To begin, I grew up as a Suzuki violinist from the age of 2 and was fortunate to learn to jam and perform from the age of 5 in the bluegrass circles of southeast Iowa and Missouri. My childhood involved a profound mentorship in my community with a fellow named Doc Nau. Doc took me around to about every jam, VFW, nursing home, church, and community event from Iowa to Nashville and we played together 3-4 times a week from the time I was 10 until he passed from cancer. Doc essentially taught me everything I needed to know about being a musician and my entire life is a testament to his generosity of practice of teaching through example. Just letting me stand next him on stage. Almost like an apprenticeship.
Knowing music was my calling, I went to music school at the Interlochen Arts Academy and over the next decade, pursued an active classical music career on the east coast. Through a fortuitous music education that included some of the greatest harpists of our time, I was able to study with Alice Chalifoux (Oberlin Conservatory), Joan Raeburn-Holland (Interlochen Arts Academy), and Cynthia Price-Glynn (The Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music).
After a decade of working towards an orchestral career, I began to miss the magic that is contained in communities of improvisation and the creation of music in real time. I craved the idea of playing informal music on the harp like I had done on the fiddle my entire life. And an interesting thing happened when I tried to do this.
I couldn’t improvise on the harp. It was as if all of the strict musical training that I had amassed had resulted in the fear of making a mistake so tangibly that- I had lost my ability to create on the instrument I had spent 8-10 hours a day studying for a decade. I returned to the world of informal music making determined to find myself. In many ways- this reclamation of my life as a fiddle player and singer saved my identify as a musician.
What followed was an adventure of epic proportions.
I found myself beating down the door at the Berklee College of Music for an American Roots program that helped me to fuse my natural by ear ability to my classical schooling. I ended up in studios sampling beats with hip hop performers in Roxbury and Mission Hill. I played harp at the Ritz Carlton on the side to pay the bills. After befriending a bunch of Turkish DJ’s in the East Village, I ended up in the middle of the late 90’s/early00’s Istanbul electronica scene. Then, moved to the midwest where I headlined the No Depression-era burgeoning outdoor festival scene, sharing stages with bands like Cornmeal and Yonder Mountain String Band. I chased this exciting chapter up to the mountains of Nederland, Colorado where jamgrass was redefining the bluegrass industry. I toured and made the living as a performer I had always hoped for. But I was always on the road.
At this point, with the advent of free music streaming, teaching started to become the only way I could make enough money performing without leaving my young family for weeks at a time. This has led to where we are here. My teaching and musical life all in one place. Now let’s do it in a way that includes ALL humans.
Teaching IS being a professional musician, friends. And it is my goal to help my fellow artists young and old to experience this in their own lives. So, I am here offering a musical education with a framework of cultural inclusion, creativity, and the skill set required by the current music industry. One that will never destroy your ability to bring yourself to the moment.
Have you a similar story? Let’s share the journey.
Total World Domination through small vibrating wooden boxes!