His dream career. Ten years in the music industry. The opportunity to work with an Academy Award-winning Hollywood legend. And it all started at a California community college. 

Raul Vega isn’t shy about sharing his feelings about Irvine Valley College (IVC). He says it’s truly where his musical journey began, and he wouldn’t be where he is today without it. It’s a journey that’s taken him from IVC to a four-year university and now to Remote Control Productions, the studio owned by legendary composer and record producer Hans Zimmer, who recently won his second Academy Award for Best Original Score for Dune.

As a digital instrument designer, Vega’s primary job is to record musicians and artists playing their instruments, editing the sound and building it into software that Zimmer can use in his scores. And it’s not just instruments: Vega and his team uses everything from string ensembles and vocalists, to demolishing piano lids with sledgehammers to invent new ways of introducing sounds into film music.

“It can be quite tedious and requires a finely tuned ear, but the end result is always rewarding, especially when you get to hear him use it in his scores,” Vega said.

After graduating from IVC, Vega continued his education at the Bob Cole Music Conservatory at California State University, Long Beach. Vega credits his IVC instructors with getting him there: he says he wouldn’t have written his first piano piece or had the discipline to move on to a four-year program without their continuous encouragement and unwavering support – even after graduation. Perhaps most importantly, Vega says they reminded him to always have fun with music, something he still implements in his work today. 

Vega says anyone who has an interest in working in the music industry should seriously consider a California community college.

“The foundation of my work ethic comes from Irvine Valley [College] and I’m so fortunate to have had amazing mentors and peers who still to this day keep in touch,” Vega said. “Continue building, growing, and expanding your network with other musicians and the like. And never let anyone make you ask permission to create. As artists, it is our birthright. Don’t ever forget that!”

Watch the video below to learn more about the opportunities, transfer pathways and career options available to students interested in composing, singing, instruments and other music-related studies.