I am a freelance musician and composer who lives and works in western MA.
PRE-SOUL PATCH ERA:
At 9 years old, I made my first CD purchase. It was an impulse buy. Not knowing who they were or what they sound like, I choose “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass: Greatest Hits” based on two things: it was $2.00 and they were wearing funny pants. Those funny pants inspired me to join the Westfield elementary school band. Quickly, the music director (Walter Gladwin) noticed that after I read my music, I wouldn’t stop playing and kept on making up melodies. As a result, he gave me my first improvised solo at our end of the year concert with the rest of the band accompanying me. I was instantly addicted. Jazz found me and I did everything I could to become a musician. This includes wearing a bright red beret during most concerts. (I don’t know why I thought that would help.)
In middle school I discovered something amazing: A band dedicated to jazz. I couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador to the study of jazz than director Gene Bartley. Under his guidance I developed my improvisation and understanding of the genre. He also introduced me to The Massachusetts Music Educators Association, (MMEA) yearly festivals, where a few students from every school tryout to play in a regional Band, Orchestra, Jazz Band or Chorus. There I met other kids like me from around the state who like me, were hopelessly addicted. It was an exclusive club of hepcats that I participated in both years of middle school and all four years of high school.
Westfield High was a whirlwind of music: Concert band, wind ensemble, marching band, jazz band, jazz combo, and brass choir, many of which had their own class. It’s a wonder how I graduated while living in the band room all day. Even while struggling for funding, (like all school music programs sadly,) director Patrick Kennedy had us participate in competitions near and far, play concerts for many parts of the community, and found the time to develop individual players. From the very start of high school my nerves and ability were tested; not 3 weeks into being birthed a freshman I was selected to play a show-stopping solo with the lead senior trumpet player every week at the football halftime show. In my four years in the music department I played on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, competed in many festivals and competitions on the east coast, and was named drum major my senior year. By graduation I racked up my share of awards: The John Philip Sousa band award, two (2) Louis Armstrong jazz awards, six (6) International Association for Jazz Educators outstanding soloist awards, International Association for Jazz Educators Most Valuable Player, Berkley College of Music judge’s choice trophy, Virginia beach Showcase music festival outstanding soloist trophy, and most impressive, a high school diploma!
Outside of school, I forced myself to hunt for any opportunity to play in the real world. As a freshman I joined the local jazz jam at Jester’s cafe in Westfield, where I would get my butt kicked into shape by much older and talented players, (which I feel is extremely important for any musician.) Also, by the end of high school I was first call bugler for many local ceremonial guards.
After graduation, like my idol Dizzy Gillespie, I grew a soul patch.
SOUL PATCH ERA:
I received my bachelor’s degree in Jazz & African-American Music Studies from UMass Amherst under the guidance of department director Jeff Holmes. Along with the usual big bands and jazz combos, I was also heavily involved in the vocal jazz ensemble, which developed my voice. There are simply too many influential professors to name during my time, but among the most helpful were Jeff Holmes himself, (who’s talent and compositional wisdom still amazes me,) Bob Ferrier, (Who if I never met as a high school student, I may not be playing today,) and Paul Lieberman, (which is the person I want to be when I grow up.)
Paying for music school by playing music proved to be one of the hardest endeavors of my life. Fortunately, the pioneer valley has proven to be a fantastic oasis for art. During strange circumstances that involved Batman, motorcycle stunts, and Jiffy lube, I joined the Primate Fiasco. During my 5 years with the band I toured extensively, got to play with world-famous bands/musicians, and one of our 3 albums was nominated for a Grammy. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate enough to share the stage with Peter Erskine, Jon Abercrombie, Bill Cosby, (yes he plays drums,) Arlo Guthrie, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Toubab Krewe, The Ryan Monbleau Band, the Young@Heart Chorus, and Erin McKeown, to name a few.
The following is a sample of studio albums I’ve been involved with:
The Primate Fiasco – “Geek Dreams” “Wheels On The Bus” “Tap”
Smack My Bishop – Smack My Bishop
Wildcat O’Halloran – “Cougar Bait” “Party Up In Heaven”
Jamie Kent – “Navigation”
Young@Heart Chorus – “30th Anniversary”
Steve Lipman – “Rediscover”
Unit 7 (Eric Ollsson Band) – “Pussycat Rag”
Lux Deluxe – “It’s A Girl”
Colorway – The Black Sequined Sky
The Nields – “Rock All Day, Rock All Night”
Drunk Stuntmen – “Trailer Life”
Katelyn Richards – “Have Yours Too”
The Amity Front – “Border Towns”
Joslyn Thomas – “Songs I wrote when I was Crazy”
David Hyde Costello – “Little Pig Joins The Band”
Yucky Octopus – “Adventures In Science And Space”