I am a guitarist, composer, vocalist and teacher with diverse musical interests and skills. I bring my lifelong passion for fluid creativity and improvisation to performances and lessons alike. I am based in Franklin County, Massachusetts, U.S.A., where I am available for guitar and other music instruction, studio work, commissions of original music, and performances solo, with Golden Bird, and with Shokazoba.
I can recount two of my earliest musical experiences. One is in the living room bouncing up and down while my dad plays guitar and sings songs by the Grateful Dead, John Denver, Jerry Lee Lewis, and their contemporaries. The other is being roused by my mother on a Sunday morning with the song "Rise and Shine" and opening the curtains to my room.
In my early stages of musical expression, I spent hours and hours banging on the piano. Then I eventually wrote my first piece entitled Big City and performed it in the fifth grade.
While continuing to compose on the piano, I also began experimenting on a small electric guitar. Mesmerized by the sound of the perfect fifth (power chord), I moved it everywhere, making deep sounding rock riffs that had a resonance to the Pop-Punk music that my friends listened to.
In 6th grade I began taking guitar lessons with Joe Cefalu, in Larkspur, California. Joe introduced me to electric guitar virtuosos such as Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and John Petrucci. I was a-shreddin' away.
It was my older sister that first got me excited about Classical music. She went off to study music education, and came back talking of Beethoven, Mahler, John Cage, and the composers, performers, conductors that she knew personally at music school. It seemed like training as a composer in college would be the right path for me.
At this point I was playing the trombone, the Classical guitar, trying to play the Jazz guitar, and trying to compose like the new music composers that my sister introduced me to. I was taking guitar lessons with Justin Riberio, a classical guitarist based in San Francisco, and monthly guitar lessons with Randy Vincent, a Jazz guitarist based in Santa Rosa. I was playing trombone with the Marin Catholic High School Jazz and Concert Band under the guidance of Jim Wells, and was even singing in the jazz choir as well. And by the way, I was in love with a cappella jazz sounds. Take 6, the Real Group, M-Pact, mmm. How to audition for college was a dilemma.
But not much of a dilemma as it turned out. It seemed the only thing I was thoroughly qualified to study at the time of my auditions was Classical Guitar Performance. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio was my school of choice, and they, like several other schools, accepted me for the Performance program but not for the Composition program. They didn't understand that I had been composing through my teeth since I was 4 years old (I used to click my teeth to make drum beats and hum through my teeth so it would sound like an electric guitar or vocals in harmony). But I lacked any formal training in the craft of Composition.
I started Oberlin as a Performance Major, but continually reapplied to the Composition program. My second year, they allowed me to take composition classes toward a Composition minor. My third year they accepted me as a major. After five years I finished with a degree in both Performance and Composition.
Born in 1989 in Greenbrae, California
Started College in Oberlin, Ohio in 2008
Received my diploma from Oberlin in 2013
Moved out Massachusetts in 2013
A good question is, in what ways has each teacher influenced me?
Well, starting at the beginning, I will say that Joe Cefalu gave me a love of the sound of melodic, expressive electric guitar playing, and gave structure to the improvisation and creation that I was engaging with on my own by guiding me through modes and scales and basic theory, but with dampering any of my own creative instincts.
Justin Riberio taught me how to practice. I had been in a rut with my electric guitar playing, and found that no matter how much I practiced something difficult, it wouldn't get any easier to play. Justin changed all that. Through attention to the physical details of playing, patience, and by learning the guitar through a new technical lense (fingerstyle classical), I became an amazing practicer, who could literally conquer any impossible feat given enough months to do so.
Most of my take-a-ways from Randy Vincent came from simply watching him playing during the lesson. His fluid style of blending harmony, melody, and counterpoint made a huge impression on me. Though I didn't progress very much in jazz guitar during those years due to other factors, his style stays with me to this day.
Stephen Aron (Guitar Faculty at Oberlin) most impressed with a sense of getting at the "essence" of music, and prioritizing this essence in practice and performance. In Classical Music, this means phrasing. In other music it might be texture, groove, gesture, or trajectory. I value this sensibility in my playing and my composing alike.
I took lessons with three different composers at Oberlin: Aaron Helgeson, Lewis Nielson, and Eric Wubbels. Having unfortunately short stints with all three, I remember more the experience of being in the program, being surrounded by deep sensitive thinkers (my peers) and questioning everything about what I was doing with music. With Aaron I most remember an emphasis on listening as a compositional process, and along with that patience, patience, patience. With Lewis I remember a deeply felt belief in the necessity of creativity, and a validation of the fire of the unconscious mind. With Eric, I remember an excitement about the most audibly potent and salient aspects of music, bringing the unconscious to a visible level. I would also like to make mention of a music theory professor, Arnie Cox, whose ideas on the embodied experience of listening to music deeply affected my approach to music and life.
Links to my teachers: