What He Does: Two Star Symphony is an enduring Houston institution, and one of the city's true musical success stories. The last time I checked in with violinist Jerry Ochoa, it was to review their soundtrack for the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater's ballet Titus Andronicus, a bloody and stellar release.
Now Ochoa is living the dream. He's quit his full-time job to focus on the ever-more-popular Two Star Symphony, handling development of the project as well as composition and performing. He's also broken into the world of TV music, having recently scored a Comedy Central Web site.
In addition to his strictly musical credits, he is an accomplished filmmaker seeking a grant to produce his second feature. The first, a collaboration with Sophia Vassilakidis, was Hardball: All Balls Don't Bounce. Ochoa directed, photographed, edited, co-wrote and co-produced the offbeat action movie set in Houston and centering on a vigilante who gets mixed up with an international sex-trafficking operation. Currently he is working on an old-school horror film called The Virgin set in a Catholic girls' school. Two Star Symphony will obviously score it.
Why He Likes It: "I love everything about what I do -- getting to make music as a part of Two Star Symphony is the single most defining aspect to my life. Our music tends to be inspired by visual imagery, whether through film, dance or just the images in our heads, so it's always tied in closely with my interest in film and photography. It might sound weird or obnoxious to say, but I love the Two Star music probably more than any one out there, and being a part of it and giving the best of myself to the band, whether creatively or on the business side, makes me happiest.
I'm proudest of the fact that we've played some great shows, made some solid albums, lasted as long as we have (ten years this fall) and that we've developed a distinctive sound. None of this was likely to happen, particularly for a string quartet trying to write our own music. We didn't have the training, music degrees or university/conservatory connections that the classical world expects. No business background, no label, no financial resources behind us. We came together for the love of making music and that's what's kept us going."
What Inspires Him: "Musically, my biggest influences are John Zorn, Tom Waits, Dmitri Shostakovich, Danny Elfman, Bernard Hermann and the West Coast G Funk sound. For film, seeing Pulp Fiction in theaters when I was 15 was a life-changing event. Robert Rodriguez's book about making El Mariachi and Lloyd Kaufman's book about making movies Troma-style were my bibles in film school and after. Tim Burton's work in the 1980s and early '90s was hugely influential to me, both cinematically and musically. Sam Raimi showed me what joyful filmmaking looks like and John Carpenter made badass movies with his own badass scores on them. And Dario Argento! Nobody could mix awesome music, gorgeous colors and really disturbing shit as well as he could."
If Not This, Then What: Despite an amazingly renaissance résumé of multiple art disciplines, Ochoa's degree is actually in political science, of all things. If the music or film careers ever get boring, he'd like to work either in a campaign capacity or even in public policy.
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If Not Here, Then Where: With his ever increasing contributions to the world of film, it's probably no surprise that Ochoa plans to eventually move to Los Angeles or New York.
What's Next: In addition to the projects already mentioned, Two Star Symphony has secured financial sponsorship that allows them to expand even more. Details are being kept under wraps, but it's possible that the group may move into the big leagues composing music for an actual big-budget film later this year.
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright