A Musical Journey


"As the past several years have given me an opportunity to experience many things outside of music, it is my roots in music that have brought me back.  Now in the middle years of my life, I have turned a new page".

My Personal Symphony


Movement 1 – Adagio ma non troppo

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, I began playing the clarinet at the age of 10.  Throughout elementary and junior high school I enjoyed playing the instrument and was nurtured by some of the best public band directors and teachers.  They had certainly helped to bring out the passion that I would soon find for music when I entered high school. 

As I entered those wonderful years of adolescence and high school, I found myself evolving into a fairly good player and soon became committed to seeing how far I could go with it.  At the time, the North Hills High School band program in Pittsburgh was a national recognized program under the direction of Warren Mercer.  Mr. Mercer, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, had an undeniable effect on my love for the field and assisted me in making the decisions I would need to make as I moved forward.  During my high school years, I was given the opportunity to attend conducting workshops with Andre Previn; be under the baton of Bernard Goldberg (Pittsburgh Youth Symphony) and study with Louis Paul.  I was awarded the Service Award for Band in my senior year; an exciting accomplishment to round out my years in high school. 

Movement 2 –  Allegro Con Fuoco

In 1980, I spent my first year of college at Arizona State University. The weather could not have been better and what a relief from the Pittsburgh winters.  I studied with Jack Raterree.  At the time, Professor Raterree performed with the Phoenix symphony.  During that year I was also under the baton of Dr. Fleming and Dr. Strange. 

While at Arizona State, I realized that the academia was a little more than I really wanted.  I wanted to play and I wanted to focus on music.  The psychology, math and other subjects that I was required to take was taking me away from what I truly wanted to do…play. 

I decided to look into other colleges to finish my degree.  As I researched schools that had good performance degrees, I came across Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester Virginia.  I later auditioned and was accepted to the school.  I hated to leave my full scholarship at Arizona State but realized that the education that I would receive at Shenandoah would be more along the line of what I wanted to do.   

In the fall of 1981, I began my second year of college at Shenandoah Conservatory.  I studied clarinet with what would be my greatest influence, Dr. Stephen K. Johnston.  In my 4 years with Dr. Johnston, he took me from what I would consider a fairly good player to dedicated professional. Along with my other woodwind instructors vast influence, when I completed my time at the school I was certainly ready to take on the world… or at least I thought I was. 

During the summers while I was at Shenandoah, I was given the opportunity to perform at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a great experience for me as I played six to nine shows a day, six days a week.  During my junior and senior years, I freelanced in the northern Virginia area during  performing with various jazz quartets and quintets.

Movement 3 – Andante

Moving to Los Angeles in the winter of 1985 was quite the experience.  With $1000 in my pocket, I drove my 1980 Chevy Monza across the country, not knowing where I was going or what I would be doing.  I picked up day jobs working in printing offices and restaurants to pay the rent and soon found myself performing in orchestra pits, rock band (Paul Zollo’s Ghosters) and freelancing throughout the area.  It was through these various performing venues that I met Bob Auletta.   

Bob had a music business where he placed music programs in the private parochial schools.  Within a few months my day job became just that.  I was teaching music to children during the day and performing at night.  Even at this point, I had felt successful.  During one of my performing opportunities, I met Mr. Jerry Quesada.  Jerry placed musicians on cruise ships.  In September on 1986, I went aboard my first ship, playing nightly as the ship travel between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Acapulco, Mexico.  After several contracts in Alaska, Mexico and the Caribbean, I decided to get myself back on land.  I proposed to my former boss, Bob Auletta, that I take his business to San Diego and open the program there.  He agreed and supported my endeavor. 

In January of 1988, I moved to San Diego and began re-establishing myself as a freelance musician and instructor.  Once again teaching during the days and playing at nights.  I soon met Craig Prior, a local guitar player and he and I partnered up to create the San Diego Swing Duo.  The unique duo of dobro guitar and clarinet was extremely popular and provide us a lot of work in various ventures including SeaWorld of San Diego and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  We soon expanded the duo to trios and quartets and worked various parties around town.  I also began working on my graduate degree in music at San Diego State where I studied with Dr. Marion Liebowitz.

In 1990 I decided to go back to work on ships.  It was difficult to leave all the great things that I was doing including my education, but really felt a need to get away.  The location of the cruise was also very appealing – Grand Circle South America.  I went back to work on the ships this time with Holland America.  Little did I know at the time this decision would be one that would excitedly change my life forever. 

In 1991, while working on the USS Rotterdam I met my future wife Nimfa.  Being from the Philippines we decided to get off the ships in 1992 and were married in the Philippines that April.  Now being married, I decided to pursue other options outside of music. I continued to teach privately and play around town, but wanted a more stable environment to settle into and have a family.  I started out working in property management for a while until I discovered another passion in my life… computers.    

The mid to late 90’s was an exciting time for technology; PC’s, the internet, everything was booming.  I was able to work in small software and network companies. In 1999 I was presented with an offer to leave San Diego and work as a contractor for Westinghouse in Aiken, South Carolina.  With a 5 year old and a desire to purchase a home eventually, we migrated eastward to the “other” coast.

We lived in Aiken for 2 years when I took another IT position in Greenville, SC in 2001.  We loved Greenville and in 2002 purchased our first home.  We were here to stay, especially with another little one on the way. 

Movement 4 - Rondo  

As the past several years have given me an opportunity to experience many things outside of music, it is my roots in music that have brought me back.  Now in the middle years of my life, I have turned a new page.  Right now, that the page is blank.  But soon it will be filled once again with, not words, but notes.  Music notes that I have been away from for the past few years but have never been far from me.  Some of the notes will be old notes but some will be new ones. It is in this 4th movement where these notes will return.  In many ways 17Keys is the beginning of this movement.  (to be continued)