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How composer went from posting music to YouTube to working with Hollywood director Jordan Peele

Michael Abels recalls the moment a phone call changed the trajectory of his career.

When Michael Abels got the call that launched his career as a master of movie scores in Hollywood, the concert composer thought it was too good to be true.

But when writer and director Jordan Peele told him he wanted to work with him, he also knew it was too good to pass up.

“He said, you know, I want the African American voice both literally and metaphorically in this film,” Abels recalled in an interview with TODAY’s Craig Melvin.

The film was the Peele’s 2017 horror hit, “Get Out,” and Abels, who was sharing his musical work on YouTube at the time, never anticipated getting that call.

Composer Michael Abels
Michael Abels attends the New York premiere of "US" at the Museum of Modern Art on March 19, 2019, in New York.Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images

“Of course, I thought I was being punked,” the 59-year-old said. “But I thought it was a really good punk, so I said, ‘Send me the script.’”

What it turned out to be was the perfect pairing of filmmaker and score creator.

“He said, ‘It’s got to be really scary,’” Abels explained. “I said, ‘I think you’re talking about gospel-horror.’”

That instant understanding helped set the tone for “Get Out” and set a new career trajectory for the composer.

"Jordan is someone who’s not afraid to look outside his immediate network for people who he thinks he can see a possibility in," Abels said. "And I count myself among those."

Of course, now he's officially part of Peele's network of people, having gone on to write the music for the filmmaker's 2019 follow-up horror, "Us," and his upcoming release in the same genre, "Nope," in addition to several other big screen scores.

But the World Soundtrack Award winner isn't content with simply achieving his own success. He also has a passion for making sure other people of color have a chance to break into the industry that’s historically lacked diversity.

"To help with that I co-founded the Composers Diversity Collective," he said. 

According to the organization's mission page, it exists "to eliminate the industry’s challenge to find culturally diverse music creators, music supervisors, sound engineers and musicians, to increase our own awareness of each other, and to dispel misconceptions about the stylistic range of any minority composer."

Because, as Abels explained on TODAY, "It’s not only just good for the soul, but good for the box office and good for creativity."