Carnegie Mellon University

School of Music

The Art of Composition

Christian Kriegeskotte’s Serendipitous Path to Music Success

written by
Cally Jamis Vennare

Christian Kriegeskotte (BFA 2003 and MM 2023, Composition) grew up in suburban Mount Kisco, N.Y. in a household with a deep appreciation for arts and culture. As a young child, he performed in school plays, took piano lessons and practiced the Suzuki method on his violin. But it was the bagpipes that captured his heart and attention after hearing a poignant performance by a family friend who was enthusiastic about exploring his Scottish heritage.

As his love for the bagpipes grew, so did his passion for music and composition. It superseded all previous career aspirations in his youth, including an initial desire to become an electrical engineer. One of Kriegeskotte’s early mentors — his father — was an inspiration in both disciplines. An independent documentary producer and master machinist who built his own camera equipment, Kriegeskotte’s dad instilled a sense of independence and resilience in his son that he carries with him to this day.

“Find a way to do something yourself; don’t just buy it. Don’t give up!”

Kriegeskotte's father

Kriegeskotte took that sound advice and never turned back when a fortuitous opportunity presented itself to study at Carnegie Mellon University. When he was still in high school, a talented former classmate returned from her first year of study at CMU. She encouraged him to apply and, to his surprise and delight, he got into CFA’s School of Music.

“There was a little bit of a mystery at work here … like can this kid who is barely flunking out of math, who thought he wanted to be an electrical engineer, and spends all his time composing symphonies instead of doing his homework, can he really get into a school of this caliber? But I was determined, and bagpipes really were the key to the castle!”

The CMU key would, in fact, open many doors for Kriegeskotte throughout his successful career as a composer, arranger and arts executive.

After his freshman year studying Highland Bagpipe with two “rock star” musicians — Pipe Majors Alasdair Gillies and James McIntosh, MBE — Kriegeskotte decided to change his bagpipe major to musical composition. More doors opened in the form of veteran CMU professors and composers including Nancy Galbraith, Leonardo Balada, Fabien Levy, Reza Vali and Robert Page. Under this esteemed tutelage, he honed his craft and established relationships that would guide him throughout his life’s work.

Following completion of his BFA degree, Kriegeskotte serendipitously met fellow CMU alum Rob Marshall, who had just won his first Oscar for the movie Chicago with Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They found common ground in their interests and their mentor, Robert Page. Marshall kindly introduced him to Chris Montan, president of Walt Disney Music. Montan, in turn, helped Kriegeskotte land his first professional job at as a copyist at LA-based Joanne Kane Music Service (JKMS).

Christian and Bob Page.

“I met Rob Marshall because of Carnegie Mellon. I can't speak for him, but the connection may have been enhanced by the fact that we had the same teachers at CMU and, like most alums, support this secret CFA club."

"These are the moments in your life where you meet certain people and the trajectory from there is very, very interesting. And Bob Page taught me an important lesson: 'never say no to an opportunity that comes unheralded.'"

Christian Kriegeskotte

So Kriegeskotte packed up his mom’s 1988 Volvo station wagon and headed to LA to work at JKMS in 2003. His first assignment: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. As the “copyist,” he was responsible for taking the composer’s finished orchestra scores and creating the physical sheet music for orchestras.

The work took on a number of different forms. For another feature film project, Kriegeskotte recalls “putting on headphones, taking a pencil and a piece of paper and, by ear, transcribing the composition.” The “takedown,” as it is called, resulted in a finished initial draft that is shared with the composer and the orchestrator for final edits before transcription into sheet music. Kriegeskotte credits the exceptional ear training he received from his teachers at CMU, including Bob Page and Colette Wilkins, for his unique ability in this task.

More opportunities at JKMS followed. Kriegeskotte prepared music for television shows like "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "American Dad" and "Family Guy" and supported acclaimed composers like John Williams, John Debney, Danny Elfman and Marco Beltrami.

Christian with Sting.

In 2006, Kriegeskotte moved back to his home state of New York to actively look for opportunities in classical music. He eventually landed at the storied classical music agency, Columbia Artist Management Inc. (CAMI). By “pure coincidence,” he ended up working with the management team of Marvin Hamlisch, who was Principal Pops Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) at the time. Kriegeskotte had met the maestro during his CMU days through his participation in the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.

Which brings us full circle back to Pittsburgh and to CMU. In 2007, hot off the press from working with Marvin Hamlisch, Lorin Maazel, Betsy Buckley and other luminary CAMI clientele, Kriegeskotte returned to Carnegie Mellon on a full scholarship to pursue his master of music degree in composition.

The completion of his CMU graduate work once again opened doors around the country. As a composer, his works were performed by Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird, The Ethel Quartet, The Parker Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, The American Composers Orchestra, The New York Miniaturist Ensemble, IonSound Project and The Pittsburgh Opera. As an arts executive, he found work with Gotham Early Music Scene (GEMS NY) and The Orchard, where he quickly ascended to the position of director of digital integrations following its acquisition by Sony Music Entertainment.

Christian with Frzy.

At present, Kriegeskotte serves as senior manager of popular programming for the Pittsburgh Symphony. In fall 2023, he garnered critical acclaim as composer/arranger for a very special PSO concert — The Glorious Succession of Frzy — with the nationally recognized Pittsburgh rapper.

"When I mentor people now who are interested in following this pattern, who are razzle-dazzled by some of these stories I tell, the thing that I try to encourage them to hold on to is 'you always have to be observing where you are … and leave room to be surprised.'"

Christian Kriegeskotte