We had the good fortune of connecting with Tiffany Cuaresma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tiffany, what do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be one where I was able to give back to my community, inspire others, and help make a positive difference in the world somehow. I want people to remember me as a person who worked hard for her goals and dreams to help make positive impacts – whether that be through my work as a youth activist, music creative, and/or just being a kind person.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Hi! I’m Tiffany Cuaresma, and I’m a 19-year-old composer, vocalist, and singer/song-writer from San Diego who’s currently studying music composition and sociology at Rice University. Although I have a wide musical palette, I primarily compose instrumental music for film and media, contemporary classical commissions, and collaborations with visual artists and art galleries. In addition to my musical pursuits, I am also a youth activist and Student Leader for the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective. I believe that music is a powerful universal language that can help change the world for the better. When creating music, I often combine my social activism with my musical interests to compose pieces that reflect my emotions and raise awareness to important topics. I’m hoping I can use my music in the future to continue to raise awareness to crucial issues and help connect people together with music. Out of all my projects though, I am most proud of my work as a film score composer. For me, film scoring is my passion because I love bringing a story to life with music. Weaving music together with film is important to create an inspiring, potentially-life changing experience for the watcher. I have scored films and collaborated with directors from the National YoungArts Foundation, UCLA Film and Television Graduate Program, Orange County School of the Arts Cinema Conservatory premiered at Chapman University, All-American Film Festival premiered in New York City, and Canyon Crest Academy Cinema Conservatory. In addition to film music, I have also composed and orchestrated the music for a two act opera production, “The Promise”, for Canyon Crest Academy’s Instrumental and Vocal Conservatories in which I conducted the premiere performances in February 2019. I began composing music in my sophomore year of high school, primarily because of my figure skating background. I was a competitive U.S. Figure Skating Association figure skater, and every morning at practice before school I was constantly immersed in different types of music that skaters would do their competition programs to. In my free time, I liked to choreograph skating programs to music. I began to wonder if I could “choreograph” music, and began my composition journey by coming up with random short ideas on the piano. I was fascinated by the emotional effect music had on people and the intricacy of every instrument in orchestration. I began self-teaching myself composition and orchestration. I didn’t realize I wanted to pursue music seriously until I had one of my hobby pieces played for the first time by my high school’s wind ensemble and orchestra. I had my first formal composition lessons at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in the summer of my sophomore year, where the composition professor advised me to seriously begin studying composition with an instructor. After that program, I began studying with a local teacher and composed a choral piece that was awarded in the 2018 Emerging Young Composers Competition. The following winter, I was able to attend a masterclass at the New England Conservatory in which the professor told me to apply to the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Program. I was accepted and attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Composition Program in 2018 where I began seriously studying composition. It was at Tanglewood that I was introduced to Daniel Temkin who encouraged me to pursue composition in college. With his support and the support of my family, I have been blessed to have many opportunities that helped project my composition career forward. Some of these amazing opportunities include composing and having my music recorded by internationally-acclaimed artists with the Guitar Salon International and Guitar Foundation of America; as a Luna Composition Lab alumna (James Rosenfield Fellowship Recipient), I had the opportunity to receive mentorship from Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Reid in which my music was recorded by the International Contemporary Ensemble and premiered at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. I have also been blessed to receive awards as the first place winner of the Austin Symphony Orchestra’s Texas Young Composers Competition, a National YoungArts Winner for Classical Music Composition,, National Young Composers Challenge Finalist, and awardee in the 2018 Emerging Young Composers Competition. However, the path wasn’t always easy, and I have had challenges. First, I am a late bloomer to music. I did not take music seriously until late into my high school years, and I self taught the majority of my music abilities. At first, I didn’t think I would be able to seriously pursue music, however, with a lot of hard work, discipline, faith, and some formal training, I was able to overcome this. My parents have been super supportive, too, and helped encourage me. Another challenge is overcoming the lack of female representation, especially female minorities, in the music industry – especially the film music industry. Throughout history, female composers, especially minority female composers, have been underrepresented. I hope that in the future, I can help change the image of being a composer. I think the first step to having more female representation in any field is to dispel this mentality, and be a strong confident leader – pursue your dreams, work hard, and never give up. By changing the mindset, we can change the culture and stereotypes instilled in history and make the future equal for women.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Some of my favorite locations in San Diego are Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla Cove, and Convoy! I would begin the day with a hike around Sunset Cliffs or La Jolla Cove! La Jolla Cove is really nice at low tide because there are lots of tide pools to explore with fascinating sea life! I love poking the sea anemone or watching the sand crabs! It’s also entertaining to watch the sea lions bask along the coast! After, I would take my friend to Convoy to explore a plethora of delicious Asian eateries! Even though I have many favorite eateries in the Convoy area, I love getting ramen at Ajisen Ramen and Thai Tea rolled ice cream at Bing Haus!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
One book that provides a solid foundation for my life is the Bible. Whenever I find myself in a difficult season of life, I always look to Scripture to remind me to keep trusting and staying faithful to God. I especially like the book of Ecclesiastes which helps define my life purpose in God.