The desire — the necessity! — to go back to college and get a degree in music had been building up ever since I committed myself to music around 1970. I’d taught myself to write music when writing out scores for the through-composed pieces I was composing for the Tim Ware Group.
I started on the path in 1988, taking music classes at Laney College in Oakland, California. It was there that I had probably the best music teacher one could hope for, Elvo D’Amante (1929-2010). He was a true jazzer from the classic era of bebop. Although I took several other classes at Laney, the 2-semester voice-leading class with D’Amante was everything I’d been looking for.
It was a small class, just six of us, including the guitarist Charlie Hunter and bassist John Wiitala. We started out writing very simple 3-part melodies and, by the end of the second semester, we were writing very modern melodies/progressions that pushed the diatonic envelope. It was exactly what I’d set out to learn and, honestly, I could have stopped after that class, mission accomplished! But I’d made it my goal to earn a college degree in music.
In 1990 I transferred to Sonoma State University and studied electronic music composition, my mentor being the great Will Johnson whose musical skills just blew me away. I’d bring to him every week whatever I was working on. He’d sit at the piano and, after one listening, would play it perfectly, then offer comments and suggest improvements.
I graduated from SSU in 1992.
The songs below come from my work in the electronic studio and, subsequently, my home studio. Most are from the 1990s, but “At the Edge of the Wave-Green World” is a recent composition (2015), as well as “Matin au Monastère” (2019).