Composing a Career from Mason to Hollywood

Posted: April 1, 2013 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: April 2, 2013 at 7:24 am

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By Buzz McClain

Vincent Oppido. Creative Services photo

Vincent Oppido, MM ’10. Creative Services photo

The credit scrolls by in an instant, and unless you are looking for it, you might not see the name Vincent Oppido rushing over Kristin Chenoweth’s glittery gown at the end of February’s broadcast of the 85th Academy Awards. But there it was, and now that credit is on Oppido’s resume, along with a host of other accomplishments achieved during and after his studies at George Mason University.

Oppido, MM ’10, had no idea his name would be seen by 40 million American viewers. “That was a complete surprise,” he says in a phone call from his home in Los Angeles, where he works as a composer for film and television. Oppido returns to Mason’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall for the American Festival Pops Orchestra’s “Cinema Magic” program on April 13. Oppido’s former music professor, Maestro Anthony Maiello, conducts as Oppido leads a live film scoring.

Oppido, who found himself working on Broadway arrangements with Tony Award-winning actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell as a graduate student in Mason’s School of Music, takes the successes that have come his way in stride. In fact, he believes it was luck that landed him not only in Hollywood, but also at Mason.

“I think everything in life is luck, mixed with hard work,” he says. “We can all say what we want and what we hope to achieve, but unless all those opportunities line up, anything can happen.”

In Oppido’s case, things began lining up when the music directors at East Meadow High School in his home state of New York suggested he seek out Maiello for his college studies; Maiello was a seminal influence on them as young music students. “They said this is the guy you have to go and study with,” he says.

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Oppido works with Maestro Anthony Maiello. Creative Services photo

As it happens, Maiello is a University Professor in Mason’s School of Music. But being accepted by a mentor isn’t the same as seeking one out. In this case, however, it was a match Maiello was only too happy to make once the professor realized how talented and accomplished the young student already was.

To seal the relationship, Maiello says he told Oppido’s father, who was concerned about his son’s future away from home, “that I’d treat him like my own son, and I did.”

During his time at Mason, Oppido, under the guidance of Maiello, received commissions for new works, heard his music performed by various ensembles in a variety of venues, and became a published composer when he helped Maiello update his conducting textbook.

“I had a fantastic mentor in Tony Maiello,” Oppido says. “He was one of those teachers who pretty much performed everything I wrote. To have real people play it back to you, that’s the education. I was very fortunate in that I was always able to have my music performed.”

Oppido also cites Mason’s Mark Camphouse as another influential music professor. “I participated in a few music festivals because of him,” he says. “It was just constant education, but education through the realization of my music. That was huge.”

After graduation, Oppido moved to California because, he says, “I always wanted to be out here; I always wanted to write music for film, because I just love the art form.”

For now, he’s getting deeper into the Hollywood composer universe, working on concert music and writing scores for “young directors who let me do my thing. You work hard, hone your craft, and become immersed in it,” he says. “And you need to get it done so you get the next call to do something else.”

By the way, that rapidly scrolling credit after the Oscars lists Oppido as a “copyist.” What might that be?

“With a show like the Oscars, there’s a ton of music, and everyone in the orchestra needs to have their own individual parts for every single one of those pieces,” he says. “What the copyist does is make those parts, and proofread them so they are completely accurate. Time is money, and there’s no room for someone to say ‘there’s a mistake in my part and needs to be fixed’ during the show. That was our responsibility.”

To hear a selection of Oppido’s sample scores, see his website.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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