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Alumni in the Spotlight: Denise Santos (HS 2006)

A musician at heart, Denise composes original scores for local and international films and television. Through the guidance of mentors and support of colleagues in the industry, Denise continues to hone her craft, determined to tell meaningful stories through the power of music.

 

Briefly describe your areas of expertise or advocacies. How long have you been doing these?

I have been a film and TV composer since 2012. Since then, I've written and released original music for films such as Baka Bukas and Billie and Emma by Samantha Lee, and TV shows such as Primates (BBC), Surviving Jeffrey Epstein (Lifetime), and Making the Cut (Amazon Prime).

 

Among your interests, which one has been your driving force?

Being able to help tell stories with music has been a driving force for me. I believe in the power of filmmaking as a tool to influence good change in the world. And while I play a small part in it, I feel great satisfaction in knowing that I can use my God-given skills as a musician towards something meaningful.

 

To what would you attribute your achievement/s?

There is so much I would attribute to my achievements thus far! One would be education. Nothing beats being able to understand the fundamentals of your craft. I'm able to communicate better and make good choices because of it. Another critical attribute is having role models and mentors to look up to. There are so many nuances to any career that you only really learn from experience, and there is nothing like being handed down wisdom from more experienced professionals. My role models have also given me the courage to dream bigger and go outside my comfort zones. Lastly, I think being part of a supportive community of colleagues has been vital to my longevity. 

 

In what ways did your Maryknoll/Miriam education impact your life and profession?

I always say that my high school years were my favorite years. I met the most amazing teachers at Miriam College High School. They were not only knowledgeable, but they were also very insightful (and funny!). They made learning fun and challenged us girls to think critically and independently. They were also very supportive of our extra-curricular activities and I got a lot of courage to truly be myself because of that.

 

In my four years of high school, I was part of the Banaag Theatre Guild. To this day, I look back at all my experiences in Banaag as the perfect training ground for me to be a professional in the creative industry. Sir F (Mr. Margarito Fernandez III) was our moderator, and he instilled in us the power and importance of planning ahead and following through with our plans. Through Banaag I also met some of the most inspiring, creative, and driven people whose example I still follow up to today.

 

Can you share a memorable experience during your years in Maryknoll/Miriam College?

I loved the school fairs. There's so much to the fair that is fun, memorable, while at the same time educational. I remember how each class had to have a booth to sell food, items, or a service, and now that I look back on it, that was such a valuable experience that taught us girls a lot of real-world lessons! On top of that I also just loved how the entire school transformed into a perfectly fun place, free of any academic pressure. I loved being able to participate in the variety shows, but also enjoying the more professional bands perform at the weekend concerts. I've had so many good memories with friends during those fair weeks.

 

What career or life accomplishment makes you most proud?

I'm most proud of the fact that I'm able to make a living out of something that I love. In the beginning, I didn't set out to become a professional musician because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make a living out of it. But then I realized that I would rather live my life trying to make it work, than live comfortably without passion. The fact that I can pay my bills and still have excess time, energy, and resources to help others in their own music path is my greatest pride and joy. 

 

What advice would you give our students who wish to pursue the same path?

BE PATIENT. When I first started out, someone told me that it would take about 10 years before I really "get there". I didn't know what that meant at the time, but now that I've been doing this for almost 10 years, I think I finally understand it. Only now am I starting to feel confident in my skills, and I am beginning to realize that there is a place for me in this industry. Not only will the 10 years of work make you a better musician, but it's also going to take that long to start getting more recognizable work that will help with your business. So, what did I do during the first 10 years? I focused on getting better. I studied. I said yes to almost all the projects that came my way. Each one of them was an opportunity for me to try something new, and an opportunity to learn more about the filmmaking process as a whole. I also sought out mentors that gave me a better idea of how things work in the industry. I played in bands, I watched movies, I watched concerts, I fostered my friendships and relationships, I went out to experience the world. These very human experiences are what will make you a better storyteller thru music.

 

In one sentence, how would you describe a Maryknoll/Miriam graduate?

A Maryknoll graduate is an empowered woman who uses her God-given skills to help make the world a better place.

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