HLB: Tell me more about your early musical influences? Regarding Segovia, where you were when you first heard his music and how did it make you feel?
As a boy I heard his records, and saw him live at UC Berkeley. After five years of guitar lessons, I could appreciate the magnificence and beauty of what my mom and I were witnessing. He seemed very pleased to greet me back stage and took my small hand in his, smiling. I immediately began lessons with his California-based protégé Bunyan Webb in Palo Alto.
HLB: What is it about classical guitar that impassions you?
I had two paths going into college – rock and classical. Since classical was the only option for getting a degree, it dominated my time. I said to myself, on one hand you’ve got electric guitar – ear splitting volume (I had already damaged my hearing) and smoky bars and carrying gear in and out of clubs… and classical guitar, which I found to be complete in and of itself – melody, harmony, bass lines and rhythm, with amazing diversity of expression. It’s intimate, enchanting, fascinating to watch, and there are some universally appealing pieces almost everyone immediately responds to. Chopin himself said, “There is nothing more beautiful than the guitar, save, perhaps, two.”
HLB: When creating music, what inspires you and what’s your process?
I’ve had a lifetime of training and practice. I started when I was six and I'm older than dirt - kidding - but I’ve never stopped playing. So it’s kind of my voice, in a way, and I can express so much that can’t be captured any other way. It’s so satisfying to write and arrange music and get it out on guitar, and there’s an endless supply of beautiful music to tap into.
HLB: Why did you choose to teach? What do you most enjoy about it?
It’s funny – I gave my first guitar lesson at 17. But what I really wanted was to be a great musician. I later learned that most great musicians are at least part time teachers. Teaching has turned out to be immensely rewarding. I've taught big college classes, Adult Ed, high school and elementary, but private lessons are the best, because you get to tailor your teaching to an individual, and I've met so many great people along the way.
HLB: When and how did you start your own recording studio?
This is absolutely the best way to run a teaching environment – get music being worked on up to recording quality. It sets a near term goal, but one that you can add to your collection, just like an art portfolio. At the end of the year my students turn out their own CDs. Actually I do the engineering, but how cool is it for kids to be able to hand their parents a CD with their picture and a year’s worth of successful recordings? They sound great because a lot of them are with pre-recorded backing tracks.
HLB: Tell me more about your involvement with the Sacramento Guitar Society?
I came to Folsom after running a very successful guitar society in San Jose. All that was here was some people who knew each other and passed the guitar around – no ticketed concert series with great artists. Here in the State Capitol, it just was wrong that with 2 million people they didn't have what we had in the South Bay. I took over leading this club in 2008 and led the effort to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2010 and bring world class artists here. When Harris Center opened as Three Stages at Folsom Lake College I got us in on the ground floor. We sold out our first two shows and had incredible artistic success our first year. That led to more of the same and we've grown the SGS to become a major force for guitar in Northern California.
HLB: Where are some of the places you’ve personally performed? Anything coming up in the future?
I played aboard an Alaskan cruise line for a couple summers, and for 30 years I’ve played at Lick Observatory’s Music of the Spheres concerts – that’s atop Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose. I’ve played in just about every kind of venue you can imagine except Vegas. I play special events at the wonderful Bacchus House Wine Bar & Bistro in Folsom (916.984.7500).
HLB: Relocating to Folsom, what do you enjoy about your new community?
Where to start – first and foremost my wife and son are happy here. It has everything a growing family needs – beautiful urban planning, access to just about anything you want in shopping and eating – really good educational institutions from pre-school through community college – the world class Harris presenting the best entertainment coming to the West Coast – birds of all kinds and oaks and a lake we can walk to - and some of the most wonderful people in the world. Our Briggs Ranch neighborhood is very special. I’m easy to get to for teaching, so my students swing by every week. I go to yoga at 48 Natoma and play for Gallery openings there, too. And my duet partner, Francesca Anderson, lives close by in El Dorado Hills.
HLB: How do you find that work/life balance, especially with a family?
They say if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in life. Ha! I love my work but I have a mortgage to pay, and meanwhile my family and friends are all getting older. I want to spend more time with them – so it’s really a big challenge to achieve balance, because I work a LOT. But since I work from home, I see my family more than a lot of parents do.
HLB: Have you ever felt “blocked” as a musician?
Oh, yes – blocked by time. I need three more hours a day for practicing. There seems no end to the things “about” music that aren't “making” music. Every business has a product or service, marketing and administration. I have three businesses – teaching, performing and presenting – imagine all that load while still trying to live up to one’s artistic potential.
HLB: Any advice for young musicians?
What you do with music is money in the bank, so to speak, since learning an instrument or singing has lifelong benefits and been shown to increase intelligence and improve academic performance. Playing with other musicians offers the same social benefits of team building and cooperation as team sports and involves all parts of the brain. Stick with it – it’s one thing you can do for the rest of your life and a great vehicle for self-expression. Get in touch with me and I’ll help you get organized and productive if you need a boost or just want to begin guitar.