NORTH EAST — Aspiring film composer Bryson Kemp might not get to bring home an Oscar this Sunday, but he does get to hold one.
Kemp, 19, a sophomore studying music at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., and native of North East, is one of six winners of a week-long trip to California that involves attending the Academy Awards and touring Hollywood studios.
As part of Team Oscar, the winners, all college students, get to explore their dream careers in filmmaking.
“So how will I contribute to the films of the future? Music makes the movies and I’m going to make the music,” Kemp said in his video pitch to join Team Oscar.
His mom, Mary, found out about the Team Oscar competition while watching the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in the fall. While Kemp was home for the holidays, his mom helped film his 60-second pitch with her iPad. Compared to other contestants who used graphics and special effects, it was a rudimentary short.
But Kemp’s passion for the movies and the music in them more than made up for the quality of the video, which was titled “John Williams is my Idol.”
Before pounding out renditions of famous movie songs – including some of composer Williams’ hits from “Jaws” and “Indiana Jones” – Kemp declared, “I want to make movies come alive.” He ended the video by playing a snippet of “Dory’s Theme,” an original composition for a future “Finding Nemo” film.
As a child, Kemp was encouraged to study music with the rest of his siblings. However, his piano lessons were short-lived when he had trouble reading music, instead preferring to learn by ear.
Several years later he took up piano again, also learning the drums and guitar. While enrolled at the Tome School for high school, Kemp was able to further explore music and added it to class projects. He once composed a piece of music for his teacher to listen to while reading his essay.
His love for music grew so much he would come home from school and sit down at the family’s piano to play before taking his coat or book bag off, recalled Mary, his mom.
“We didn’t put any expectation on him,” she said. “He just did it on his own. He was born with some talent.”
Kemp is the only student included in Team Oscar solely focusing on music. Other winning students focus on the film production and directing side of movies and come from the University of Michigan, Stanford University, Chapman University, Rutgers University and Pepperdine University.
Winners were notified in early February. The competition was open to U.S. college students and required them to submit a creative short video explaining how they will contribute to the future of movies and answer an essay question on a similar topic. Winners were selected by Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, actor Channing Tatum and the Academy.
Kemp arrived in California on Monday. Before he left for his trip he had to send his measurements to a Hollywood costume designer to be fitted for a tux.
The week leading up to the Oscars will be spent touring studios, meeting film industry leaders and seeing the preparations for the awards show. Already, Kemp has toured Walt Disney Animation Studios and been interviewed by major news outlets across the country.
On Sunday at the Oscar awards show, Kemp and other winners will deliver Oscar statuettes to celebrity presenters during the live awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. He’ll also be given a camera to do behind-the-scenes reporting for Oscar.com.
Even with all the glamour he’s enjoying, there’s just one celebrity he dreams of meeting. It is, of course, John Williams, who landed his 49th Academy Award nomination this year for original score for “The Book Thief.”
Here’s hoping some of that talent rubs off.
Said Kemp: “If I had a tenth of his success, I’d be the happiest guy alive.”