I want to tell you the story of how my mad pursuit of music began. Hopefully, I can tie it all together and tell you why the arts need your support.
From an early age, I exhibited signs of fascination with rhythm and sound. I am told that, as a baby, I would stick my foot in between my crib and the wall, and thump out a regular beat pattern. From this, I earned the lifelong nickname of Thumper. To this day, I press on the footboard of our bed and rock, because it helps me sleep. My sweet wife tolerates this and finds it strangely endearing.
My father was the master of imitating Donald Duck. My first rude words were learned in the voice of the good Donald. Dad managed to squeak out Donald’s voice in the back of his throat and it never failed to get a smile or a laugh out of the listening party. Obviously, I wanted to be part of that. It took years to master, but I became as proficient as my father, but my language was far worse.
During summers, I would drive my Mother and sisters crazy with the odd, and unpredictable sounds that I could make with my voice. In particular, I developed a sound that could be controlled into the effect of an approaching truck. This was quite unpopular in the family.
Fortunately for everyone, when 4th grade rolled around, I had the opportunity to try out instruments. I had no real inclination, but my sisters had already surpassed any possibilities of me being successful in art, science, math, French, attendance, punctuality, attention span, etc. “What the heck.” I thought.
Perhaps the first time in my ten-year old life, as a band member, I belonged to something. That something tapped into my inner desire to create and organize sound. I felt at home, and secure, surrounded by my band nerd friends.
As a result of my interest, my Mother saw fit to get me some lessons. My teacher gave me everything that I needed to be inspired. Jose Corral, second flute with the Phoenix Symphony and notable jazz musician showered me with his musicianship and knowledge, but perhaps more importantly, offered me the non-judgmental nurturing that a teenage boy flute player might need. To this day, he is more than a flute teacher. He is my flute father.
Through diligent practice, I won the position of piccolo with the All-State orchestra my senior year of high school. Then I went to Arizona State on a full scholarship. College was great! And, I was no longer a nerd. There was awesome power in focusing on my musicianship. People noticed. Especially girls!
During my college years, I had the good fortune of subbing (at the last minute) on a concert with the Phoenix Symphony. Famed musician, Eduardo Mata was conducting. At the end of the concert, Maestro Mata gave me a thumbs up and I was hooked for life.
After grad school in Cincinnati, I auditioned for several positions, but could not secure work. I formed a trio during that time, and when the other two musicians moved to Florida, I followed them. Our trio was named Jasi. We were quite popular here in Fort Myers.
At that same time (1983), I auditioned for and won a position with the SWFSO. Since then, I have been operations manager, personnel manager, librarian, general manager of the youth orchestra, principal flute, soloist, and part of an education trio. Not at the same time.
I met my wife Beth at a summer master class. Soon after meeting, she auditioned for and won the second flute/piccolo position with the orchestra. We became close friends, and later we got married. Best thing that ever happened to me.
Now, Beth and I have a sixth grader of our own. He started band this year. He will try flute for a while to see if he likes it. I have to tell you, he gets a great sound. The jury is out whether he will find his “Inner Thumper”.
I tell the story of Thumper because, in my mind, it is so clearly my first musical cusp moment. Music is the thread that has bound my life together. The choice to play music gave me a sense of worth and a place to be. It saved me from many possible destructive paths and helped me find my way into being a part of this community. I may have taught your children. In some cases, I may have taught you! Or played at your wedding or in your church. Or you may have seen or heard me in this great orchestra of ours.
Music must not become secondary in our education and our culture. In performances, most especially those concerts for children, I think and feel that there must be someone out there that just needs a taste, a spark to become compelled to make music a part of their lives. I feel privileged to have had such an extraordinary musical journey.
So, here's to all those future thumpers with a special “thank you” to all of you out there that help us reach out to them.