Amanda Lee Falkenberg | Composer

Space Centre Houston September 2018

DORICO - The Future of SCORING I


Many musicians discover their talent at an early age, but few begin quite as early or as impressively as Amanda Lee Falkenberg. At the age of just two and a half, she began teaching herself piano by transcribing the sound of marching bands directly onto the piano. Since that first spark of inspiration, she’s gone on to perform as a concert pianist for the Australian Ballet company, pursue her own path as a composer and win numerous awards for her TV and film scores – achievements that are fuelled by her insatiable curiosity and lifelong passion for music.

While Amanda was in London to premiere a new trilogy of works, we chatted with her about her musical journey and inspirations.

From the moment Amanda Lee Falkenberg began learning the piano, a career in music seemed like a natural progression. ‘I was listening to piano concertos, deciding which one to learn next, and the sheer power of the piano within that setting just lit my world up,’ she confides.

Her passion for playing pianoset her on the path to composition. She honed her craft until she could bring her musical visions to life; while still at school, sheadded atmosphere to a play on the life of Thomas Becket with original medieval-inspired music. However, it wasn’t until she worked as a ballet pianist that she realised her professional calling wascomposition.

During her time as a concert pianist with The Australian Ballet, her desire to exercise her own creative agency became increasingly evident. ‘I decided that I wanted to write my own ballet, and that no one was going to take me seriously while I was sitting behind the piano. I said to myself, I need to resign.’

Her determination led her to part ways with performance and set up a recording studio in Dubai, a move that is reflected in the Arabic influences heard throughout her work. In fact, much of Amanda’s inspiration comes organically. ‘Music nourishes me, and I feel so energised and excited about where I am and the headspace I enter when I’m making music,’ she explains. She never worries about where the ideas will come from: ‘I love that challenge. Even if you gave me a blank canvas, I’d be working out how to translate that into music.’

After achieving her aim of writing her own ballet, Amanda has since moved into film composing, winning numerous awards for her sweeping, orchestral compositions. Her approach to this work is often intuitive, drawing inspiration from the textures and atmospheres of the films she’s scoring. ‘One thing leads to another, and it becomes this endless dance of ideas.’

She’s also not afraid to scrap work she believes is not up to the highest standards. ‘You have to feel it’s brilliant. Brilliant is your best work,’ she tells us – and it’s apparent thatthis desire for musical perfection has its roots in her earliest days as a musician. ‘When I was a teenager I said to my piano teacher that I would get perfect scores, and they warned me that it would be really tough. To get perfect scores was quite something in Australia,’ she recalls. In the end, she achieved two perfect scores: one in performance, the other in arranging.

Clearly, Amanda dedicates an impressive amount of time and energy to her compositions. However, she refuses to identify as a ‘workaholic’, which doesn’t encompass the creativity and open-mindedness that composition necessitates. Instead, she embraces the term ‘learnaholic’, someone always searching for new ideas and new inspirations.

Her learnaholic attitude has proven useful when it comes to engaging with technology in her work. With no full-time orchestra available to her in Dubai, she primarily utilises editing and scoring software to craft her compositions, giving her access to a powerful library of virtual instruments.

Indeed, the learning curve of innovative new music technologies is something that Amandaenjoys mastering: in preparation for the London premiere of her new Sea Trilogy, she took the drastic step of transferring all of her work into the music notation software Dorico. The challenge of mastering a new notation software with a major deadline approaching doesn’t seem to have phased her. ‘I loved it,’ she remarks, undaunted by the time crunch. ‘It was a beautiful goal and timeline to be working towards.’

Despite her skill with the more tech-heavy side of composing, working on film scores with live orchestras remains her goal. ‘There’s a real energy to listening to something that’s been recorded with a real orchestra. So that’s where I’m headed eventually.’

Even as her hard work comes to fruition and her goals take shape, Amanda retains the inquisitive attitude that brought her to the art of composition in the first place. ‘I know to this very breath that I’m happy with how everything has turned out, but I’m still curious,’ she says.‘That’s how I’d put it – it’s ambitious, but also curious.’So what’s next on Amanda’s musical journey? Whether she’s working with technology or live musicians, scoring for film or TV, her power to transform curiosity into composition will undoubtedly continue to lead to innovation and artistry.

Dorico - Music Notation and Composing Software | Steinberg

Amanda Lee Falkenberg

With acclaimed scores for film, TV, ballet and theatre, Amanda Lee Falkenberg’s career is nothing if not diverse. Since learning to transcribe overheard melodies onto the piano at the age of two, her dramatic orchestral works have gone on to win numerous awards – including both the 2017 and 2016 Great American Song Contest in the Instrumental category for her pieces Believe It and Mermaid’s Maiden Voyage.

In the build-up to premiering her new works for symphony orchestra in London, Amanda used Dorico for her work and gave us her feedback:

‘Being relatively new to the music notation market, its features are already shockingly powerful, its operating system is clear, solid and simple and its vision for the future is impressive.’

‘Through solid months of using this program, I can truly feel the enormous commitment these developers have, with the musicians at the core of their decisions and developments. The support that comes with this software is world class so you will never feel out of your depth during your learning phase […] A five star rating from me.’

You can find out more about Amanda, and listen to a selection of her work, here.

Creative Lab - CLICK HERE for link to article

She started playing the piano at the age of two and a half and as a child dreamed of becoming a famous concert pianist, until a series of interesting career opportunities lead her to discover her incredible ability for music composition.

Now, Australian-born, Dubai-based film composer, Amanda Lee Falkenberg, is an in-demand film composer for the global music community across film, television, and animation, and also theatre and ballet projects. I caught up with Amanda at her studios in Dubai and started by asking her about living in the Middle East.

Amanda: The world is becoming so global, I find I’m doing, not just commissions from Dubai, but other countries and cities around the world. Dubai is a great place from which to base your self.

Being Australian myself, I wanted to find out more about her childhood in the beautiful Barossa Valley of South Australia, one of our premier wine growing regions, and whether music played a big part in her life, growing up.

Amanda: Professionally there wasn’t anyone in my family who was musical, but my whole family just loves music, and I think that’s all you really need. I recently heard a piece of Chopin played by Lang Lang in London, and I said to my husband, that’s my vacuum-cleaning music, that’s the music my mum would play on a Saturday morning before netball, as we did the housework! We would often go to my grandmother’s house and watch old movies like Singing in the Rain, so I was exposed to music, at an early age. And just the “naturalness” of growing up in the Barossa Valley, as an artist, it’s what you need… just like Brahms who would go hiking, you just need exposure to nature to live creatively.

In researching for this interview, I was aware that Amanda had studied at the prestigious Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide, where at that time, it was looking as though she would become a classical music concert pianist. I was curious as to why her career path had taken such a change in direction to composing.

Amanda: I was playing Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos, Liszt Piano Concertos, full of passion and incredibly inspiring; and they would light up my heart. After graduating in piano performance I won a position as a pianist with the Australian Ballet Company. Quietly, I always wanted to be a ballet dancer, so this was as close as I could get! So there I was playing the set music, and all of a sudden one day, I thought that I could offer some music that was a little bit more conducive to the exercises I was watching them do… a bit more of a flourish for that arm movement, say! So that’s how I started composing music, to the actions the dancers were making. And now, I can honestly say, composing from scratch, rather than just playing something someone else has composed, has more of an edge… I find it more nourishing.

As Amanda explained this concept to me, I had a light bulb moment; I now understood that she is hearing music that is perfectly timed to what she is viewing, whether it be ballet dancers, a scene, or a film… no wonder she became a film composer, she has the perfect skill set. I put this theory to Amanda.

Amanda: Some of my hero film composers, like John Williams, approach film composition like they are seeing the film as an opera, needing librettos and arias etc. For me, I see film composition from a dance perspective… I see everything as a vibration and movement, so that’s the way I work creatively.

Amanda Lee Falkenberg

I’m always interested in a person’s creative process, no matter what they are producing, whether it be a piece of music, work of art, or a new dessert… in Amanda’s case, I wanted to know where and how she starts.

Amanda: As I mentioned earlier, nature is very important to me when it comes to composing.
Recently I had to compose a piece for a London-based trio, and it had to be about waterfalls. Incredibly around this time, my husband and I were holidaying on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and we went on this hike that lead to a waterfall. So I let my husband go on ahead, and I just sat there, on a rock, underneath the waterfall, waiting for inspiration to come! I know this sounds a bit esoteric, but I trust that the vibrations of being in such a magical environment will penetrate through me and somehow when I get back to the studio something will happen!

Over the last decade, Amanda has received many international awards and multiple nominations for her orchestral film scores. Her music is now renowned worldwide, and she is one exceptional creative I would love to collaborate with, one day. As I was leaving, I glanced back to wave goodbye, and I was struck by how the cascading bougainvillea, and swaying palms flanking her studios, looked like a cool oasis in the desert heat…magic!

For more information on Amanda, or to contact her, click here.

About Michaela Bolzan
My name is Michaela Bolzan and I am the founder of Creative & Co. I am fascinated by the creative process and now want to explore it more by interviewing imaginative and innovative people across a wide range of occupations. My aim is to discover their passions, learn from where they get their inspiration, and begin to better understand their creative process.

The Great American Song Contest 2016

"Mermaids Maiden Voyage"

Film Music Orchestral Composition

"There are some brilliant ideas throughout this piece. The impressive instrumentation and orchestral arrangement comes across beautifully. It's always refreshing to hear and review instrumentals of this calibre. This stirring instrumental composition really stands out! Congratulations & good luck! We hope to hear more from you in the years ahead.




Time out Dubai

Emirates 24/7

For Amanda Lee Falkenberg and Paul Myer Hopkins, their life's work has never sounded as sweet.

The Dubai residents are the first composers from the Middle East to be nominated for today's Hollywood Music in Media Awards. The event recognises and honours music in visual mediums, from film and television to commercials and video games.

The husband-and-wife pair have been picked from thousands of submissions worldwide. Each is one of only four or five nominees in two categories at an event that is broadcast in 17 countries and across the US to an estimated 120 million households.

"When you're out here in Arabia, you really want to know where you stand professionally," Australian national Falkenberg, 33, told Emirates Business before jetting off to Hollywood earlier this week.

She has been nominated for two compositions, as Best New Composer for Forgotten Arabia, a film trailer score and Best Classical/Orchestral for Coral Garden Dance. Both were written this year.

"I was between projects and decided I wanted to write a big epic film trailer piece, so I went into the studio, and seven days later, Forgotten Arabia was born. I imagined it would work as the soundtrack to a big, epic battle with Arabic horses," she said of the dramatic, full-choir piece, which uses a variety of Arabic instruments and vocals.

Myer Hopkins, a 43-year-old teacher at the American School of Dubai, has been nominated in the World Music category for his piece, Desert Portrait, and in the Ambient genre for Inner Soul Chill-Out.

"I'm looking forward to being among people who write music," he said.

None of the pieces nominated have actually been used in any sort of media yet, but the awards and the conference that follows them are also a networking event to create opportunities for that kind of work.

And already, said Falkenberg, she has had agents asking to represent her. "I would love to think a major film deal is the next step."


Dubai City Guide


Hollywood Music Awards Recognizes A Rising Star From The Middle East

UAE film music composer Amanda Lee Falkenberg of Music HF Studios has received two nominations from the prestigious 2009 Hollywood Music Awards to be held this November at the world famous Kodak Theatre Complex in Los Angeles (home of the Oscars ®)

Out of thousands of submissions world wide, her composition entitled 'Forgotten Arabia' received an exclusive nomination from the judges in the category for Best New Composer. 

Her composition 'A Coral Garden Dance' received a nomination in the Best Classical/Orchestral category.

Amanda is the first composer from the Middle East to be nominated for the Hollywood Music Awards and to receive two nominations in 2009.

Nominees receive VIP treatment including a red carpet walk in front of top industry press and this ceremony is the only red carpet event for music awards. The 2009 Hollywood Music Awards will be broadcast in 17 countries and across the USA to an anticipated 120 Million households.

Amanda Lee Falkenberg has resided in the UAE for 5 years. In 2007, she was nominated for a Los Angeles Music Awards for Film Music. She has co-written the score for the international animation TV series “Ben & Izzy”, which features voice talents Lucy Liu and Mark Hamill.  She has written sweeping orchestral scores for epic films such as “Arabian Sands”. Before moving to the UAE, Amanda lived in Australia. She has composed numerous ballet and classical pieces to critical acclaim. Amanda was a full time pianist with the Australian Ballet Company and she studied at the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music.

Hollywood Music Awards (HMMA): Recognizes and honors the music associated with the audio visual mediums, the talented individuals responsible for that music and the music of independent artists from around the globe.

TRIPLEW. ME Radio Dubai

The creative forces behind ‘Arabian Riviera’, Rabaz (aka Paul Myer Hopkins) and Shadia (aka Amanda Lee Falkenberg) have lived in the Middle East for 30 years collectively. The duo recently decided to take a step further with their fusion album ‘Arabian Riviera’. We recently caught up with them to talk their music, the album and what's next, read below for more…

The composers, who usually specialize in writing music for films and commercial projects, decided to take a step out of their comfort zone with the production of Arabian Riviera - a collection of Middle East-inspired chillout tracks. The album was conceptualized after an extended amount of time where the composers drew inspiration from travel around the region.

“In our music business we are called upon to write in many different styles, we've always loved listening to chill-out and groove music, so after a while we decided to take it a step further and create an entire album," Shadia tells us, adding that the process was a productive one "we composed 20 tracks in total, but with the help of our AR [Richard Hussein from Lionheart] we selected 13 that fit the concept of the album the best, and also flowed from one track to the next so that the entire album takes listeners on a pleasing sonic journey.”

So what about the inspiration behind it? Shadia tells us it's been  “Wherever we've traveled we've kept our ears open to the fascinating sounds throughout region; the great thing about Arabic/Western fusion is you have access to so much instrumental color and texture to play around with.”

Obviously, drawing on their experience as composers was a useful tool to liberate their creative minds, but to what extent? Shadia tells us “We have a commercial music library with over 100 titles called Arabian Journey. Because the music is specifically designed for use in commercial media, there are certain formulas it must adhere to, for it to be appropriate for advertising, but with this album we had the freedom to be creative in all aspects of the compositions, and we weren't bound by the need for them [the songs] to fit any conventions. It was a very nourishing and rewarding project for us on this level. I think any creative who works in advertising and marketing, loves the opportunity from time to time to 'create for the sake of creating'.” 

And create they have, the album is a fresh collection of tracks that is at once chilled, but doesn't necessarily resort to stereotypes. You can grab a copy of Arabian Riviera Vol 1 at all Virgin Megastores and other retailers across the Middle East.

The album is released through Lionheart Records/Sony Music Middle East.


As one of the judges of the Hollywood Music Awards I felt compelled to reach out and say BRAVO. From Tim Burton to 100% of other scores, this work is stellar!"

The Australian National Newspaper

The Herald - South Australia

Music HF Studios has produced some amazing musical results. As Managing Director of Dubai Festival City, I commissioned HF Studios to compose original orchestral music for the opening of the waterfront retail centre, one of the largest in the World. The scores written by Amanda and Paul were excellent and completely captures the festive mood of the project. As a veteran of the shopping centre and entertainment industry since 1981, I have had great success combining the excitement of special event production with music and event decor. Having the opportunity to work with HF Studios was a great fit. HF Studios has a unique advantage given it's home base in Dubai but with strong roots in Australia and the USA. I certainly hope to work with Paul and Amanda again in the near future.



Paul and Amanda are amazing composers and owners of Music HF. It is a pleasure working with them and their music is loved by all who hear it. The PBS Fall 2011 documentary Wham!Bam!Islam! features Arab driven songs. They are Hollywood Music Media Award winners too