Navigating career transitions successfully includes integrating our varied experiences, our accumulated expertise and our values. Jeff Plowman discusses how his experiences in advertising and business development, his musical talent, and a “sixth sense that truly empathizes with the human journey” have combined to create his current professional role of film composer.
We have different professional and educational experiences throughout our lives. There are always common threads, personal values and innate talents and skills, that link these diverse experiences. Can you comment on how your experiences and expertise in music, performance, advertising, business development and composition blend together and inform each other?
I think that is a great observation and a tough question.
I think my experiences and expertise are the result of having a sixth sense that truly empathizes with the human journey and what motivates us.
In the context of my advertising career, I believe my successes were based on reading between the lines of quantitative research and really listening to consumers (more accurately referred to as humans) in focus groups. Often what people were saying was a vague, verbal expression of something more internal, more deeply rooted, and more important to them. I think I was able to understand that more deeply rooted need. I think my composing of music is equally rooted in these more deeply felt needs, feelings and emotions. I suspect that if I did not have this musical ability and sixth sense, I would not have been as insightful into these human journeys.
You are currently moving into music composition for film and video. You describe composition as “capturing the sounds of our experiences”. Can you elaborate a bit more on this?
I think our lives have a constant film score attached to them. Sometimes that music is a little pedantic and quieter. Other times that soundtrack is joyous and unearthly. We are constantly “feeling” these movements, in a musical context, we’re just more attune to these sounds and colors at certain times in our days and lives than other times.
For example, if I see a mother reach out to hold her child’s hand on their walk to the park, there are feelings and emotions happening between them, and for me as I witness this and personally connect to that action. I believe music does the best job in capturing the beauty of these emotions and poignant moments.
At this stage in your professional life, why is music composition inspiring on both a personal level and as a creative career step?
I’ve recently experienced some critical health issues with several parents – a perfect storm, one might say. I think experiencing their passing has re-connected me to the important things in life. I have certainly been guilty of letting my advertising career define me and what is important. Advertising has an aura around it, a lifestyle, a salary level, an attitude and its fair share of politics. Ultimately, we are just selling more fizzy water, or more of this product or that service – it’s very ephemeral.
Composing music for documentaries, however, gives me the opportunity to bring an important story or message to life with all its ebbs and flows and overarching soundtrack. This becomes a permanent fixture in time and in our culture. From a career standpoint this inspires me because it seems a more meaningful and lasting human output.