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My Musical Journey

 I grew up in West LA with, in all honesty, not the most musical upbringing. I was more of a sporty kid. But in eighth grade, I took a guitar class and was hooked. I quickly formed a band with some classmates and by the end of high school had learned millions of lessons about creativity, improvisation, songwriting, guitar and bass. 

 

Meanwhile, I became interested in other avenues of musical exploration.  Every day, I would walk by the music room in my tiny West LA high school, New West Charter, and see a wooden behemoth in the corner beckoning my name.  Finally, enough was enough, I decided to learn the upright bass.  

 

This was my entrance into classical music. I learned to read music and played in our school's disheveled and unusual ensemble of guitars, a few violins, a cello, some percussion, a couple trumpets, and me on the upright bass.  Now, I was really learning. Classical music fed into my rock band's music and my mind expanded to the abundant possibilities of music. Our music teacher, Mr. Cooper, wrote amazing pieces for our class to play, showing me what was possible with classical composition.  The music felt opposite to the rock band jams I was used to, but I was into it all. I wanted to find a way to merge the two, and find the similarities between the classical music and the riffs my band was rocking to. 

 

Luckily, I was also a pretty good student and headed to college at UC Berkeley.  I was a classic undecided, liberal arts focused, philosophical 18 year old. I began by studying philosophy with some music classes on the side, but quickly my passion for music became forefront in my studies.  Once again, my mind was opening to more and more musical possibilities. This time, I was looking backwards hundreds of years to hear the creations of people who were driven by the same thing I am today.   The music major was a bootcamp with drills in harmony, rhythm, piano, sight singing and composing. Here I was, a self taught rock musician alongside people who'd been playing piano or violin since they were three years old and had perfect pitch. I really struggled, but I was addicted to the musical powers I was getting from these classes. I felt like a baseball player swinging a bat with weights on it before going up to bat. Once I removed the weights, swinging the bat felt effortless. It was like this with my intense musical studies and then going back to my dorm room to write my own songs.

 

 

 

 

 

In my junior year of college, I took a class which changed my life.  It was a survey of jazz improvisation and theory taught by Ben Goldberg, a clarinetist who would later become my musical mentor.  We learned the way jazz harmony (the chords) worked. We transcribed complicated solos by the likes of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. This meant we had to listen to a recording of a solo and learn the notes by ear and play them on our instrument, which for me was the upright bass. Then most importantly, we had to compose a piece for the entire 15 person ensemble to play.  Doing this composition over the course of the semester made me realize I wanted to be a composer. It was a continuation of all the songwriting I had done to this point with my band in high school, my bands in college, and by myself on my acoustic guitar. 

After junior year of college, I was awarded a grant through UC Berkeley's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) which let me spend the summer devoted to composing music.  This led to the release of my first two songs in an EP called Alone, On My Own. 

In senior year, I continued with my musical studies. After a year in Ben's class, I joined the more advanced free jazz ensemble directed by pianist, Myra Melford. Because this class already had an amazing upright bass player who was doing a PhD in music composition and was much better than I'll ever be at upright bass, I switched over to the electric guitar. I dove into learning jazz guitar. We played incredibly complicated compositions, wrote our own music, and played completely untethered free jazz music. It was an amazing culmination of my musical studies to this point.

 

However, throughout all this time in college, I always wrote songs on my acoustic guitar. This was and still is the bedrock of my musical explorations. It was where I started and is where I'm going.  When I graduated college, I was awarded the Alfred Hertz Traveling Scholarship by the UC Berkeley Music department. This funded a year of independent musical studies. I decided to stay in Berkeley to continue my studies in composition, play in free jazz ensembles, and work on my first full length album.  I synthesized my folk, acoustic songwriting with the free jazz I was getting into and of course with all the music theory knowledge I had acquired throughout college. You can check out this album here if you'd like to get a sense of where I come from, musically.

After releasing this album, I worked for a year at a record label in San Fransisco called Six Degrees Record as a digital marketing strategist. I also worked as an assistant engineer at Hyde St. Studios, a historic recording studio in San Fransisco.  And of course, I taught guitar and bass. However, I eventually decided to move back to LA to pursue a career in composing music for T.V. and film. I am currently enrolled in a year long film scoring certificate program at UCLA Extension, working on my second album, and teaching guitar and bass!

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