I was born and raised in Flushing, Queens, the oldest of four kids. I’m the only musician in my family although some older relatives on my mom’s side were professional musicians. In fact, they played in Sousa’s band and in the NY Philharmonic when Tchaikovsky was conducting the opening concert at Carnegie Hall in 1891! My earliest musical experiences were during first grade music class at Public School #163 where our teacher, Don Payne, taught us how to read music and play recorder. He was a jazz guy and during one class, he gave us a demonstration on the flute, clarinet, and saxophone. For some reason, I went home that day full of child-like wonder and delight and told my parents how awesome the clarinet was. I began playing in the third grade when my hands weren’t even big enough to reach all of the keys.
Looking back on it now, it’s pretty weird to me that I developed an interest in classical music—my parents are music lovers for sure and the stuff that was playing in our house when I was a kid was the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers. I guess I just got caught up in the music that I was playing. By the time I reached high school, I had decided that I wanted to be a musician. I arrived at Eastman having never given a second thought to playing music by living composers but during my time there, I developed a deep affinity for all types of contemporary music, ever since my first Musica Nova concert where we played Xenakis’ Anaktoria. Something about that music spoke to me on a very primal level and it was a lot of fun to play. The faculty and my fellow musicians at Eastman were some of the most inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to continue this musical life with my AWS bandmates. These guys are my favorite folks to make music with.