MANKATO — Whenever she went to the movie theater as a child, Louisa Byron remembers returning home to her family’s farm near Waseca with the soundtrack fresh in her mind.
“What stuck with me most was the film scores,” Byron said. “I would go home to the farm and play outside; and in my head I’d be singing to the music from the movie.”
Years later, the Waseca High School graduate’s own music will be featured in an upcoming movie, “Chem 450,” the eighth film by New York-based director Grace Phillips set in 1954 about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student.
“It’s in post-production right now, so hopefully by the end of this fall semester it’ll be released for different festivals,” Byron said. “This will be my first film that has my original music. I’m really excited for that.”
The violin player and composer is in her final year majoring in violin performance and film scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston, of which notables like John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge and Steve Vai are alumni.
She credits her two older sisters for kickstarting her interest in playing the violin at a young age, where she learned the Suzuki method — a technique of learning music by ear — on a fruit-roll ups box at the age of three.
“I was jealous of my two sisters because they got to play real violins,” she recalled. “Once I did get on a real violin, it was really fun for me and I practiced all the time.”
Her first teacher, Crista Bohlmann, said Byron was excited about playing the violin from the get-go, and she wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that dedication evolve into a career.
“My goal when they’re little is to make it fun so they have a lifelong love of music,” said Bohlmann, who plays violin and sings for local bands the Blue Ringers and the Hootenanny Annies.
“Obviously for Louisa that transitioned into a career for her; she is very talented.”
After learning the Suzuki method from Bohlmann for a few years in Waseca, her parents began driving her to lessons in Mankato as her playing progressed. As she approached her freshman year of high school, instructor Faith Bergevin felt Byron needed to go to the next level.
“Her focus, attention to detail and work ethic really made her stand out from the crowd,” Bergevin said. “She got to the point where I knew she was going to have to find a teacher at a higher advanced training level.”
Byron credits her parents for encouraging her passion for the violin, driving her to and from the Twin Cities every weekday after school for instruction at McPhail Center for Music, various summer music camps and performing with Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies at places like Orchestra Hall.
“I would go to school and right when the bell would ring at 2:45 p.m., my mom would be outside,” Byron said. “We’d drive to Minneapolis and get back very late.”
As part of a junior composers’ camp at the University of Minnesota during her sophomore year in high school, a professional film composer gave her a couple scenes from a movie with the task of writing music to go with it.
“You write a minute of music in the first two days and perform it,” Byron said. “I remember him liking my rescore and thought, ‘Maybe I could do this for a living.’ It’s like telling a story and you help set the scene with music.”
Berklee is one of only two schools to offer undergraduate degrees in film scoring in the country. When she discovered that, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
Along with the upcoming film, Byron also has a video game score under her belt. A Berklee professor connected Byron and a fellow student with a video game designer in 2017, creating the soundtrack for a zombie apocalypse game called “EXTER.”
To fit the mood, they used aleatoric string sounds, contemporary violin techniques known for their creepy, suspenseful vibe.
As she prepares to graduate, Byron is busy interning with a couple music library companies in Los Angeles, which lease a variety of musical moods and genres for the film and television industry.
When she was back home in Waseca in June, one of her songs, “Better Half,” was released on a compilation album of female artists by APM Music, a Hollywood-based production company responsible for licensing music for the popular sci-fi television series “Stranger Things,” along with “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones.”
Last week, she performed a virtual concert from Los Angeles as part of the Berklee Anywhere concert series, featuring professional musicians throughout the world who raise money for the college’s emergency student fund during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To watch her recent performance, along with others, visit www.facebook.com/hashtag/berkleeanywhere.