Meet Jason Rivera, composer extroardinaire and Care2Rock expert instructor. Learn about Jason’s process, working with musical icons, and his current projects! Until 10/31, we’re offering $5 off lessons with Jason. Simply use code JR5 at checkout to claim your discount! Book lessons with Jason by clicking here.

How long have you been composing music, and how did you get started?

I started composing music around the age of 3 or 4. At that time I would hear melodies and chord progressions in my mind and I would sing them into a Fisher Price tape recorder. This was my first foray into recording my own music. Then I began the long process of learning instruments–first drums and percussion, then vocals, guitar and piano. I started playing in bands when I was in high school and later got my hands on an 8-track recorder. With the 8-track recorder I would recreate Beatles songs by learning each instrument part and then recording them into the 8-track one by one until I had the full song completed. It’s a great way to learn how to write songs and how to record. Around this time I also started writing my own original songs. Eventually my interests lead me to want to learn how to write for a live orchestra so I took college courses in orchestration, composition, music theory and conducting.

Describe your process — how do you approach composing a new piece of music?

Oftentimes I’ll have musical ideas come to me while I’m sleeping. And I wake up while the sound is still fresh in my ear, grab an instrument and record the idea into my phone. I collect these gems and when I’m ready to write something new I’ll go through my phone and pick one to work on. The end result that I’m writing for will also dictate my process to some extent. For example late last year I had the opportunity to write a work for a 40-piece orchestra. So with that in mind I took one of those ideas from my phone and fleshed it out into a longer piece for that group. So knowing what instruments that I was going to have available dictated some of my creative choices. Honestly, writing for live players is my favorite way to compose.

You collaborated with members of Wu-Tang Clan, what was it like to work with such accomplished legends?

Rugged Monk and Crisis Tha Sharpshooter were awesome to collaborate with. It was a very natural process. What impressed me the most about them was their hard work ethic. When we were recording together they were game to have these marathon recording sessions and yet they knew exactly how they wanted their voices to come across in terms of layering and delivery. And I actually played a few live shows with them too and they were the same when it came to rehearsing. They were willing to rehearse as much as we needed to perfect the live show. They really bring the best of both worlds to the table–both the fun and the hard work of making music.

What’s your proudest moment as a musician so far?

I am lucky to have many of them. I think one that stands out was when I was in music school, in an orchestration class. I had to write a composition for a 23-piece live orchestra and it was only the second time I had attempted to write for a bigger group like that. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment when the players started playing my piece and the sound gelled together and it was exactly what I wrote and what I wanted to hear. It was pure magic.

Any current projects you’d like to tell us about?

This year I’ve written music for a couple of web series and I’m also working on building out that composition that I mentioned earlier for 40-piece orchestra into a longer piece. I’ve also been creating and releasing video-based music classes that are focused on the fundamentals of writing music. Those have been a lot of fun to put together and hopefully they are helping students gain some techniques to be able to better express their own musical ideas.