Mark Cofer always had a love for music, but when he became a student in the School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media, his passion took flight. One of the first graduates of the school’s online program, Cofer has gone on to create scores for major motion pictures and trailers, like Disney’s latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, and Independence Day: Resurgence—all from his home in Nashville, Tenn.
“When I first started school, I knew I wanted to do something with music, but I was still narrowing down what that was,” says Cofer. “But when I started to work with film music, I fell in love with it. I loved the orchestrating outlet, media instruments and creating an entire orchestra in my bedroom.”
Throughout his Academy experience, Cofer explored many different styles of visual media music composition, from horror to daytime TV shows. One of his first projects impressed his instructor and friend, Dirk Epperson, associate director of the School of Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media. Just for fun, Cofer had composed music for the originally scoreless 1931 film Frankenstein.
Says Epperson, “It was really, really excellent…fun, but parts of it were just stunning.”
Not long after that, Epperson received a call from producers of the film Art School of Horrors. They were looking for a young composer.
“There was just no question,” says Epperson about selecting Cofer for the role. “Not only is Mark a great composer, but he had a real feel for horror.”
Epperson sang the praises of Cofer, calling “talented and experimental” while stressing the creativity and uniqueness of Cofer’s portfolio work, which showcased his ability to master a variety of musical styles. Cofer’s MFA portfolio project was formatted in the framework of an old black-and-white TV that changed channels, each showing Cofer’s varying musical compositions, ranging from an upbeat daytime show to a drama.
“Mark was bright,” says Bradley Hughes, director of the school. “He brought a really high level of professionalism and creativity to his portfolio.” Hughes emphasizes that Cofer embraced the school’s curriculum the way instructors constructed it, and that the experience “took him to the next level.”
According to Cofer, it was his portfolio that landed him a gig with music production house Whatnot Industries (now HMX: Human Music Exhange) after a 2016 Spring Show meeting with Russell Spurlock, the company’s founder and a film and television composer. At Whatnot, Cofer composed music for a TV game show, Bet on Your Baby.
The show was cancelled, along with other programs Cofer initially worked on, but soon his talents caught the attention of film producers, and his career began to take off.
Cofer says his career today wouldn’t be possible without the Academy’s flexible online program and its accreditation. Studying online allowed him to balance time with his daughter Adeline and cultivate his skills.
“It really benefited me as a student in allowing me to hone in on each of my skills and develop them before people were paying me,” he says. “Being able to show my work in the Spring Show snowballed into being where I am today.”
Teaching & Composing
So where is Cofer today? His latest work for Pirates of the Caribbean is hitting the big screen along with his music for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Something else he balances with his family time is his work as a part-time instructor for the Academy.
Cofer says his inspiration for becoming an instructor was the opportunity to share his passion for film composition, something he calls “the heart and soul of a movie.”
“I thought it would be fun [to] take what I’ve learned and what got me where I am today to help mentor and teach other people,” he says. “I really care for the success of my students and want them to have success like I do.”