The study of music began for me with violin & piano lessons at age six. Being an energetic child who's key interests involved running around in the woods and hitting things with sticks, I mostly resisted every kind of formal education enforced upon me. That included music lessons, and I actually resented violin playing until about age 11, when I experienced the excitement and joy of chamber music for the first time. Sharing music with others I learned, could be thrilling. Still, I avoided the violin, and practiced as little as I could get away with. Music remained something I did because it was a mandatory part of my education. This changed a couple years later I picked up the guitar, which unlike violin, was cool. Most importantly, I was doing it on my own terms. Now, free of rules or expectations I began to see music as an exciting field of possibility, and increasingly it drew me in.
A major development was when I got my first computer and began to explore the user-friendly recording software, GarageBand. There I could easily record one part, and then another and another on top of each other. Having this technology in my hands was like discovering an extraordinary power. I became hooked, and soon was pouring hours a day into it. I would program drum parts, come up with licks on the electric guitar and bass, add vocals, and create song. This exciting realm of exploration remained my primary interest for almost a decade. In the very beginning most of my experiments were, well... in retrospect they don't sound great. But I was learning, and with each one gradually improved. By the age of 18 I had become a proficient songwriter, and was consistently producing material I remain proud of today.
That remained my passion even after I started attending college as a violin performance major. Violin became my major because I had good skill on the instrument, thanks to my parent's dedication to my musical education, and there was an established path for me there academically. This seemed to be the most practical choice. While my dream really was to stick to playing rock music and writing songs, I was intimated by a world so heavily saturated by new bands and singer-songwriters. Violin felt safer, and so it became my professional path while recording songs remained a hobby and my true passion for several more years. I would often justify neglecting homework by working on a song instead, which always felt the more urgent and important work at the time.
Going back a bit - at around the age of 16 I began attempting traditional, notated composition. It was a bit disappointing to find the method I'd developed for songwriting did not naturally transfer, and so struggled for years to develop this new skill, and gradually began to create satisfying compositions. When I got to college at the University of Southern Maine, composition lessons and participation in a wonderfully robust Composers Ensemble became staples of my education. It was at this time that I developed a real flow for composition, resulting in what I feel confident in calling my first mature 'classical work in early 2013: Conspiracy for String Quartet. Composing remained a big part of my life, but my primary focus had taken an unexpected turn.
In my third year of college, after so many years, violin playing suddenly, actually became something I was deeply interested in. My motivation came from a powerful desire to learn J.S. Bach's Chaconne,and for the first time in my life I was practicing many hours a day. With that, my former preference for rock & pop music began to fade, and a deep love for classical music was formed. I was continually amazed by Bach, and soon became completely obsessed with the late works of Beethoven. So as graduation approached, and the daunting prospect of post-college life loomed before me, more college made sense. I would follow this newfound passion for violin and classical music. I put together an audition and was awarded an assistantship for a Masters degree, which I gladly accepted. However, my life was about to take another unexpected turn.
Throughout the last semester of college a gradual shift fell upon me. I became increasingly fatigued, lost weight, and eventually was afflicted by night sweats and itchy skin. The day I left Maine, back to my home in Vermont for the Summer of 2014, a lump had formed on my neck. Soon after, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which I was assured was among the most easily treatable forms of cancer. I was given about a 90% chance of being cured with first line therapy, and so I deferred my assistantship to the Spring semester, feeling confident I would be able to attend at that time. For complicated reasons, the results of my final scan were delayed. Since the previous scans had looked good, I drove out to Carbondale, Illinois in early January. I began to settle there into a new apartment, met new people, got a glimpse of what my life was to be at a decent looking college in the middle of nowhere. Then I learned that the treatment had been unsuccessful. I clung to the possibility of staying at school and having treatment while doing my Masters degree, but the next line of treatment was to be much more brutal and serious. Remaining at school was out of the question. It was clear I had to permanently uproot from that path, and move to a new, completely unknown future. It was necessary that I upgrade to a leading research hospital, and that was how I came to live in New York City starting late January 2015. From there the details of my illness become somewhat onerous. However, upon arriving in NYC, I enrolled in the Mannes College Extension program. I kept somewhat active and developed meaningful relationships, but did not feel the need to significantly challenge myself. I still expected to be fully cured at some point in the
foreseeable future, and that meant my life would change yet again in an unknown way. Even though I'd been in Carbondale, Illinois (expecting to start Grad school) for just one week, I had become firmly planted in that reality, and the experience of being uprooted was difficult. Despite feeling pretty well most of the time, I could not feel settled in NYC, as I waited to see what course my illness took. Again, things did not go as expected. I was not cured, but moved on to a very forgiving and somewhat effective clinical trial during the summer of 2015. For the next year I kept practicing Bach on the violin, and immersed myself in classical score study.
In late 2015, after ending a prolonged use of prescription pain killers, I enjoyed an incredible return of mental clarity, and a powerful determination to move forward. I re-enrolled in Mannes for the new term. For the first time in my life, I became fiercely committed to following my dreams. I had the deep realization that my original music was my true musical identity – a place I can inhabit, and a place from which I can never be uprooted – work that deserves my full attention, to be nourished and developed to the best of my ability. It was as if a fog had cleared from my mind, and I could now see a glimpse of my true, higher self for the first time in years. With this newfound focus I made an earnest return to writing and recording, and became completely dedicated to making the most out of every single day. This period was very exciting and resulted in lots of new pieces. In February 2016 my focus shifted to curation of a concert that was to take place the following month. It was my first attempt at directing and leading a full concert that featured mostly original music. It was exciting to design a varied program comprised of my own works, and others of my choosing. I assembled a uniquely varied group of talented musicians, with vastly different backgrounds, ages and abilities; and despite having only one week to rehearse, we put on a very successful show. Taking on this role of leadership, bringing people together to play music who otherwise never would have played together, and being supported by them was a profoundly meaningful experience. Following the success of that first concert I have periodically continued to put on shows where I function as producer, director, composer, and lead performer. This is something I will always return to in the future, but in the meantime I attend to my primary goal of recording and producing original music.