Star Wars mania continues to span generations, not only with books, movies, collectible items and clothes, but video games as well. The latest of which has a unique Northern Virginia connection.
Arguably, a video game’s soundtrack is one of the most important factors. It can set gamers up for adrenaline rushes, give warnings with suspenseful chords and create ambient sounds for white noise during calmer, transitional points of the plot. Vincent Oppido, a George Mason University alumnus who studied composition and conducting, contributed to the musical score for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the most recent Star Wars video game, collaborating with the team to arrange and compose additional music for the score.
Oppido, a Long Island native who earned his bachelor’s degree in music (2008) and master’s in conducting (2010) at GMU, currently lives in Los Angeles, working as a freelance composer, orchestrator and conductor. He was first approached to work on
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (released November 2019) by one of the game’s main composers, Gordy Haab. “He had heard my music and it’s such a small community out here,” Oppido says. “So people will make recommendations, and I think he just felt
the music I write fits the type of music they wanted for the game.”
The video game’s musical score, led by Haab and co-composer Stephen Barton, was recorded at legendary studio Abbey Road in London with a 90-plus-piece orchestra. “The reality is that a project like this, it’s not just a two-hour movie,” Oppido says. “Video games have an enormous amount of music. People could play these games for dozens of hours. No one on the team was stifled with what they could write. It was the bigger the better. I got to write music in the style that I grew up loving: pure, orchestral music.”
And, what does it take to keep the musical score on brand to represent the Star Wars franchise? “The good thing is because of Star Wars, we already know the sound world because John Williams [the composer who scored the original Star Wars films] established it for us decades ago,” Oppido says. “Gordy wrote the themes with Stephen. They were essentially their tunes, but it was very collaborative. They would be very descriptive of what kind of cue they were looking for. They might start a cue and I would finish
it or orchestrate it. It was different from day to day.”
Although Oppido spends most of his days on the West Coast, he will be back in Northern Virginia this summer on the GMU campus to teach a weeklong workshop to local high schoolers, called The Art of Filmscoring. Being held from July 20 to 24, the class covers multiple techniques used to compose music for motion pictures.
“This is the third year I’ll be doing it,” Oppido says. “It’s my way of giving back a little. And, it’s interesting because you learn a lot when you’re experiencing the learning process through young people who are eager and very interested in what you do. You learn from that because they see things differently. I felt very recharged after doing it the first year.”