I became a single mother when three-year-old Alex’s dad passed away. He was an only child and loved play dates, where he was introduced to Nintendo. When my son was six, I remarried a man that Alex helped me choose. “That’s the new dad I want,” Alex announced after begging me to find him a new dad.
In 1999, Alex was eight when he purchased a Nintendo 64 with his birthday money. Of all the games, he was mesmerized with Ocarina of Time and its soundtrack. He was consumed with the game—not only identifying with Link’s adventures, but mesmerized by Koji Kondo’s soundtrack as well.
My sister, a professional musician, bought Alex an ocarina. I could hear him playing the little haunting instrument in his room while he played The Legend of Zelda. Ocarina of Time immersed Alex into another world.
After only a few piano lessons, I noticed Alex trying to play one of the Ocarina of Time tunes. It was the “Serenade of Water” that first sparked his passion. This led to ordering the song’s sheet music from Japan, as in 2003 it was not yet available in the United States. Alex treasured the book of songs and started with the simpler melodies. Alex’s piano teacher, Mike, incorporated the Ocarina of Time songbook as part of their weekly lesson.
Alex even convinced Mike to allow him to play a medley from Ocarina of Time at the annual recital where the rest of the students played classical pieces. Mike, a jazz musician, was cool with that and went along with Alex’s recital choice.
Together, they agreed on a medley and selected excerpts. Alex practiced for almost six months. The recital program listed the ten young students playing classical pieces of Bach and Mozart, while Alex played “Selections from The Legend of Zelda.”
At the recital Mike introduced Alex as such, “Here’s an unusual selection from an unusual guy.”
As soon as Alex started playing, several parents in unison remarked, “I recognize that!” His performance was wonderfully received, and comments included how it was such a welcome surprise and a unique recital choice.
We hit a bump in the road when my bi-polar husband, Alex’s stepfather, removed the Nintendo and all the games from the home without warning. He deemed the games were too violent. Eventually, the Nintendo and all the games were returned to Alex and we removed the stepfather, permanently. The divorce was more upheaval for my twelve-year-old son.
As a manager of entry-level staff, I was used to discussing short and medium term career plans. I thought, “why not do this for Alex?” We made a five-year plan that would run until his graduation from high school. Alex was drawn to studying video game music composition. Together, we located summer programs related to music composition and gaming.
Alex attended summer camps and programs such as the Vancouver Film School game sound design program, Berklee College of Music’s audio lab in Boston, and the Pacific Northwest Film Score program, led by award-winning film score composer Hummie Mann. I would check in with Alex to ensure that video game design was still a passion, and it was. He was steadfast.
Alex continued practicing and playing Ocarina of Time songs, remixing selections electronically, as well as learning other video game soundtracks. This led to him getting a small gig with a start-up game company, adding sound effects to a game in development.
When Alex was applying to college and universities, it was difficult to find music engineering programs. He ended up choosing Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida to study audio production. That course would prepare him for jobs in music and film industry. It was an accelerated bachelor’s degree, and he graduated when he was twenty.
Ten years later, he has about 150 of credits on commercials, documentaries, web series, and feature films as an audio and sound engineer.
Alex’s love and appreciation for the Ocarina of Time soundtrack was validated when, years later, orchestras like The Swedish Radio Symphony performed beautifully arranged pieces. There are reports that these performances and recordings bring fans of the games to tears, remembering their youth.
Composer Gavin Leeper, another Ocarina of Time aficionado, describes Koji Kondo’s music as “harmonically adventurous.” On YouTube, he breaks down the popular songs, analyzing the chord structures and composition techniques. Gavin, like Alex, was inspired as a young boy by the Ocarina of Time soundtrack.
Alex, now thirty, still has his old Nintendo 64 from 1999 and his original save files. He says he plays Ocarina of Time annually, and now also owns a Nintendo Switch. He tells me that the Breath of the Wild soundtrack is reminiscent of Ocarina of Time, which brings back happy memories.
During the pandemic, I noticed that Alex had rediscovered the Ocarina of Time sheet music. I can hear him play his favorite selections on the piano once again. It reminded me of how Alex’s amazing career path started with his passion for Ocarina in Time and The Legend of Zelda.