Trumpet & Certified Music Therapist
My love of music has taken me on a weird and wonderful adventure. The musical life is not always easy to live, yet alone describe, but I’ll try…
My mother wrote in my Baby’s First Book that I was fascinated with music – Mozart in particular – while still in the playpen. Music would calm my restlessness for hours on end. I excelled in my early musical studies under the guidance of several fine teachers.
Then, at the age of 12, something happened that I remember to this day. I had just won an audition to be the featured soloist with the local high school wind ensemble on their upcoming European tour. I was happier than I’d ever felt before. Some strange feelings began to stir inside me. The joyful faces of my grandpa, grandma, mom, dad flashed across my mind. It hit me that, in a few months, I’d be playing “The Carnival of Venice” – in Venice! I began to grasp the power of Music. How it brought joy to myself and others. How thrilling it was to play all those notes! I saw that music had the power to carry me beyond the confines of the village surrounded by corn fields where my life began. Right then and there, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Fast forward to my twenties…
I obtained my Bachelor’s degree from North Texas State University and moved on to University of Redlands in California to study with Barney Childs whose compositions and writings on music intrigued me. I can’t remember how I thought about music before Barney. He was the most extraordinary person I’ve known and my composing blossomed under his ear-opening tutelage. Following two intensive years of study with him, I received my Master’s degree, and landed an extraordinary gig… in Finland!
At Jukola, I founded a full-fledged music program working with juvenile delinquents and abused children to change their lives through music. It was a humbling, wrenchingly difficult and rewarding experience inventing multiple pathways to get through to these kids. Imagine sharing a piano bench with a suicidal girl whose wrists were still thick with bandages. Now try to inspire her to forge on through music! These amazing children taught me how to make music truly meaningful as a lifeline for myself as much as for them.
Back in the States, I joined a world-beat, punk pop band called Baby Snufkin in San Francisco. We toured throughout Europe and the States in venues as small as Berlin squats and as great as hockey arenas where we opened for No Doubt. A few grants for dance works followed, a Tijuana Brass tribute band, teaching in inner-city schools, running summer jazz camps, random composing work here and there, some ska, some reggae, multiple side projects, a raucous group named Shitty Shitty Band Band, some film music, and numerous appearances on recordings and tours – 30+ recording credits and over 2,000 performances in 28 States and 17 countries and counting.
One of these side gigs led me to work with guitarist Ezra Gale. We co-founded a ten-piece psychedelic jazz funk group dedicated to exploring the legacy of Miles Davis’ electrified music. As a trumpet player, I’d always loved playing this music, so it was a natural fit. The band, dubbed Bitches Brew, quickly garnered strong critical and popular acclaim and was voted Best Local Band by the readers of SF Weekly. We went on to headline Yoshi’s, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s and other top Bay Area venues and played to captivated crowds at Big Sur, Fillmore and North Beach Jazz Festivals.
After 18 years in San Francisco I went for another life change. For six months I lived in a log cabin in the woods north of Spokane, chopping wood for an old-time stove, taking in a pregnant stray cat (and soon, five kittens!) and composing the first act of an opera that had been in my bones for years. I meandered across the States for a while and, following the death of my father, landed back in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana.
Currently I’m the director of Michiana Center for the Arts, a new arts facility housed in a beautifully restored historical landmark. This old opera house in Goshen houses nine individual artist studios, offers classes, and provides a home to several non-profit performing arts groups. Since opening our doors in December 2010 MCA has featured over 120 regional artists in visual arts, music, theatre, film and poetry. I also teach a dozen youth in high & low brass and electric bass. Some of my students are playing Mozart, Bach and Telemann, while others are digging on Duke, Dizzy, Beatles, Nirvana and Muse.
Beginning May 12, 2011, my ongoing musical journey will take me to the West coast, six countries across Europe and a Fall tour across over a dozen states in the US where I’ll be: promoting The Wolfrog Project, performing in a modern opera, recording a CD of new compositions (including an Elegy for the Sendai calamity), doing a number of small group shows, and making several radio appearances. I will also joyously be returning to Finland to direct a two-week music camp for the program I developed nearly 20 years ago. Turns out a number of the very same kids who changed my world all those years ago now work for this amazing program. They are now helping other young children turn their lives around.
Now that’s just about the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!