When you hear music build the suspense during the CBS TV crime drama series “The Mentalist” at 10 p.m. Sundays, you may be hearing notes composed by Fort Wayne native Nathaniel Blume.
The 1999 Homestead High School graduate, 31, is building a career in Los Angeles as a composer for films and TV series.
While home visiting family over the holidays, he'll also show a film for which he did all of the music, “Shakespeare High,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Fort Wayne Cinema Center. Following the film, Blume will take questions from the audience.
Blume became interested in playing trumpet while young, and he played that instrument in the Homestead marching band and, late in his high school career, with the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony.
He also became interested in the music of film scores, especially those by composer John Williams.
“He had some great trumpet parts,” Blume said.
His favorite score was Williams' music for the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
After high school graduation, Blume attended Butler University in Indianapolis, hoping to double major in music and pre-medicine. He quickly decided to major only in music, graduating in 2003.
While attending graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he wrote music for a short film other students had produced. He also composed music for a few other video projects before graduating in 2005.
He then studied film score composition for a year at University of Southern California, graduating in 2008.
Since then, he has helped write music for TV series scored by a former USC professor, Blake Neely. The shows have included “The Mentalist,” “Arrow” on the CW cable network, “Wedding Band” on the TBS cable network, and “Golden Boy,” a new series scheduled to premiere in February on CBS.
The normal process for writing music for films and TV shows involves sitting down with the director to view the final video cut of the film or show, Blume said. He and the director talk about where to put music and what type of music.
For a TV series, they also develop a musical sound viewers will associate with the show, and music viewers will connect with various characters, he said.
With films, Blume may have two weeks to two months or more to write the music, depending on whether the film's production is on schedule or behind schedule.
One-hour TV shows usually contain 22 to 32 minutes of music, he said. Normally, composers have only a week to write the music.
Blume said he enjoys working with directors on how they want to paint characters and landscapes musically.
“I have found it more inspiring, for me at least, to write music … in a collaborative process,” he said. “It is harder for me to sit down in a room and compose music for an orchestra.”
He also has time to work on film and other projects on his own, which is how he became involved in composing the music for “Shakespeare High.” The film is a documentary about a group of high school students who compete in an annual Shakespeare festival in southern California.
The high school drama teacher who produced the film worked with Blume's wife, who then was teaching science at the same school. She told the drama teacher that Blume composed film scores; the two met and the collaboration grew from there.
Blume also has been working with John Sherman of Indianapolis to write an opera based on Sherman's experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer during the Biafran civil war in the late 1960s in Nigeria. They have started the project with the help of an Indianapolis Arts Council grant, but now are working to raise money to complete the opera.
Blume, who said most of his family still lives in Fort Wayne, said it's difficult to break into Hollywood's film and TV composing business. He hopes in the future to develop regular clients of his own who hire him on a consistent basis.
“Shakespeare High” and other projects have helped him make connections that could help him achieve that goal, he said.
“It is kind of like riding it out and going with the flow and saying 'yes' to as many projects as I can,” he said.