Nowadays, it’s not unusual to come across success stories of people who followed their passion. Jaimie Pangan, in particular, knew that all it took was courage and grit to become the woman that she is now — a music composer born and raised in the Philippines, recognized by Hollywood for her work in writing scores for international films, games, and television shows.
Jaimie’s story begins with something familiar to us all: a career in a field that’s far from her heart’s true desire. She had graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at the University of Asia and the Pacific in the Philippines and subsequently worked at International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) for three years.
But her dream had always been to pursue music and she tried to appease her yearning by finding ways to integrate it into her daily life.
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“I’ve always wanted to do music even before college, but I was not sure if I wanted to become a performer. When I discovered the instrumental world (ambient, film music, jazz, etc), I realized that I wanted to compose and I wanted to pursue it,” she tells us.
“I really could not take not being able to do music so I would always find ways on how to incorporate it in my day job. I met this group of people who used to have this music organization/club at IBM called “IBM Vibe”, and at that time, it was not active. So, I convinced my friends that we should make it active and we did,” she adds.
She shares that she even got a patent for a project she ideated with a team of IBM employees from Singapore and Japan that was related to music.
Despite her efforts, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was capable of doing so much more than she was allowing herself to.
“For the longest time, I did not pursue music because I was stuck feeling insecure about myself and I also fear failure, so I did not bother,” she says. “However, there was a time that I realized how much potential I am wasting if I do not try to maximize it. I stumbled on some books that helped me renew my mind and eventually, I was convinced that I had to do something and that the fear I feel is an indication of the potential I carry.”
It was then when she seized the opportunity to attend New York University’s Film Scoring Summer program last 2017, thanks to a scholarship from the SOREL Organization in New York City and a travel grant given by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
After her program, she applied to the University of Southern California (USC), which is ranked as one of the top film scoring schools in the world, and was admitted to a master’s program for Music in Screen Scoring.
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Her journey is not without bumps on the road, of course. Being a student without prior professional experience in the field of music, she had a lot to prove to her professors, her classmates, and herself.
“When I was studying at USC, I had a difficult time adjusting to the workload and being in school again. My professors are amazing composers who worked professionally in the industry for years, so naturally, they would have high standards,” she recalls. “Since I did not have a Bachelor’s in Music (and most of my classmates did) or valid professional experience, I had to learn a lot and absorb all the information that they would teach us.”
She continues: “I learned a lot from my classmates as well. While doing all the work, I knew I had to keep up because for some reason, I got accepted into the program and it means the school sees my potential. Our program only accepts 20 students a year, so being accepted was an honor. Although I remember, after 2 weeks into the program, I was already asking myself, ‘What am I doing here?’
“It was just overwhelming since we did not just have classes, but we also had to work with students in USC’s film school, while also preparing for our recording sessions that were held almost every month. On top of that, our music composition assignments, which normally take me a few months to do before USC, were usually due in a week. We had music composition assignments every week.”
In the end, Jaimie did more than prove herself to everyone around her. At 26, she was nominated in the Contemporary Classical/Instrumental category of the Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMA) for her piece “Farewell” which she composed for her capstone course at the USC.
It was a score written for a 65-piece orchestra dedicated to the tragic scene of Dumbledore’s death from the movie Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.
She was also recently named a semifinalist of the ongoing 2019 International Songwriting Competition for “Farewell” in the Instrumental category, placing in the top 11% of over 18,000 entries.
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Jaimie has also successfully scored a number of film projects, some of which include Bonsai (2018), The Art of Flawsome (2019), The Man Who Took Out the Trash (2019), and drama-mystery movie The Wild Ones (2019)—a favorite of hers which was directed by Filipino-American filmmaker John Geronilla, the soundtrack of which she has since released on all music streaming platforms.
Now that she has fully stepped into the world of music composition, and with all these achievements attached to her name, there is no stopping her from doing more, from expanding her horizons, and taking advantage of the prestigious opportunity she was given to pursue her dreams.
Currently, she is working on a documentary feature in Los Angeles where she is staying at the moment, several short films, and a podcast, as well as a television show in the Philippines titled Afterlife.
“I’m pretty excited for ‘Afterlife’ because it’s going to be streamed and it is under a major entertainment company. I was commissioned by Big Screen Productions for Cignal Entertainment, and it’s directed by Cholo Laurel and produced by Mondy Buensalido,” she gushes. The show is set to feature big names in the Philippine showbiz industry, namely Eula Valdez, Jett Pangan, Max Eigenmann, Julio de Leon, and Nicole Asensio.
She also hopes to someday be able to compose for a movie by A24 Films, the entertainment company behind Ex Machina, Lady Bird, Midsommar, Moonlight, Uncut Gems, and The Farewell. “I love scoring for drama and horror (even if I don’t like watching horror hahaha)!” she shares.
She describes her style of composing as “simple” and “very melodic,” owing to it her upbringing in the Philippines. “Afterall, [it’s] where a lot of singer-songwriters are, so melodies come naturally to me,” she says. She also credits composers Nicolas Britell (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), Max Richter (Mary Queen of Scots), Olafur Arnalds, and Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game, Little Women, Shape of Water) as her biggest musical influences.
On the subject of the local arts and music scene, she says: “It’s rising. I know there are so many talented artists, filmmakers, and musicians there right now [whom] I would love to collaborate with!”
She only wishes that these people are given the support and recognition they need and deserve, just as she was blessed to receive. “A lot of the artists in the Philippines are great. Please support them! The simple act of sharing their music/art/film goes a long way. Go to your friend’s screening, art exhibit, whatever it is! These people work harder than those having normal corporate lives (of course, I would know since I was in both environments).”
Jaimie’s story of a Filipino who successfully pursued her dream may not come as a surprise, but we may still find ourselves in awe that it was possible—and that she made it possible just by trying.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” she shares. “And it entails a lot of sacrifice. At some point, you will feel that everyone is against or would not understand you. But it’s the most fulfilling thing you could ever do in your life. If it works out, great. If not, it’s okay. The important thing is trying, because trying is never failing.”
(ALSO READ: What Happens When Your Passions Start Changing?)
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Check her out too on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and Amazon: JAIMIE PANGAN.
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