Growing up the son of a diesel mechanic and a school bus driver, I knew much more about the value of a hard day’s work than the difference between Mozart and Mahler. Although I had no formal training until I was eleven years old, my family loved to share music together. We sang along to artists such as Celine Dion, Chicago, Reba McIntyre, and Stevie Wonder. Growing up Irish Catholic, I first read music out of the hymnal.
Sixth grade was a watershed year: I needed to decide if I was going to join the school band or take an extra year of gym class. To my unathletic self, the choice was obvious. A few years later, I found myself on the doorstep of Ramon Parcells, Principal Trumpet of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, ready for my first lesson. At age 16, he asked me if I had interest in conducting. He said I possessed the right aptitude and mindset and encouraged me to study piano additionally. His prescription grew in my mind and soon I was conducting in front of the mirror along to recordings of Beethoven Symphonies.
My years at Interlochen Arts Academy blew open my small town mind. At Eastman, Mark Scatterday gave me my first opportunities to conduct. Another Eastman influence, Brad Lubman opened my ears to contemporary repertoire. Under Lubman, I played works such as “Zwei Gefühle” by Helmut Lachenmann and “Märchenbilder” by Hans Abrahamsen. Initially, I was uncomfortable with these unfamiliar notations, sounds and playing techniques. However, through Lubman’s passion and insight, he opened my imagination to a world of infinite sonic possibilities.