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July 9, 2019

CIM Student John Konopka Wins Emmy for Composing Score of Locally Produced Documentary


John Konopka

Cleveland Institute of Music alumni, faculty and staff have won many honors in the past, including several Grammy Awards. But it isn’t every day that a current CIM student wins an Emmy, an award recognizing excellence in television.

That’s why the Emmy won by audio engineer major and composition minor John Konopka (Egre/Fitch) is so extraordinary.

Konopka composed the soundtrack for “Celebrating the Comeback of the Burning River, 1969-2019”, which won for best topical documentary at the 50th National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Lower Great Lakes Chapter Emmy Awards on June 15. Produced by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the nearly 13-minute film traces the 50 years since the Cuyahoga River infamously caught fire, prompting the introduction of the federal Clean Water Act and the river’s remarkable transformation since then.

Konopka, who will be a junior at CIM in the fall, was asked to score the film by the producer who attends his church, Holy Rosary in Little Italy.

“She heard I was composing the score for a Reuters News documentary, so she asked if I would be willing to talk with the director at North Water Partners about scoring their film,” Konopka said. “I sent him a few samples of my work and had a phone meeting with him, and at the end of the conversation he gave me the job.”

For Konopka, the project had some challenges that he had to overcome during production. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to get a cut of the film until a few days before his deadline to turn in the music. But all turned out well in the end.

“Luckily the deadline ended up being pushed back a few extra days which gave me a little more time to mix and polish the score,” he said. “I enjoyed the challenge of composing with such a tight deadline, but it wasn’t ideal, especially since it was going to be my first released project.”

As for his professional goals, Konopka, son of CIM viola faculty member Stanley Konopka, would like to make a career of scoring documentaries and TV shows, and to own and run a studio.

“I love mixing and recording, and I am very open to pursuing the many possible career options in the audio engineering realm,” he said. “However, I’ve always had a passion for composing, and recently I’ve developed a love for scoring films. I knew coming into CIM that audio recording and engineering are critical skills for any soundtrack composer.”

And it looks like Konopka is off to a great start.