Playing Piano and Singing are the most beautiful and helpful things I do.
My love affair with the piano started early.
My dad bought a piano for our Temple Terrace, Florida home. I was 7.
And even before any official teacher showed up some random person sat down and started playing “Heart and Soul”.
It was a magical sound. Happiness! I had to know how to do that.
Actually, I insisted that this person show me how to play it. He said the fateful words “you can improvise”!
And thus, I proceeded to drive Mom crazy with 10,000 hours of improvising on “Heart and Soul”. And other songs I learned.
More people would sit down and play amazing little pieces that they knew. They, in turn, were forced to show me how they played it.
Consequently, I learned “Hit the Road Jack” And “Lady Madonna” and “Peanuts” and more and more songs.
I have just never stopped being amazed by how wonderful pianos are.
Pianos and pianists and other musicians and artists constantly inspire me.
And today the music I create daily, makes people smile, sing, tap a toe, and even dance.
Pianos and music are very social.
See, my dad had these parties and the best thing ever happened at them. People would sit and/or stand around the piano with guitars and hand drums and that piano banging and sing. Joy!! Smiles! Laughter, Bliss!
Time would fly by. Hours of pure fun.
And, this was just “OMG, this is what I have to do.”
“And, I knew if I had my chance, I could make those people dance. And, maybe they’d be happy for a while.” — Don Mc Clean American Pie
So I played whenever I could.
My dad had tons of records! Peter Paul and Mary, Dylan, Bach, Handel’s Messiah, Pete Segar. He was a minister, a leader in the Peace Corps, and then a college professor.
We had lived in Africa when I was very young. But we also lived in France. I had a cousin that loved Neil Young and introduced me to Woodstock and the Rock and Roll. I think I just loved all of it.
It never occurred to me that I wanted to do anything else than play music for a living. Although when you’re young all you hear about…
is how terrible a musician or artist’s life is. (boy were all those people saying that WRONG!! ) Nonetheless, despite feeling like
maybe life was going to have to be terrible. I loved music and I had to decide ok, bring it on. Because I don’t have any options!
And, at some point, maybe I was 13 I started to get paid to play for people.
And I have never stopped.
And today I play between 450 and 600 times a year (2019 668 times) either at clubs or homes or fancy venues or in my studio. Or all of them in a single day. I create beauty…and happiness!
Today I play oh, I don’t know…5000 different songs?
Keep in mind we have these apps that let you have the chords to every song ever written…I’m constantly learning new songs!
When I was learning to play it was a solo activity. I played at home or sometimes at church I got to play a song. I’d play for friends and family.
At church, I met Janie and she played flute , wonderfully. We started playing little duets every now and then in church.
As I got older I got into a rock band and started playing with different groups. Then, I got into Jr High School at Greco in Temple Terrace.
I got into the jazz ensemble. It was directed by Fred Beam. A local hero. We were Playing Count Basic and Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller big band music.
One day, Mr. Beam wanted to run some of the concert band songs with the Jazz Ensemble. The best players from the Concert band were in the Jazz Ensemble. I didn’t have anything to do.
So I went back and started fooling around with drums with Doug Mortellero who was the amazing drummer in the Jazz Ensemble. I started running around playing the bass drum and the glockenspiel parts and the chimes parts which for a pianist were relatively easy. (only one note)
The band director had a big ah-ha and realized I could play the chimes and Glock and even timpani in the concert band and arranged to have me join the concert band on the Spot!!
Fantastic!! Now I learned how to play Nellybel and these great works for concert bands!!
I started playing in all kinds of bands.
We moved to Maryland when I was in 11th grade.
Eventually, Kenny Pierce, a sax player and music teacher who had just graduated from Julliard wanted to do jazz gigs and formed a jazz quartet. He was good friends with Rob Morgan who I played in the school band with . Rob got me to play piano in the quarted. Wow! My brother Brian joined us on Bass!
We were soon playing all around Salisbury Md.
Then I started playing with every musician I could. I played in rock bands, funk, heavy rock, southern rock bands, you name it.
The college band director had a band that would play concerts in the shell in the park and I got recruited to play drums for that.
They were mostly paid gigs.
I just wanted to play any and every kind of music I could get my hands and mind and soul into! : )
In the talent show when I was a senior I played with the Physics teacher of some Simon and Garfunkel songs. And with some girls doing Gospel. And I think with a rock band and then as a solo pianist doing a sort of Keith Jarrett free improv.
As I recall It was 5 different appearances! One of the best days of my life.
People sometimes ask me what’s your favorite song to play! I will often play Pianoman – Billy Joel. But I often think that depends on who is listening. It always seems to me like what will have the most fun for the most people. That’s my favorite!
I’ve had gigs where it was “Baby Shark”, and gigs where it was “All I Ask” with an Opera singer doing Christine’s part. And gigs where it was “Let it Be” and some where it was “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
And I’m always ready for come what may! Sometimes it’s sublime and timeless!
I always wanted to make records and be a rock star.
In 2006 I got a loan from my parents to record a record. I was excited.
Before I could book a studio and do it a friend of mine convinced me that if I would let him create a full boat recording studio for me I could record a record myself.
At that time home computer recording was just getting traction.
I took the money I had borrowed and used part of it to release my first CD. Called Mostly Live. And the rest I invested in a recording studio.
I sort of glad that I had no idea how hard recording and mixing and producing your own music was going to be…because I probably never would have gone that route. But, no one told me so I “foolishly” Started on the route to making my own music in my studio.
I started putting up my awful demos on my website…that’s what you did, right?
And funny enough, friends started asking me if I could record things for them. They even paid me for my help. And I started producing little songs for people every now and then.
After I started to make little tracks here and there I realized what I was doing and being — I was suddenly a “music producer. “
Right around the same time my very good friends Lincoln and Chrystina Meyers asked me to score their film – “Invisible” and Lincolnd and I spent about 1000 Hours making this really incredible film score. Chrystina submitted it to a film music festival and…
It won some awards!
And Voila, now I was a “film composer”!
To SING or NOT TO SING
When I started to play the piano I was a PIANIST.
And, for years I played the piano, both solo and with bands.
in fact, my favorite “pianists” were solo pianists. (Erroll Garner, Vince Guaraldi, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett)
I found my self living in Honolulu Hawaii and when I got married and my wife became pregnant I needed to make extra income.
A regular 5-hour gig at Red Lion Pizza Parlor in Waikiki became available.
The catch was it required a singing pianist.
My friend Miles convinced me to tell the agent I sang. I really needed the income so I did. I knew that I could sing Happy Birthday and Yesterday by the Beatles.But I thought I could wing it otherwise. And just like that I was a singer/pianist!
When I started that gig I would sing a few songs every set…And within about 2 months on that gig, I was singing 5 hours straight and building up quite a repertoire.
When I moved to Los Angeles and I was the Tuesday night Pianist at the Downtown speakeasy “The Varnish” for almost 5 years.
The room was all about JAZZ. Sometimes hearkening back to a 50s-60s NY Jazz club ala Miles, and Coltrane and Monk!
Alternatively, I channeled Fats Waller and “Joplinesque” Ragtime honky-tonkers! Sometimes I worked the elegant Sinatra, Gershwin in, Cole Porter tunes!
I love to explore all kinds of jazz for 4-5 hours a night!
Eventually, at Varnish we added an upright bassist and a drummer once a month to form a smoking trio that became quite the rage.
As a pianist/vocalist in Los Angeles, I made a reputation being able to move between contemporary and classic styles. I love all kinds of music and am always ready to expand my repertoire. It now spans pop music from the past 100 years right up to the present-day hits.
I can do all of the songs solo-piano and I can sing almost anything I can play.
I started hiring bass players and drummers when people needed a larger ensemble. It’s much better for dancing.
And then even worked with a 16-piece band with horns and 2 drummers and 3 singers for a while.
For years I was working full-time on an almost volunteer basis for a church and I didn’t want to teach.
I wanted to use all the free time I had to play live.
But I had so many people as me for lessons I picked up a few students
And I found that I was uniquely qualified for teaching since I had spent years tutoring students at the Church.
Since I started teaching I generally have kept a few select students!
I recently moved from Los Angeles to Florida.
It’s so nice to be back in this part of the world!
In my first year here, starting from scratch, I managed to play 450 gigs.
I have continued to produce all kinds of tracks for people. Piano tracks. Full Songs. Youtube videos, all kinds of things.
I’m constantly looking for more ways to connect with more people and make their world better through music.
The greatest joy there is in life is creating! I’m usually just flat out creating!