1. Where were you born? How big of a family?
Well, I can start there, I was born in Tachikawa, Japan on December 7, 1961. My family is or were 4 people. There was my dad, mom, sister (Linda) and me. My mom passed away in 2003, and my dad passed away in 2009.
2. Were your parents either musicians or heavily into music? If so, what kind? Was music played a lot in your household? Were you the first one in your family with an interest in music?
My dad and mom were definitely passionate listeners and appreciators of music and so was my sister, but the passion to make a life and career with music was my soul path. That said my family was very cultural and artistic. My dad was a military officer and I feel the lifestyle fit him perfectly but he was a great writer, he should have really been a journalist. My mom did a lot in traditional Japanese art. She loved to flower arrange, she did beautiful calligraphy of Japanese words and names; she played the koto and loved to dance traditional Japanese dances. My sister was an awesome artist. She had the most real, “true talent” and she was refined by her college and her true passion to train in her craft. She had the discipline to practice and study.
My mom would listen to a lot of Japanese music and my dad listened to music constantly or all the time. My dad was the one I remembered the most when it comes to appreciation of music because every night he would listen to Vladimir Ashkenazy playing some Beethoven Piano Sonata, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. I grew up with lots of Ray Conniff, my mom loved Engelbert Humperdinck☺ Well let’s just say I grew up with a lot of everything. I can’t remember it all my dad’s record collection was huge and he had reel to reel tapes of American Airline programs (Get a load of that) You could say I was destined to bump into music and really I loved it all, I thought I had the best life full of culture and art.
And so yes my Japanese side is the most. My mom was full Japanese. I have to say that I do long and miss my childhood and growing up in Japan. I was the happiest there.
3. Did you receive any formal musical training growing up? (I see you did, but did you finish a degree program there?)
Well, when I was younger I took piano lessons, and formally around 6 or so. I was classically trained. I have to admit I didn’t love piano at first, I wanted a flute because even though I was little I could take it with me everywhere and I wanted my music with me everywhere. I took piano because I was forced to. My sister was supposed to take piano, but she didn’t like her teacher and I was next in line for it. So I got no flute.
What changed my mind was a record about Peter the piano and how Timmy (or whoever his name was, in the story. The story of the boy was Rusty. The story was Rusty in Orchestraville) hated the piano. He fell asleep and started dreaming and all the instruments came alive well suffice it to say, when he woke up he fell in love with Peter and practiced him like crazy and even at a young and simple age, I totally related to that story (even today every now and then I try and google that story, hoping it was captured on some MP3). By the way that piano I ended up playing I named him Peter. He was Peter the Piano to me and I loved him.
The rest of my training would be from Guitar lessons when I was a teenager and Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, where I studied composition for a couple years but never finished my degree. When I went to Drexel University for my Engineering Degree, I met a professor who was the head of the music department, his name was Alfred Blatter and I almost minored in music with a major in computer engineering but didn’t do it.
Alfred Blatter wrote a book on Orchestration and I took all the classes he taught we felt like kindred spirits or souls and he was an inspiration. I’m glad I met him; we talked a lot about music. He was also the professor for theory, orchestration, and technology at Curtis College of Music in Philadelphia and he is still on the faculty there. I never saw him after I graduated but I’m glad I met him, he rekindled my passion for the classical arts, and music from an academic standpoint and I got all A’s in music. It was easy, lots of fun and learning it was my passion.