Today I'd like to tell the story of how I began my musical journey, and the five decisive moments that set me on a joyful path of discovery. I feel incredibly lucky that I've had so many people guiding me, especially during my early formative life. Here I'll try to highlight the times that were most influential.
I've been doing musical ear-training since before birth. My mom is a violinist and my dad plays a dozen woodwind instruments. As my brother (who played trumpet) and I grew older, it wasn't uncommon for four or more instruments to be playing simultaneously in different rooms of the house. Just like a kid who grows up in a bilingual household, I was learning the language of melody, harmony, and rhythm through osmosis. It was this constant exposure of music at home, and gigs/rehearsals that my parents took me to, that started to hardwire my brain from an early age.
Before turning about 15 or 16, music wasn't a passion. I was pretty immersed in it, since it was part of my family's lifestyle, but for me personally, lightning had not yet struck. Then in high school, I was given a few albums by some friends: Cannonball Adderley's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Joshua Redman's Timeless Tales For Changing Times, and Charle's Mingus' Ah Um. The flood gates were opened. Suddenly my brain started to connect the dots and realize all of the possibilities and creative potential that I held in my hands with my Yamaha alto saxophone. Also, during this time, I was extremely fortunate to have a long-running weekly gig with my high school combo. We explored music together and even recorded a couple of albums.
The third pivotal moment in my development, that I can pinpoint with great detail, was, while still in high school, hearing Joshua Redman (who's CD I had completely worn out by then) play live at a club in Indianapolis. Prior to this moment I had been living and dying with every note of his that blasted through the speakers of my small boom box at home. Experiencing this live was like being thrust into a new universe of emotion. I wanted to scream and dance, and to please, somehow, anyhow, learn to play like him.
Going to the IU school of music was the equivalent of being dropped in the deep end of the pool while barely able to tread water. It was trial by fire, one in which I saw many classmates fall by the wayside. I feel as though it was a combination of my solid upbringing and pure luck that gave me the state of mind to avoid a nervous breakdown, addiction, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed that seemed prevalent in this high-pressure environment. The faculty here gave me all of the tools necessary to reach my potential as a musician, but in particular it was the involvement with more experienced grad students (hearing them and playing with them) that really blew my mind. Every Monday afternoon was our saxophone masterclass, where I would soak up information like a sponge. I still treasure all of those times.
My time in New York offered a diverse cultural left turn, and was a period of self discovery that solidified my desire to play music. Grad school was full of incredible times with the faculty and students, but the most dramatic shift for me during this time was the opportunity to hear all of the great musicians that I had previously worshipped on CD, now play live. It was like night and day. Players really stretched out (meaning they played longer solos, took chances, and didn't play it safe), with a seemingly endless supply of energy and ideas, in a way I hadn't heard on recordings. The interaction between bandmates was at such a high level, that urgency of the music seemed to flow directly up from the cement that covered every block and borough in the city.
Thank you for reading this look into my early musical development. I hope to expand upon some of these events in more detail in the future, as well as other topics that interest me.