There are only two questions that matter in life. "What inspires you?” and “What motivates you?” My earliest inspiration in music comes from cartoons. I grew up on Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. My favorite episodes were always the ones that were musical. Bugs Bunny on stage directing the tenor for the Figaro aria in the style of Stokowski, Tom and Jerry dueling on the piano while playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2 (still my favorite work for piano), and my favorite…Bugs and Elmer in an overly dramatized opera spoof singing “Kill the Wabbit”. I didn’t grow up in a musical family, so I had this as my first musical influence and later the musical humor of Victor Borge. I’m still a cartoon fanatic to this day and can’t miss a new episode of Adventure Time! I learned, howe
ver, important lessons about how to enjoy music through these humble beginnings. Creativity is only limited by your own imagination, and if it doesn’t make you smile, why do it?
My first instrument was saxophone, but I was always drawn to the piano, and began to teach myself to play in 7th grade. By 9th, I was begging for lessons and was able to take piano…I eagerly absorbed everything my teacher taught me. But at some point, the initial excitement wears off (though it took years for me), and you have to learn what motivates you to continue. I believe that seeing your own accomplishments is a universal motivator, and for me it came in the form of composing. I had been hearing music in my head for years, and I worked through the difficult process of writing a first piece with no knowledge of how to go about it. Finishing that piece and getting it recorded in a studio was the instant that I decided to pursue music as a career.
I went on to undergraduate studies in music composition, and when my goals became larger, I decided to go back for a graduate degree in orchestral conducting. I chose to follow my inspiration and imagination through it all. I discovered harpsichord in undergrad and eventually graduated with a harpsichord concentration; I found the excitement of experimental music, the serenity of the renaissance, the power of the orchestra, and the drama of the opera. So I pursued each one in turn watching my accomplishments pile up…an early music ensemble (Archaic Revival); seeing my music being performed by an orchestra; starting my own orchestra (Bizarchestra); playing in various rock, jazz, and steel pan bands; and conducting choirs, orchestras, and operas!
Throughout it all, there is one thing that I keep coming back to though…teaching. All my joys and experiences are best shared as just a selection of possibilities as I help students to explore their inspiration, joy, and motivation. I have been teaching piano, theory, and composition for over 20 years, and it never ceases to motivate me to new experiences. The joy of collaboration with students, finding ways to help them do more than they thought they could, and watching their pride as they look back on their own accomplishments …this is the joy of music, the joy of hard work, and the joy of teaching!