Medical school looked like a good option for Michael Cochran when he began his college career at the University of Florida. Job security, financial freedom and prestige were some of the benefits that came with becoming a doctor. So the music enthusiast, who had played music since he was a little boy, decided to abandon his dream for a future in medicine instead.
Armed with a music scholarship, he began taking courses in both medicine and music. But like every other college student in America, Cochran was barely out of his freshman year when he began to question his choices.
After enduring a hectic semester, which included juggling a double major, his priorities changed. So he traded a secure future in medicine for an uncertain one in music.
"I just took the plunge," he said. "I knew that in the long run music would fulfill me more so than medicine. I see a lot of people that are very unhappy with their jobs, and that makes them very miserable. Whether I was struggling financially or not, I knew I would at least be happy with music."
Having settled into his new career choice, Cochran wasted no time chasing his dream. During his junior year, Cochran became the only student at the University of Florida allowed to put on an orchestra concert. His musical talent had helped persuade university officials to give the young conductor a shot at his dream.
Next, he launched a computer repair business with a friend and raised money to hire a professional orchestra to play his songs. In a short time, he single-handedly wrote, produced, arranged and conducted a professional orchestra. The experience – which Cochran calls his first job – provided him with recording demos and confidence while enabling him to network with people in the industry.
In 2001, he joined forces with Christopher Eickmann, a friend he met while working in his college orchestra concert. Together they combined their savings and joined the highly competitive music industry, creating a production company called Creative Scores.
After developing some sources and clients, the business quickly grew, from San Francisco to Orlando.
"I was teaching private low brass lessons to students to make money and at night I would work on my music," Cochran said. "I would send out demos to record companies, production companies, and various people of the sort. After a while, people just started calling me back and requesting my services."
Working from a home studio in Orlando, Cochran’s workdays can run as long as 20 hours. But those long hours are paying off.
Recently, he spent two weeks in Texas where he had the opportunity to score one of the most memorable halftime shows in Super Bowl history. Working Super Bowl XXXVIII allowed Cochran to showcase his creativity to a national audience while working with the halftime musical acts, which included Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
His company has also worked fashion shows in California, and Disney’s New Year’s Day Show in Tokyo. Having the opportunity to work high-profile jobs is unique and sometimes even a pitfall for a new company, but Cochran said he sees it as an opportunity to help Creative Scores grow.
"Being a new company I’m happy with where we are right now," he said. "I’ve been very lucky to get the projects that I’ve gotten. Friends in the business have given me opportunities that people my age don’t usually get. Working on big projects that cost a lot of money to do … well, it’s a little difficult to trust someone with no name or reputation. I worked really hard to build a name with the opportunities I have been given."
In a business where word of mouth can help build or break a company, Creative Scores has managed to become one of the hottest up-and-coming players in the market. Cochran has already worked with some of the biggest names in music, including John Williams, who scored films including "Jaws," "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" and all the "Star Wars" films.
Cochran thinks the biggest obstacle he has faced in building his business has been his youth. At 27, he does not fit into the stereotype of a conductor.
"People find it a little difficult to trust a 27-year-old creatively," he said. "A lot of people picture a conductor as someone who’s old and who’s been around for a long time. There’s a lot of questioning of my abilities, which makes it a little tough. But once people see the final product, they begin to trust you a little more."
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