I have been strongly attracted to and influenced by music for as long as I have memories, and have been playing the guitar since I was eleven years old. As a teenager, I heard a lot of great live music in the New York area, and my formal musical career started when I became a music major at William Paterson College in New Jersey (now a University) in 1975. I was quite active during those years as a student, but also as a free-lance guitarist and music instructor.
I graduated from the Jazz Studies and Performance program in 1978 and consider myself very lucky to have studied jazz improvisation and arranging with Thad Jones during that time, and also jazz guitar with Bob DeVos. My lessons with Bob were the connecting link through those years and I felt then, and still do, that studying with him was one of the lucky events of my life. He is a ‘guitarist’s guitarist’, a great teacher and mentor, and still very active in the New York area. Studying with Thad was also an experience that was unforgettable; in my estimation he was an authentic American musical genius.
As an undergrad I also chose to explore classical music in depth through private composition lessons with Jeffrey Kresky, and piano lessons with Gary Kirkpatrick. I also believe that we were all lucky during those years at William Paterson to be treated to regular performances by the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble led by faculty member Ray DesRoches; this was a special ensemble active at the school and in the New York Contemporary music community. As a result, I composed quite a bit of music for percussion including “Partita for Marimba,” published by Music for Percussion, Inc., also a large-scale Percussion Sextet in three movements, and a quartet for mixed instruments including one percussionist playing vibraphone and a selection of non-pitched metal instruments. In my last year at William Paterson I also composed a string quartet that was performed on a series of contemporary music concerts and was very well received. The same concert featured a chamber ensemble performance of “Arabia Felix” by composer Charles Wuorinen with Ray conducting; I was in the group and this was a memorable experience. In typical fashion for the ensemble, we met every Thursday evening for rehearsals beginning in September of 1977, in order to prepare two performances scheduled for the following May! (I believe conservatively that we rehearsed for 100 hours in order to prepare those performances.) By that time I had applied to the graduate program in composition at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and began studies there in fall of 1978, but the camaraderie, work ethic, and commitment that I learned from Ray and the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble have never left me. I went on to conduct the first two performances of my Percussion Sextet at Stony Brook, and also played the piano part in a performance of Edgard Varese’s classic composition “Ionisation” for percussion ensemble.