Interview with Stephen Schwartz Award-Winning Composer Khiyon Hursey

Khiyon Hursey is a writer and composer wielding his talents to bridge the worlds of musical theater and contemporary popular music. Khiyon has collected impressive credits throughout his career, including working as a music assistant on the Grammy-winning Hamilton, and working with Universal Studios, HBO Max, Netflix, Apple, Nickelodeon, Andre 3000, Issa Rae, and Kevin Hart on various music and TV projects. I had the chance to chat with Khiyon about his artistic process, dream collaborators, and more.

What did your career journey look like that has brought you to where you are today?

My career has taken so many unexpected twists and turns over the past seven years. But the one constant has been musical theater. When I was twenty, I started working on the off-Broadway production of HAMILTON. I was three months out of college, and I consider my year working on the show, from off-Broadway to Broadway to recording the cast album, my “grad school”. It greatly shaped my life and provides me with professional experience that I still use to this day. From there, I entered the tv/film world as a creator of musicals for tv/film. Along with my writing partner, I secured a job writing for a musical show on Netflix called soundtrack and sold a movie musical to Universal Studios. Things unfolded relatively fast and I think I caught the momentum of Hollywood having a renewed interest in musicals, mostly because of Hamilton! 

You worked on both the off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Hamilton as a music assistant. Can you tell us about that? Any favorite memories?

Working on both of these productions was incredible. I knew that I was witnessing one of the great musicals being built but didn’t know that it would become a global phenomenon. Seeing Lin create and write in real-time taught me so much about storytelling and how rap music could work in the theater. My favorite memory was seeing everyone react to “The World was Wide Enough” when Lin brought it in. We all knew we were witnessing something special. 

You were selected for the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Award (congrats!) How did it feel to get this recognition?

Receiving this award from Stephen was one of the most exciting and thrilling honors of my life so far. He is one of the greatest musical theater composers ever and to have him support my career and work in this way is overwhelming no still can’t believe it! 

Any dream collaborators, or past favorites you would like to work with again?

I’d love to work with Jack Antonoff. I think he’s one of the great producers of our generation who can just really do anything. Also, I dream of working with Blood Orange (Dev Hynes), Rostam, and Jimmy Edgar. All of them are insanely specific special talents. 

What is your favorite style of music to create?

I mostly live in the hip-hop/rap world when it comes to creating music. It’s my favorite style to work in because there’s so much flexibility in hip hop. Between the words, rhythms, and sonic palettes, you can accomplish so many incredible things with rap.

Do you have any daily routines or rituals involved in creating music?

I almost always have a song in my head before I actually start writing words or notes down. I have to have it pretty worked out before I physically start writing things down on a page and then from there, I start “properly” writing the song. I do this primarily when I’m working myself and 90 percent of what I create gets created like that. 

Thanks for reading! You can find Khiyon on Twitter and Instagram.

About Jake Stern

I love to write about entertainment, film composing, sound, music, and more. Follow me to stay up to date on interviews with your favorite artists!

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