Davey Jarrell currently works as a production intern at Nickelodeon Animation Studio on the hit show, SpongeBob SquarePants. He is a rising junior at the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, where he studies animation. Davey grew up in Rochester, New York and is a graduate of Allendale Columbia School. He studied piano at Hochstein for many years under Dr. Gary Palmer, but eventually discovered his true passion is making funny drawings move in a funny way. Taking classes at the Memorial Art Gallery, making films with his friends and at the Animation Workshop at Animatus Studio, and making a fool of himself in school plays led to his migration out west, and eventually to Bikini Bottom.
Recently, we sat down with Davey to talk about his experience at Hochstein and how it impacted his life and career.
AR: What and with whom did you study at Hochstein, and for how long? What programs and ensembles did you participate in, and under whom?
DJ: I studied piano with Dr. Gary Palmer on and off from 2000-2011. I participated in various recitals during those years at Hochstein, Nazareth College, Eastview Mall, and Barnes & Noble. I also took voice lessons with Chris Jones for a few months from 2010-2011. I stopped once I decided to devote all of my time to art and animation.
AR: Can you share one or two of your favorite memories at Hochstein?
DJ: My favorite memory is when I first started, I showed up to all of my lessons wearing a suit. I really wanted to impress Dr. Palmer. My other favorite memory is when Gary, at one of his recitals in front of a huge crowd of people, mentioned that he has one student who likes to change the score of the pieces assigned to him. I knew he was talking about me.
AR: What do you take away from your Hochstein education? How has it impacted your life/career currently?
DJ: The takeaways from learning to play an instrument are invaluable. Just being able to read music has been such a practical skill for me to have. The music fundamentals I learned at Hochstein transferred to other pursuits very well. At school, I learned to play clarinet and played in the band for 5 years. I also performed in almost all of the school musicals, and even in an a cappella group my junior and senior year. I also use music in the cartoons and movies I make. To do that, I need to have a good sense of what I want, and having played music for so many years makes that easy for me. Sometimes I need original music and I am always able to give clear direction to my composer. Sometimes I use existing music, and for one of my films, Gary Palmer chose the music. Although I’m not pursuing music professionally, I have a musical vocabulary and sense of rhythm, tempo and pitch that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
AR: What are you doing at Nickelodeon studios? How long have you been there?
DJ: I’m a production intern on SpongeBob SquarePants. I’ve been there since mid-June. Most people don’t know this, but SpongeBob, and most animated TV shows for that matter, are animated in Korea. Korea does the physical animation, meaning they make the drawings move, but all of the creative work is done here in California. This work includes designing all of the characters and backgrounds, writing, creating a storyboard (which is basically a comic book version of the cartoon), creating color-keys, timing, recording the voices, and adding music and sound effects. My main job is to help prepare the storyboards, designs, color keys, and timing notes to be sent to Korea. All of the directions need to be super clear for Korea since they are the ones physically making the cartoon.
AR: When were you first interested in animation?
DJ: I’ve been interested in animation my entire life. SpongeBob has been my favorite show since kindergarten, so being able to work on it is a dream come true. In 7th grade, I started taking classes at a place in Rochester called Animatus Studios. They do a lot of local commercials for places like Wegmans and House of Guitars, and they teach classes on weekends. As soon as I started doing that, I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I continued going to their workshops until I moved out here for college.
AR: How have you stayed involved with music (either through performing, seeing concerts, etc.)? Do you have advice for people who study music and/or dance who want to stay involved, but don’t intend to go into the field of music?
DJ: I continue to use music in almost everything I produce. I don’t compose any of it, but I occasionally work with composers. Music is such an important part of filmmaking. I sometimes choose the soundtrack before I film or animate a scene, and make the actions sync up with the beat of the music. So even though I’m not actually playing music anymore, I still work with it all the time.
AR: Tell us about your plans for the future!
DJ: I want to keep working on SpongeBob. Unfortunately, the internship ends at the end of August, but my goal is to return to Nickelodeon as an artist as soon as possible. Later on, I will definitely start pitching my own material and try to get my own show on the air. That’s the ultimate goal!
AR: If you could share one piece of advice or inspiration with incoming students at Hochstein, what would you tell them?
DJ: I can't really speak for those who aspire to pursue music professionally, but for those who are doing it just for fun, like I was, well, that's my biggest piece of advice. Just have fun doing it. Don't be nervous about trying something you think you're no good at. The people who teach at Hochstein are all super talented and supportive and they will be thrilled to teach you at any level. If you've always wanted to learn how to sing even if you think your voice is awful, then this is the place to try it. You never know what you'll be good at.
AR: What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
DJ: I listen to anything that's fun. I'm not too picky when it comes to music. I find things I like about pretty much any genre. I just listen to whatever people around me are listening to.