With an emphatic pitch near the end of a one-minute video, Bryson Kemp, a 19-year-old from North East, Md., won a backstage gig at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday.
"Music makes the movie, and I’m going to make the music."
With that emphatic pitch near the end of a one-minute video, Bryson Kemp, a 19-year-old from North East, Md., won a backstage gig at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday.
It all started last November when his mother, Mary, saw actor Channing Tatum announce the contest on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." DeGeneres is the Oscars host.
Over Christmas break from Muhlenberg College, Mary ran the camera as Bryson played on the piano snippets of the scores from "Indiana Jones," "Titanic," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Jaws." The video is titled "John Williams Is My Hero," and the first and last movies were scored by Williams, who has been nominated for 48 Oscars and has won five. The video ended with "Dory’s Song," a composition Bryson wrote for a "Finding Nemo" sequel. (DeGeneres is also the voice of Dory.)
Bryson is one of six college students who will deliver Oscar statuettes to celebrity presenters. Their prize also includes a Samsung Galaxy to record the night’s festivities, a visit to the academy’s library, studio tours and meet-and-greets with filmmakers at Oscar Week events.
"It’s unreal," he said before flying out to California. "I can’t fathom that this is going to happen."
He said it would be "a dream" to meet Williams, and looks forward to connecting with the other five members of Team Oscar. "Their work is crazy good. It would be awesome to collaborate with them."
Bryson started piano lessons when he was 8. His parents required it, but "I really didn’t like it much." A drum set he received for Christmas when he was 11 spurred new interest in music, and he and his sister Caroline played together as a garage band called Left Turn.
He returned to piano lessons when he was in ninth grade, and two years later, thanks to his skill in quickly picking up tunes by ear, he started playing the piano for DaddyO’s in Elkton, Md. In three-hour Friday night sets, he mixed oldies and contemporary tunes. He also "played the piano in the lobby of Christiana Hospital every week for an hour for close to two years," and he has performed at weddings.
Along the way, he taught himself how to play the guitar, the ukelele and the banjo, and he’s been known to pick up the Australian didgeridoo and traditional African instruments.
At Muhlenberg, he is majoring in music, with a focus on piano performance, and might add a philosophy major as well. He also fits in voice lessons, a role in an opera, a percussion ensemble and jam sessions. "My passion is music," he repeated. "I can’t see myself doing anything else."
So far, he’s only written a few songs. The first was a lament called "Broken Glasses," written for Kathy Maisano’s English class at Tome Academy to continue Tim O’Brien’s war book "The Things They Carried." He wrote and performed another at the wedding of his sister Erica to John Rompf.
Event though his "ultimate goal is to score music for movies," he hasn’t written as much as he would like. "I guess I have writer’s block."
The trip to the Oscars is his first to California, and he also will visit Caroline, who is completing a year of service as a nurse at a San Diego homeless shelter. In fact, the whole family – including father Tom and sister Laura Jeanne – will be there, in a gathering planned at Christmas. "When the kids are together, they sing," Mary said. "A lot of family life revolves around music."
If you want an insider’s take on the Oscars, Bryson favors Williams to win for his "Book Thief" score and the best song to be "Let It Go," from "Frozen."
Bryson Kemp’s winning video to get to the Oscars is at http://bit.ly/1mJmFOT. He has posted other YouTube videos as imthatguy2016. The first official Oscar concert, featuring suites of music from all five nominated scores and the four best-song nominees, is planned Thursday in Los Angeles. It won’t be televised, but Fox plans to show future broadcasts on TV and in movie theaters.