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Knowing The Full Score

Submitted by vh45513 on
Film and Composition Certificate student Gianna Dimuzio in the Dancz Center for New Music working on one of her compositions.

Film and Composition Certificate student Gianna Dimuzio in the Dancz Center for New Music working on one of her compositions.

The University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music (HHSOM) has launched a new Film and Media Scoring Certificate. This certificate is designed to enhance an undergraduate or graduate degree in music composition with specific, hands-on instruction in the art and science of composing music for film, video games, and other media.

“The film industry has grown tremendously in Georgia in recent years, and the School of Music is growing right along with it,” said Tom Hiel, Assistant Professor of Commercial Music and Media and creator of the new certificate. “However, it is not strictly limited to music majors,” said Hiel. “As long as a student can demonstrate musical proficiency and a willingness to learn the craft, this certificate can be available to anyone at UGA.”

Hiel is no stranger to film and media scoring. Since beginning his professional scoring career in the early 1990s, with the film Swimming With Sharks (1994) with Kevin Spacey being one of his more notable early projects, Hiel has been a prolific composer for film, television, and games. His work on the David E. Kelley series The Practice (1997-2004) won Hiel two consecutive BMI TV Music Awards in 2001 and 2002.

“There’s a special art to composing for film media,” said Hiel. “While finding a way to represent your own style and voice, you are collaborating with visual artists, actors, and cinematographers to create and enhance a dramatic or comedic tone. There are a number of elements to understand that aren’t specifically explored in the composition degree.”

In addition to Hiel, the certificate involves Brett Bawcum, Director of Athletic Bands; Dave D’Angelo, Sr. Lecturer of Jazz; and Gregory Satterthwaite, Assistant Professor of Jazz Piano and African American Studies. These instructors bring experience in commercial music, jazz, and songwriting to round out the certificate classwork.

Pete Jutras, Director of the HHSOM, shares Hiel’s enthusiasm for the new certificate. “The Dancz Center for New Music has some of the most state-of-the-art technology being used in music composition, and this certificate can give students practical experience and connections that can lead to professional opportunities.”  

One such student is Gianna Dimuzio, who is working on her 12th student film. “Being involved with this program, I have not only learned about how to compose music better, but how to apply music to a scene, record live instruments, and create a network of musicians and directors to work and collaborate with. Learning how to compose for media requires a lot of moving parts, and this program has allowed me to learn how to manage this in a professional manner.”

Not only have the connections on campus helped Dimuzio develop a robust resume of student films, but she is also currently scoring tracks for the Food Network while still completing her undergraduate degree. 

The HHSOM builds these relationships through collaborations with several departments, including the UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies, as well as different areas within the university at large. Jacob Evarts scored an introduction video for Anna Stenport, the new Dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

A recent report prepared by the Creative Media Industries Institute at Georgia State University indicates that Georgia has the fastest-growing film industry in the nation. The $4.4 billion industry continues to expand, thanks in part to the state’s tax incentives. With the film industry coming out of two strikes, demand for qualified composers should increase.

During this tumultuous moment in the film and television industry, Hiel is confident that now is a great time to pursue this certificate. “So many commercial and independent projects are in production, and the industry is finding its way through this. We want our students ready and able to jump into the business when it does.”

Those interested in pursuing the Film and Media Scoring Certificate can find more details and the application on the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music website at


Assistant Professor of Commercial Music and Media
Director of Athletic Bands, Asst. Director of Bands
Assistant Professor of Jazz Piano and African-American Studies
Senior Lecturer of Jazz

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