I became passionately interested in music somewhat late in life, when I was 18 years old. I was studying Anthropology at the University of Missouri Columbia at the time but started taking more and more music classes and eventually changed my major to music composition. In my senior year, though, I decided rather suddenly to drop out of school and move to Chicago after a weekend visit to a friend.
In Chicago I composed by night and worked odd jobs by day like bicycle messenger, warehouse worker, unloader of large trucks and answerer of phones. I also played piano one night a week at the storied Annoyance Theater, at that time near Wrigley Field.
I improvised music for their Wednesday night student shows and had a great time doing it. That job taught me to improvise in a variety of styles, to perform weekly in front of a crowd, to drink at least as much beer as an improv actor and to shoot a mean game of pool. All skills I value to this day.
After a couple of years of this I decided to finish my composition degree and enrolled in the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where I studied composition with Robert Lombardo and Patricia Morehead and piano with Carol Honigberg.
When they hired Stacy Garrop to teach composition, I decided to stay after graduation and complete a master’s degree which I did in 2002 while working full time doing Internet tech support. I somehow found time to compose during this time but I can’t now honestly remember how.
After graduation I taught piano at the Old Town School of Folk Music and the People’s Music School and I started Accessible Contemporary Music with my friend Laura Koepele-Tenges. ACM promotes the music of living composers to audiences unfamiliar with their music: the vast majority of people as it turns out. Outside of composing, ACM is now my only job.
I am drawn to composing music because it is satisfying on so many levels: emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Finding just the right chord, changing the duration of a note and thereby altering the entire feel of a section, using timbre and sound effects to create a mood is eternally fascinating to me.
Music is the most effective way I have of expressing an internal range of emotions that I don’t quite understand myself. I wish to infuse my music with a mixed bag of spiritual longing, anger, melancholia, and a sly sense of humor. I believe that all of these things can coexist in the same piece and I use this idea of emotional expression to move the piece forward, rather than a more formal notion of development.
The temporal aspect of music fascinates me too. I’m interested in the ineffable quality of life, the way that time marches forward and no moment can be captured forever. I’m drawn to Haiku and other art forms that attempt to capture these states, the way a complicated range of emotions from nostalgia to peace, to anger and a sense of loss, can overwhelm us in a flash.
I want to express these ideas musically. I am fascinated by the idea that no two performances are the same, that music is temporal and that its essence, much like life, cannot truly be captured. Musical expression is the place where I feel I can be most honest.
In daily life it is apparent to me that I am inhabiting one role or another. In music however, these facades can be dropped and the true self is revealed. The music is alternately ugly, beautiful, vulnerable, angry, relentlessly seeking and damnably self aware.