Emmy Award-Winning Composer Turned Junior Software Developer

When winning four Emmy Awards for composing was not enough for recent devCodeCamp graduate Erik Johnson, he decided to face the next big challenge in his life: coding.

Erik is very into music, but sometimes being an Emmy Award-winning composer is not enough to pay the bills. It is that, among other reasons, why training to be a software developer popped up on his radar. Even though music will continue to play a big role in his life, he is prepared to take his new passion for coding to great heights.

Like most teenagers these days, Erik found his initial interest in coding while playing video games. Using a programming language called Lua, he made macros for the games. The process quickly became more intriguing than playing the games itself, which is when he decided that being a programmer could be a potential career path.

While at devCodeCamp, it was immediately clear Erik had the necessary drive to be a software developer. He was determined from the start to absorb as much knowledge as possible, ask as many good questions as he could, and build great projects. One of those projects is eTuneComposer, his crowning achievement while a student at devCodeCamp.

Below is a detailed description of eTuneComposer, from Erik’s own words:

“eTuneComposer is a project that is intended to be a variable based music composition language. It has practical applications for the merely curious mind as well as for the technically educated music composer. In terms of functionality, it allows the user to define a word, even a single letter, with any combination of notes or musical phrases. The ability to use variables within variables presents the option for any degree of adaptability. One example would be to create a musical phrase that can adapt to a changing key; Or why not create a four-part harmony that can be reused throughout a piece with a changing melody. Create a midi file, up to 16 tracks with the click of a button and immediately have the music displayed for alteration and playback. It is optimized for smartphone display and is designed to be practical for composing on the go when speed and efficiency are desired. The benefit over the traditional approach to music composition is the speed at which you can create an elaborate piece of music and the extensibility of reusing phrases and variables from previous compositions to compile an entirely new piece of music!”

Screenshot of eTuneComposer
Screenshot of eTuneComposer

The technologies used to build eTuneComposer, which is not just for Emmy Award-winning composers but anyone who has an interest in making music, are C#, ASP.NET MVC, JavaScript, jQuery, HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, and Soundation. The latter is embedded into the ASP.NET application for displaying the midi file as well as playback inside the app.

Despite working full-time as a junior software developer for Wisconsin Vision Associates, Erik has every intention of continuing to build out his app so that it can one day be used by others who enjoy music just as much as he does.

The following is a Q&A with Erik:

Q: What did you win an Emmy Award for?

A: Actually, I have won four Emmy’s. They are all resulting from videos created for the University of Michigan’s athletic program, specifically for the Lacrosse team. I do all of the original music for the videos as well as sound editing and mixing. Two of the Emmy’s were won for best original music and the other two won in the category of Sports One-Time special where my contribution was original sound editing and mixing.

Q: What was that experience like?

A: It is incredibly rewarding being commended after all the hard work that goes into the videos! We spend months working on each video, perfecting them until they are as good as they can possibly be. The final product, after all that time and energy, is the real reward. The experience is always gratifying.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in software development?

A: My first experience with coding was in high school while playing video games. I was able to make macros for the game, using the Lua programming language. After a while, I realized I enjoyed coding the macros more than playing the game itself. I ended up going to college for music composition and technology and I needed to create a website to promote my music, which forced me to learn code, especially HTML. Drawing on these experiences, I knew that coding was something I wanted to do as a career.

Q: How do you relate composing music to coding?

A: Both require understanding form, best practice and the ability to creatively figure out the most efficient solution to create a final product, each in their own unique language. On one side you end with a piece of music, while the other is a functional piece of software. Both allow for as much creativity as you can put into them. I would argue that because it is possible to create musical compositions using code, being only one avenue for creativity, there is more potential for creativity from a software developer.

Q: How do you feel devCodeCamp best prepared you for your job at Wisconsin Vision Associates?

A: devCodeCamp taught me how to code from the ground up. Entering the program with very little coding knowledge, I had to start from square one. It took me from no knowledge of coding to a fully-developed understanding that is enough to make a career out of it. I learned the building blocks here, and now I can build upon that at Wisconsin Vision Associates.