A Word (or three) On My Musical Influences:
I've been playing piano "by ear" since age 5. My first big influence, about a year prior, was the movie and soundtrack of "Grease". The album was played non-stop on vinyl at home, and 8-track tape in the car. We saw the movie in theaters about a dozen times, including twice-in-one-afternoon at the Esquire Theater on Oak st. Apparently, the "Grease" soundtrack on repeat can drive parents CRAZY, so they shook things up and took me to a touring production of the musical, "Beatlemania". It featured the tagline: "Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation." And it was all true! That music blew 6 year old me away, and still does. The original cast 8-track tape was purchased in the Shubert Theater lobby. (Who else misses the incredible fidelity and non-bulkyness of 8-tracks? Nobody? Cool, me neither.) Suddenly, "Grease" took a back seat (like when Danny and Sandy are at the drive-in - still got it!) and from then until now, the center of my musical soul has been shaped The Beatles, both as individuals and soloists.
As a child of the 70's & 80's, my ear was also shaped by countless, overly-catchy TV themes, and 70's & 80's pop hits, all of which remain in my piano repertoire many years later. In middle school, that was complimented by the sounds of Chicago's oldies station, Magic 104.3, where I learned two decades worth of classic music from Motown to the Zombies and everything in-between. (I'm looking at you, The Buckinghams.) The classic rock deep-dive began in high school and exploded in college. And, as a hard-core Chicago sports fan, the organ and pop-heavy soundtracks heard at Wrigley Field and Chicago Stadium, and yes, even Comiskey, played a huge role on how piano could serve as an emotional energy booster for of thousands of people. By the late 90's, when I began several decades of music directing for Second City, bands like Wilco and Ben Folds - with and without the Five - became just as important and influential, further shaping my style as a pianist.
There remains one more major musical influence, where I learned to accompany singers, improvisors, and all kinds of theater. I was extremely fortunate to have attended Harand Camp Of The Theater Arts in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for 8 weeks a summer, beginning at age 11. As taught by the legendary Sulie and Pearl Harand, each summer featured countless Pageants and shows featuring the music of Gershwin, Berlin, Bernstein, Loesser, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc... Those summers were a beautiful crash-course in the entirety of musical theater's golden age, and as a pianist-by-ear, I soaked up every melody and arrangement I could; initially for fun, and later as one of the camp's accompanists. Musical theater remains some of my very favorite music to sit down and play.
Having such disparate and emotionally-connected influences has proven to be a great boon as an improv pianist. I'm lucky to posses a range of musical references that span generations and styles, and can each of them confidently on demand. And yes, that still includes the "Grease" score, in its' entirety. "We Go Together" is how I learned to gliss! And what's more fun than that?
PIANO & MUSIC DIRECTION
The Second City
The Mad Show Musical (Workshop, Warner Bros. Theater Ventures)
The Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards
Reunion Show of Second City's Class Of 1969
An Evening With Martin Short
Chicago Magic Lounge
Wheeler Opera House/Theater Aspen
OKRP Ad Agency
The Annoyance Theater
Second City Works
Harand Camp Of The Theater Arts