biography, second verse

After a brief flirtation with college studies in nuclear physics and theology in Texas, I enrolled in North Texas State University, now UNT, as a music major. There I studied performance with Lee Gibson, theory with Robert Ottman, musicology with Dika Newlin, jazz with Leon Breeden, electronic music with Merril Ellis, composition with Philip Latham and Martin Mailman, and conducting with George Morey. I performed with the excellent jazz bands there, including the great One O’Clock Lab Band. I learned to play operatic and symphonic styles. I also traveled to Dallas to play sessions in the jingle houses and blues studios there. In one particularly intense week, I remember the death of John Coltrane, followed by my only live Jimi Hendrix concert the next night, and a few days later, my first exposure to performing Edgard Varèse.

After North Texas, I accepted a fellowship for graduate study at Yale University, where I studied composition with Yehudi Wyner, Krystof Penderecki, Bülent Arel and Alexander Goehr, chamber music with Broadus Earle, Ralph Kirkpatrick, John Kirkpatrick and Ward Davenny, performance with Robert Bloom and Keith Wilson, conducting with Gustave Meier, and John Mauceri and orchestration with Hall Overton.

I served as director of the Yale Marching Band for two years, writing and arranging some wonderfully irreverent halftime shows. I also served as assistant conductor for the Yale Symphony Orchestra tour to France in 1971. We performed the French première of Charles Ives’s 4th Symphony at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the very same hall where Monteux, Diaghilev, Nijinsky and the Ballets Russe premiered Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps. I performed as principal clarinetist in the New Haven Symphony and started playing a few recording sessions in New York City.

After a brief move to San Francisco, where my son Gabriel was born, I accepted a teaching position at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a brand new school with radical ideas – no preconceived curriculum, course offerings based on student demand, yearly examinations. It was a great challenge to try to teach the discipline of music in such a deconstructed atmosphere. It was an even greater challenge to build one of the first combined recording and synthesis studios at a college, using the pioneering technologies of Moog and Arp. I could not have done it without the help of some brilliant and visionary students, faculty, and administrators there.

I wound up teaching courses from basic musicianship to analog synthesis, from aesthetics of modern art to American music history. I learned to be versatile without yielding the intense organization that is necessary to thorough musical training. At Hampshire College, I learned that the best tools for a college teacher usually include simple humility, a deep and abiding sense of humor, and several styles of bullet-proof vests. They all made fine companions to the open mind I thought I had found as a university student.

For four years, I alternated teaching at Hampshire with brief West Coast sabbaticals, working as a session player for Warner Brothers subsidiaries in Los Angeles and playing gigs there and in San Francisco, San Diego, Berkeley, and Oakland. That itinerancy ended when I moved to New York City. Another more intensive professional practice would begin.

To be continued . . . .

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3 Responses

  1. “I learned that the best tools for a college teacher usually include simple humility, a deep and abiding sense of humor, and several styles of bullet-proof vests. ”

    I think I should get this tattooed.

    Esp. the bullet-proof vest part!

  2. I took one of your classes at Hampshire, it was awesome! I remember a band you put together played Rubberband Man by the Spinners – you were playing bass clarinet, wearing blue jeans and a red plaid shirt and had lots of frizzy hair. Now I know you had a bulletproof vest on underneath the shirt. I apologize for shooting at you, but it was Hampshire in the 70’s – everybody was doing it.

    • Hello Peter! I remember that – a long time ago it was. I hope life has treated you well. Vest was there I survived, but you nicked me. Now it’s my turn.

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