Missouri.

Reclamation, my latest orchestral suite, should be completed by the end of March. It’s just under thirty-minutes, and I’ve been working on it between other projects. To be honest, as I observe my output of orchestral works, I always question whether or not these works will be performed. Having a residency with a major orchestra, or an influential entity to champion my works is a necessity.

And oh yeah, I’m wrapping up the mastering of my long overdue Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album. Just touching up a few edits.



With Baton in Hand

Posted: December 22, 2015 in Press, Studio Buzz

Since graduating from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in May 2015, I’ve had more time to study scores. In so doing, I’ve begun conducting through several scores, marking them with my colored pencils, and really getting deeper into the subtleties that various recordings display; many times quite different than what’s written on paper.

To name a few of the scores:

  1. Miklos Rozsa – Three Hungarian Sketches, op. 14
  2. Alberto Ginastera – Pampeana No. 3 (Symphonic Pastorale in Three Movements)
  3. Dmitri Shostakovich – Symphony No. 10, op. 93
  4. Ye Xiaogang – Song of the Earth
  5. John Mackey – Redline Tango

The best available recording of Rozsa’s op. 14, has 4 bars missing from the first movement; that’s a professional recording. I wasn’t expecting that. The most difficult of these for me is Shostakovich’s tenth!! That second movement is a beast!!!! His tenth symphony, in particular, poses several problems (tempo, dynamics, and time signature changes). I thought John Mackey’s work would pose a lot of problems with the many time signature changes, but the pulse is steady; though if you looked at the score alone,  it appears more difficult than it really is. It’s those works that have an innocent look to them that are the most difficult.

I totally enjoy having the time to do this, as there is no doubt I will conduct in public in the near future. I was asked why am I looking at large works. My reply contained the following: I compose large works, and I’ve been composing large works and studying scores since 2000. It’s nothing new to me anymore, and this is where I’ve progressed to. If I were fresh/green to this process, and completely ignorant, I would definitely be consumed with studying choral works, and scores for chamber ensembles.

From 1994-2000, I spent those years transitioning from hip-hop, r&b, rock, jazz, and house music to symphonic writing. During that time, I began studying instrumentation and orchestration on my own. Also during that period, I was doing a lot of transcribing (John Coltrane, Gil Evans, old 1970’s soul classics that had lavish orchestral accompaniment), and I was studying Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration. The first orchestral work that I studied was Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. I then proceeded to studying the works of Alban Berg, Manuel de Falla, and Aaron Copland.

I say all of this to show my gradual progression. You’ve got to walk a while to get to where you’re going. So, yeah, I’m composing, producing, teaching, and getting into the groove to add conducting to the list of skills. Plus, since I enjoy composing large orchestral works, someone’s got to conduct them!! That is, if no one chooses to. It’s better to be prepared than to not be. To add to this, working in film, television, and interactive media, conducting also has its rewards. I’d rather be prepared, and I would feel much better having devoted the time to take on such a task.




I thought I was done composing! I was wrong. After completing Symphony No. 4 (Kasufhetep I), I composed a 7-minute work about a doll collection over a span of three days. It’s a haunting, awe-inspiring work if you ask me. It’s written for percussion, harp, celesta, children’s chorus, and strings.

Below are the current books I’m reading.


Music that I’ve been listening to recently are Guan Xia’s “Requiem for the Earth” and Dmitri Shostakovich “Symphony No. 10“. It’s a no brainer that since I’m reading O’Callaghan’s book that I’m listening to and re-studying Jerry Goldsmith’s film score to the 1968 classic, Planet of the Apes.

Well, that’s about it as I push to add concert performances to my schedule, acquire new composer commissions, film scoring/orchestration and video game scoring opportunities.


Until next time



As 2015 draws to a close, I’m happy to mention that I’ve completed two symphonies this year, Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West), and Symphony No. 4 (Kasufhetep I). Symphony No. 4 is approximately 47 minutes, and I really love it. Composed in only two months, I’m reminded of how Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 8 in just two months, between August and September of 1943. There isn’t any need to spend much time with editing, as I’ve edited while importing my sketch into Sibelius.

The process for composing Symphony No. 4 was fairly simple; however, I sketched everything out for piano with orchestration notes; similar to if I were composing a film score to submit to an orchestrator. Once my sketch was complete, I created the appropriate template to accommodate the desired instrumentation. The next step was inputting the music into the notational software (Sibelius), distributing the notes to their assigned instruments. Many hours at a time, but I enjoyed it.

How I see it, regardless as to whether I’m commissioned to write a new work or not, if I have an idea to write something, I must start it and finish it. Dirty-Grandpa-600x925Ironically, several unfinished works have generally been collaborative efforts, that for some reason have subsided.

Together with Symphony No. I (Empire of Kasuf) and (Symphony No. 2), my fourth symphony completes my Kasuf trilogy. The combined running time is approximately 2hrs’30mins of music. It’s going to cost a lot of money to program.

In the world of motion pictures, I’ve landed a song in Dan Mazer’s upcoming film, Dirty Grandpa. Although I’ve enjoyed Bomb Squad produced music in other recent films (Straight Outta Compton, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and American Gangster), this is the first major motion picture since Spike Lee’s 1998 release of He Got Game that will feature a song written and produced by Kerwin Young. The film co-stars Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, and the scheduled release date is January 22, 2016. Check out the trailer below!

51ZdWPgD4KL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_In 2015, I’ve also made some literary contributions as well! I am a contributing editor to Tim Grierson’s recent book, Inside the Terrordome; discussing the inner workings of what it was like producing and working with the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted rap group, Public Enemy. Having been around them from late 1987-2008, I had much to contribute. The book was released in May 2015. It’s a great book; so go and get your copy!

While on the subject of books, I’m currently reading T.M. Krishna’s, A Southern Music, discussing the depths of Carnatic Music. An incredible, modern classic!

Before signing off, I thought I’d provide a list of the orchestral composers who inspire me. These are not in any order of preference, neither are they alphabetized.

  1. Lalo Schifrin
  2. Jerry Goldsmith
  3. Dmitri Shostakovich
  4. Akira Ifukube
  5. Bela Bartok
  6. Miklos Rozsa
  7. Ottorino Respighi
  8. John Williams
  9. William Grant Still
  10. Maurice Jarre
  11. Maurice Ravel
  12. Sergei Prokofiev
  13. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  14. Alberto Ginastera
  15. Eleanor Alberga
  16. Sofia Gubaidulina
  17. Esa Pekka Salonen
  18. Tan Dun
  19. Brian Tyler & Robert Elhai (in collaboration and individual)
  20. Alexandre Desplat
  21. Liu Yuan
  22. Zhou Long
  23. Takashi Yoshimatsu
  24. Ye Xiaogang
  25. Sergei Rachmaninov

Movement three was completed this evening, and once again, edits were made while drafting and orchestrating. It’s an in-your-face bolero, bringing the total running time to just under thirty minutes. The third movement is nine minutes, and I’m quite pleased. The music seems to be writing itself.

Concerning movement three, the flute section and harpists may hate me, but challenges make way for great performances. I’ve orchestrated these parts carefully, so that even if they’re not articulated properly, they’ll still create the overall, desired effect. This movement also requires six percussionists, which I’m proud of! I’ve decided two years ago that I will compose music that I want to hear and see performed, regardless of what may be deemed as standard.

Over the next few days, I’ll begin to organize and analyze any unused material for the fourth movement. I do have a few drafts already, but all of these must be organized/outlined.

It would be great to be on a film scoring team either as an orchestrator, copyist, or composer of an epic screenplay, but  my orchestral works are my film scores for now. These are my epics, whether they’re programmed or not. Below are a list of works I intend to compose following the completion of Symphony No. 4.

Upcoming Works (in this order):

  1. Piano Quintet (working title) – This untitled work will be for my good friend Wen Zhang (pianist). I plan to compose a virtuosic work of no less than fifteen minutes. Of course, there are several other pianists that I will deliver the final product to, but I hope that it doesn’t end up as my work for bass/baritone and piano, “Cry of the Queenless King“, which is still unperformed. I hate writing a great piece that everyone loves……….but it never gets performed.
  2. Guanyin of the Southern Sea – I’ve been planning this work since 2012/2013, and it finally looks like I’ll get to it. I’ve got quite a few ideas and sketches for this already. This work will be extremely challenging, and may take up to six months to complete. I could definitely use some sort of grant, gift, or residency to complete this one.
  3. Doll Collection of Mrs. Wynn – Since graduating college in May 2015, I’ve been residing with a host family until I get myself into some steady work. The home owner has an incredible doll collection in a room all to itself. I thought, “hmmm….why not compose something for this!” I don’t have any sketch for this yet, but I plan to write a 3-4 minute work that could fit its way into a concert.
  4. Osagyefo (an opera projected for a 2019 completion) – I’ve begun the planning in 2014, and since March 2015, I’ve been researching my subject.

There are two other works-in-progress that are awaiting sponsors, but if that doesn’t happen, those two works will be placed on the shelf until a later time.

Symphony No. 4 Update

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Press
Tags: ,

Guess what? I’ve managed to complete the first two movements of the my fourth symphony within the past month. I’m on a roll! I’m editing as I go to reduce the amount of post editing I’ve been accustomed to with previous large scale works for orchestra. I’m currently working out the material for the remaining movements.

Initially, I intended Symphony No. 4 to be a one-movement work, but since getting under way, I’ve decided to partition it. I’m expanding my musical language with this symphony. I’m loving it so far, and I find myself being extra careful with what remains -vs- what I omit. I’ve omitted at least fifteen to twenty-minutes of music already. What remains of the combined first two movements is approximately twenty-minutes of music.

Stay tuned for more!


As a composer of orchestral music, which follows many years of composing and producing popular music (hip-hop, soul, rock, country, funk, jazz, house, reggae, etc…), several concert programmers assume that my orchestral and chamber works are mere re-generations of the pop music I once made, or am still creating. This, I believe, is a contributing factor to me not being received or welcomed at the table, alongside today’s recognized and/or commissioned composers.

As I compose my fourth symphony, symphonies 1-3, along with several other large works remain unperformed/unprogrammed. I’ve been encouraged to compose several chamber works, which I have done, and continue to do. Yet, those too have not been performed. Reaching out to performers, ensembles, and conductors is a necessary and easy task, but the boomerang effect most often returns with no response. No matter how many solicitations are made, nothing changes. These various groups haven’t even heard the music, nor have they read through any of my scores; yet there are no responses. I can totally understand if one hears the music and she or he doesn’t like it. That’s NOT the issue here. It’s like I’m being downsized in a sophisticated way. Why is it like this? I’ve considered various scenarios that may be contributing factors. Here are a few.

  1. I have not won any awards for music composition. I began composing concert works beyond the age of 30; thus considered too old to apply to several opportunities restricted by age. Basically, I’ve been deemed too old from the time I began.
  2.  I may be type-cast as a composer of popular music. A background in pop music doesn’t sit well in the classical world; though it shouldn’t hinder anything. But, maybe it does.
  3.  Perhaps my ethnicity is a contributing factor, since orchestras generally do not perform or program the music of black composers outside the months of January or February (the times for Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and/or Black History Month). Furthermore, black composers are often stereo-typed as being composers of jazz, gospel, and the blues, and nothing more.
  4. No one is a champion of my music. No conductor, no musician, not a college professor; no one. How does a composer get their works noticed when NO ONE responds to their solicitation?

I realize that it’s difficult for ALL composers! Yes, I do, but where’s one’s chance? Do you have to pay for it? Is it hidden in one of those call for scores opportunities that comes with a hefty entrance fee and an age limitation? Is it based on some dark, inside relationship that one must commit to? This is something to think about. What are the deciding factors?

I also have a beef with conductors who hand me their business card, and say, “email me”, or “phone me”. Yeah, I’ve followed up each time, reaching out to several conductors who seemed inviting with well intentions. However, my efforts after the follow-ups seemed like a teaser; like a woman leading a man on, only to lead him in the wrong direction. It’s a joke….it’s all one big joke! Several of these people, but certainly not all, are pretentious. And, do you wanna know something? Just for kicks, I contact numerous conductors, just to test the waters that there might be a scent of interest for one of my original orchestral works to receive a programmed performance. But,…..ha haaaaa……it’s like knocking on a 4-foot, thick door. No one’s listening.

I feel like this…..if music is your practice, then you ought to be a harmonious being; accepting people and music from all corners. You should also practice common courtesy.

It’s like an old, well-built, sturdy machine telling the people, “Hey, come play with me. I’ll be your friend. Bring me your music, and I’ll program it for you.” So, you engage this machine, but the machine doesn’t really want you. It’s programmed to act like it does want you…..that’s how it keeps afloat……….by keeping you interested and enticing you to engage it. It’s like that woman I mentioned earlier.

Someone mentioned to me that conductors are extremely busy people. Oh? Really? Well, I’m busy too. Composers are busy people, most often busy dealing with a lot of b.s. at promoting themselves and their work. I too study scores, and I spend numerous hours  composing music. I record, produce, teach, eat, sleep, and handle other personal responsibilities, just like a conductor. So, what’s so different? What is it? I often think about this, and perhaps, many conductors just do not have the freedom to program works by living composers, simply because those who are funding the orchestra prefer to hear the usual Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, and……you get where I’m coming from. I would like to believe this to be the main reason, instead of it being a sort of holy territory, where only deceased composers or friends of conductors thrive.

It’s a lot to consider. I’m also talking about the wind band world as well. I once was told that the wind band arena would be more inviting than the orchestral realm, but both are equally biased. Friends conduct the music of friends. It’s all a game. You’re either someone’s friend, or you’re kissing someone’s ass to get ahead. It’s the truth, and that’s madness to me.

One hopeful outlook is that there’s an increasing number of young conductors coming on the scene, who possess a progressive interest in musical diversity. Unlike those I’ve previously encountered, I hope these emerging conductors are more engaging. Perhaps these will be the ones to dismantle the old machine. Things cannot remain the same if we are to move forward.


Kerwin Young Composing a Fourth Symphony

Posted: October 18, 2015 in Press

With no present work assignments to interfere with my time, I’m writing my fourth symphony. About a week ago, I was averaging one-minute of new music a day. Currently, I’m averaging about 3 minutes per day. Without a doubt, I will complete this work before the new year, leaving me with a few weeks for handling the edits and engraving. It won’t be as long as my symphonies 1-3, or as large, but it’s a happening work. I’ve got nothing but time on my hands to compose, while I continue to secure my niche in the classical field.

Upcoming performances include a November concert of  Evan Cooper (violist) performing a new arrangement of Music for Steven Spielberg’s Next Film. Originally composed for alto saxophone and piano, the latest version for viola and piano excites me. I’m looking forward to hear it. it seems like this will be the last of my concert performances for 2015.

Other planned compositions include a piano quintet for pianist Wen Zhang, and an orchestral work celebrating the life of O’Sensei Ronald Duncan.  Other works slated between 2016-2019 can be viewed on my website, under Concert Works.

Stay tuned!


Yes Yes Yall, it’s the latest release of Kerwin “Sleek” Young’s Beats Breaks & Rhymes Vol 2! Peep it HERE.

Chopped Herring Vol 2Closing out 2015 with the second Chopped Herring release of some hot, unreleased hip-hop flavors from the 1990’s. Recorded at the legendary Public Enemy studio , and at my studio in Roosevelt, Strong Island, these cuts reflect just a glimpse of my hip-hop production back in the day.

and……YES, there’s a book in the making as well. Stay alert!


Babies and Masters

Posted: October 10, 2015 in Press

I just want to shed some light on those of you who want to get ahead fast. Many of you have done your studying of past artists and their success. You’ve studied the music and the business. Many of you can run down the history of how a particular song was written, produced, recorded; where it was recorded, and so forth. You can even go into great detail on how certain artists were screwed over in their career(s). Many of you were screwed over in your career. You also know what is fair in business, but many of you show a total disrespect in business. You speak what people want to hear, but you practice trickery.

What do I mean? If you’re a young songwriter, or even a seasoned veteran, you should give the proper song credit reflecting the contributors for each song. And, if the credit is something you would NOT be comfortable with, do not expect anyone else to be comfortable with the same. In fact, you may have ruined a potential business relationship because of a poor choice/decision based on greed. Don’t practice the same bad deeds that were done to you.

As a veteran composer, recording producer, and musician, it’s my duty to ensure that those coming up in my midst do what’s right, and receive the necessary information that will ensure positive growth. Not all will, and in fact, not all have. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in this business really fast. I’ve met some artists when they first began, who’ve toiled really hard to enjoy the success they have today. I’ve learned a lot of great lessons from such masters who have endured lengthy careers; people as Abbey Lincoln, T. J. Anderson, Roy Haynes, Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones, Kenny Gamble, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, and Luther Campbell.

In nearly all the lives of those who are successful, the ability to work as a team with others is a common factor. What does that mean? Well, you have to know when to pass the baton/the ball/the duties, when you are not competent in a particular area. You must be willing to share with others. That means sharing the ownership of the music. Can you do that? Will you do that? Or are you a greedy one? Do you mis-use others because they lack a certain knowledge? Do you share knowledge with those you work with so that they may grow? Are you a two-bit hustler in slick attire who’ll take 99% of a song and give your sister or brother 1%? Which are you? This reminds me of a song Chuck D and I composed and produced on the Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess-Age album, “What Side You On?” We incorporated background vocals from the Punk Barbarians, my brother, folks from the neighborhood, and d.j.’s. We made certain to acknowledge everyone that worked on that song, and the album. You must acknowledge the contribution(s) of your constituents, and be fair with them.

I recall a certain rapper who, when interviewed, would never mention the producers or song-writers with whom he collaborated. It was as if the music just happened. It is everyone’s duty to assist in the building and development of one another. This is how careers are made. And, in that process, when one is lifted up, and that individual does not acknowledge their beginnings or the people who helped them to get where they are; well, then you must check them… them out! If I would say I knew no one who fit that description, I’d be lying.

Those of you who fit the description of the unfair one, it’s not too late to change. You’re still young in mind. Maturity hasn’t yet set in, wherein you realize that the journey is a long one, and not a short one. The road to success is a long hike, and it’s not an overnight camping trip. If you want good to come to you, you must do good toward others by being fair in business relations.


Just on the heels of completing a third symphony, I’m now composing a fourth. I’m averaging about 1-2 minutes of new music per day with this one. It is a prequel to Symphony No. I (Empire of Kasuf). Until I am commissioned to score an epic major motion picture, I will compose these grand, larger-than-life symphonic works.

Amendments to my recent symphony, Khemet West, has undergone multiple text changes and challenges. I’ve been waiting on 7 people versed in Afro-Asiatic languages in east Africa, to translate the tempo text from English. Friends from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea committed to the task of translations; yet no one has translated one word. I didn’t want to use any standard European tempo text. However, it’s been almost a year since requesting these services, and I must say that I am not satisfied with the lack of commitment. So, guess what? All tempo text will be presented in Italian. Perhaps someone will come in the future to make these translations for me. It’s my longest work to date, at sixty-six minutes. It’s the perfect prerequisite for my planned operas.

I’ve got several works in planning, but until I begin to get the current completed works programmed/performed, I won’t be writing much……unless there’s a handsome commission. I’ve been re-orchestrating several of my existing chamber works to solicit for performances.

Gustavo Dudamel!! Where are you?

That’s about it for now.

Stay tuned!

Being active in the recording industry for more than 25 years has exposed me to a lot of scenarios, hustlers, liars, etc… It’s necessary for anyone new to the recording industry to speak with the right people! If you’re fortunate to meet someone in the business that is willing to show you the ropes, and teach you about the business, by all means, allow them to do that. If the relationship proves beneficial, you should remain loyal, continue to ask questions and learn.

Be aware of fast-talking hustlers who can make shit seem sweet! I’ve come across lots of characters that can spit game, gaining the trust of young talent and mismanaging, misdirecting them.

Know too that if you receive a contractual agreement pertaining to the recording industry, you would need an industry-licensed attorney to look it over for you; not a real estate attorney, or any other attorney outside of that practice. Find and locate the right people who specialize in the very thing in which you are involved. Talk to the right people.

If you’re a performing artist or producer looking to sign to a recording label, find whether or not if that label has an internet presence? Do they have a website? Are they looking to pimp you, or is their interest in you an honest one? Do they mention all of the people involved on a particular song or project when engaged in an interview? If there’s a song-writing session, are split sheets distributed? Do they openly discuss business so that everyone is on the same page? What forms of compensation is there? At the end of the day, do you have a share of the song? Is the situation benefiting your financial progress or theirs? Is it a balanced relationship? Is everyone eating from the same plate, or are you one of the pawns in the game, watching the label heads benefit from your efforts and genius? Were you promised something that still has not materialized? Is it in writing or just by word of mouth? Who are you talking to?

If you are looking to set-up a publishing company, are you going to speak with someone who’s owned one for 25+ years, or are you going to speak with someone who appears to know about it, but really does not? Or with someone who has very little publishing experience? I’ve seen lots of newcomers become fascinated by individuals merely by the way they dress and speak? It’s amazing! But, individuals in search of knowledge, will totally ignore the individual in their midst possessing the proper knowledge. Who are you talking to?

You should always spend time studying, researching what you’re into. I spent the first 4 years in the recording industry without knowing ANYTHING about publishing, and didn’t own a publishing company. I did no research, and acted as if I knew what I was doing…….seeming to know everything. I was green, and didn’t know the components of the recording industry. I worked on some of the most popular albums and motion pictures during that time; many of which have become cultural classics.

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You should know what you’re getting into before you set foot in it. Take it seriously, as it is your livelihood and source of income.

Hope that this benefits many!