About You, Me & Musix4me
You, the avid, always creating, the music-loving performer, is for whom Musix4me was created. To understand what I mean by that, allow me to explain a little about my path to this point. I think my motivation may become clearer.
I grew up as a lower-middle-class Navy brat in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was lucky enough to be able to get a Bundy clarinet and start playing in the summer of my 5th-grade year. My father had given me a cassette tape of the New York Philharmonic playing Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 and the famous Robert Marcellus recording of the Mozart Concerto—I wore that out. I was also lucky enough to meet and hear Al Ascercion that summer, a clarinetist from the Philipines who joined the US Navy and had made a name for himself in the area as a soloist and conductor.
To be in a school band in Virginia Beach in the middle 1980s was a blessing—a blessing we may not have fully understood at the time. The marching bands were very competitive and active. The wind ensembles competed at grade 6 levels (think Festive Overture, Candide, Capriccio Espagnol, and works by Chance, Reed, and Hindemith). Many of the 1st or 2nd chairs in the All-State Band were from Virginia Beach. Scott Andrews, principal clarinet of the St. Louis Symphony, and I studied with the same clarinet instructor, Edward Knakal.
There was also a vibrant Solo and Ensemble assessment each year where students would prepare solo and chamber music pieces to be judged by professional musicians for individual awards. I was privileged to perform every year with solo and chamber music pieces.
I won my school's "John Philip Sousa Award" during my senior year and was invited to play a solo with my high school band. Inspired by Al Ascercion's recordings, I performed Verdi's Rigoletto.
I took a few years off working at AMC theaters as an assistant manager before deciding to return to music and pursue my music education degree at Shenandoah Conservatory with Dr. Stephen Johnston. While at Shenandoah, I was able to perform a recital each year to include solo and chamber music pieces. In my junior and senior years, I was privileged to perform Weber's Concertino and Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie with the Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, respectively.
In the spring of my senior year at Shenandoah, I auditioned for Franklin Cohen at the Cleveland Institute of Music. A graduate from the Paris Conservatory auditioned before me and totally blew me away (this was before YouTube). I felt a fool and resigned myself to teaching.
I taught for a year at a private Catholic School before deciding that I did want to pursue my Master of Music degree. Again, fortune shined on me, and I was accepted to a Woodwind Quintet Fellowship at the University of Missouri at Kansas City to study with Dr. Jane Carl. It was a fantastic two years with a fantastic teacher and woodwind quintet. I was lucky enough to play two full recitals and many quintet performances. I was able to play the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, the Mozart Kegelstatt Trio, Brahms's Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, the Copeland Concerto and a slew of standard high-level quintet pieces like Barber's Summer Music, Hindemith's Kleine Kammermusik, Nielsen's Quintet, and Ligeti's Sechs Bagatelles. I was again honored to play Weber's Concertino with the symphony orchestra.
Leaving with my Master's degree and new wife, I moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and took over the Band and Orchestra director's job at Ruffner Magnet Junior High School. I also began substituting with the Roanoke Symphony. Four years and a divorce later, I decided to pursue my Doctorate of Musical Arts back at Shenandoah University. I auditioned and was accepted. (It was close to Dr. Johnston's retirement, and I had hoped I was positioning myself for a possible job. It was not to be.)
Again, I was lucky to have many performance opportunities, including two full recitals with a regular trio ensemble and Mozart's Clarinet Quintet. When putting my recitals together, Dr. Johnston once commented, "You don't like doing things the easy way, do you?" I was always seeking to play ensemble pieces that featured the clarinet, and scheduling groups of busy musicians for enough rehearsals can be a nightmare. Nevertheless, we made them work.
The war on terror was in full swing after the attacks on 9-11, and I was approaching 35 years of age. That was the cut-off age for enlisting in the Army, which was, at the time, offering $65,000 in school loan repayment for serving. I completed my coursework and only had my lecture recital and document to complete my degree. I joined the Army with the idea of returning to complete my Doctorate after serving. Again, it was not meant to be.
I auditioned for the Field Band at Ft. Meade and made it to the finals. Unfortunately, I was told that my timbre would not blend with the group and was rejected. Fortunately, the audition was strong enough that I was automatically qualified for the next tier command band level. After BASIC training, I was off to the US Army School of Music at Little Creek, back in Tidewater, Virginia, where I grew up! While at the school of music, I was asked to play Weber's Concertino as Navy, Marine and Army conductors auditioned using the school of music band. After school, I was sent to Ft. Monroe to join the Training and Doctrine Band (TRADOC).
While at Ft. Monroe, I was privileged to play with many strong musicians and great people. I was allowed to sit principal and even soloed with the group on tour in Florida (see image above). We had numerous chamber groups and opportunities to play. I was even invited to play solo during a gazebo performance in the summer. Later, I was sent to South Korea. I sat principal of that group as well.
After the Army, I needed a job and took a last-minute position as an elementary music school teacher. I had never imagined being an elementary school teacher, but it became the love of my life. The kids were awesome, and even though we constantly complained about scheduling and resources, we did have a decent situation. I dug deep into my Sibelius Music Notation software to create teaching resources. During this dive, I also began making accompaniments to play with. While I did have sporadic opportunities with the Roanoke Symphony, I did not get to play much. I missed it.
A lot of life stuff happened over the next ten years with not a lot of live performances. I taught high school and middle school students clarinet, but that was the most I could do with it. There was a solo performance or two with the middle and high school bands, but nothing consistent.
As life would have it, my mother passed, and I have moved back with my elderly father and Downs brother as a caregiver. I've been given some time to reflect, and I am grateful to have been blessed with a life of music. I have been extremely fortunate to have many solo and chamber music performances over the years, and I want you to share some of that.
Since I cannot work outside of the home, I have decided to create Musix4me as an outlet and opportunity to help you, the creative, have at least a sample of the many great opportunities I have been afforded. I want you to have the opportunity to experience the great works and casual pieces alike. And for the serious player looking for resources to help you prepare and explore, I want Musix4me to be that for you as well.
I do not have a multi-million dollar budget to hire musicians and studios to create the accompaniments. I also cannot afford to pay the licensing fees required to create accompaniments of current and popular works. I make each one from the free Public Domain that reaches back hundreds of years. If you want more current works, try the excellent site TomPlay, linked below.
You and I will never be able to play every piece available from history in our musical genres. But maybe, together, we can make a good effort to get through as many as possible. How about it?
P.S. To hear me play, click the center of the clarinet on the homepage.