I hail from Plainfield, a small city in Central New Jersey. It is the home of many notable musicians such as Bill Evans, the great jazz pianist and Don Ciccone and Jim Ryan of the 60’s pop band, the Critters. And Parliament Funkadelic came out of Plainfield. I was lucky to have Jim Fitzpatrick, a former member of 1940’s Hal Kemp Orchestra and Tommy Dorsey Band, be my trumpet teacher. He taught me about the discipline of studying and about striving to be the best I could be.
My teachers and my parents exposed me to many forms of music, such as jazz, folk music, show tunes, Latin music and other ethnic and world music. My town was a gumbo of bands and players. Every weekend there was live music in the schools, houses of worship, clubs and bowling alleys.
I played my first paying gig when I was thirteen years old. I played with a twenty piece jazz band, the Continentals. Shortly thereafter I discover Rock ‘n Roll and began to play with the Mazur Brothers, who later went on to play with Robert Palmer and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. I later went on to study guitar with Grammy Award winner, Harry Leahy, who was one of the finest chord and melody players of all times. Harry was a truly gifted musician and teacher; and he was a wonderful friend. With the Mazurs I played on the same bills with Billy Joel, Janice Siegle, Marky Ramone and the Persuasions. I did recording sessions with Todd Rundgren, Kenny Laguna (Joan Jett) and met and played with many fine players, who to this day appear on television and are heard on radio.
Radio is the element that is missing today. There is a lot of great must out there and we need independent, intelligent, fun, creative radio in our lives again. The FCC has truly dealt freedom and the arts a serious blow. I look forward to the day when corporate greed and stupidity are off the air and the music of the people begins evolving again. The airwaves belong to us, not to corporate America. Speaking of radio, I would like to thank WCLX, the Album Station for their support and courage.
In 1980 I was one of the top ten finalists in a songwriting contest sponsored by New York City. My band-mate, the late Joe Scelfo won. Intelligent, well-crafted songs that get to the heard have influenced me the most. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Lennon & MaCartney, Paul Simon, Becker & Fagin and, too many more to speak of, have inspired me.
Teaching and learning music can happen in many ways. Some of us just find a voice and manifest it through our ears, our eyes and our hearts. Many of us need a jump start, called a teacher. I have been teaching music for over 20 years, thanks to Harry Leahy. He recommended me for two teaching positions and the rest is history. He saw something in me that I did not see in myself. That is exactly what I try to accomplish with my students. We can all learn, we just all come in though different doors. I try to find those doors by respecting, recognizing and developing players’ uniqueness and helping players appreciate the discipline of lifetime learning and growing. It is the same view I toward my own music…evolve, stay true, and as Jim Fitzpatrick taught me, strive to be the best you can be.