I started playing trombone in elementary school, however this wasn’t my first encounter with the instrument. My grandparents had a trombone in their attic that belonged to my Uncle John. Rumor is that I would take the instrument out of the case as a youngster (4 years old) and march around the house with it. Come 8th grade, I wasn’t sure that playing an instrument was for me. Thankfully my parents told me to stick with it and that I could make a decision to quit after freshman year of high school. My band director, Jeff Childs, just happened to be a fantastic trombone player and gave the high school jazz ensemble a lot of attention. It was then that I started to find my people and enjoy playing. Fast forwarding through high school, I had the opportunity to attend Birch Creek for jazz camp, play in the Chicago Youth Symphony and take private lessons.
It wasn’t until I sat down in the CYSO for the first time that I realized how much fun it was to play. I then decided to major in music and attended DePaul University in Chicago. After DePaul, I attended graduate school at the University of Akron and the University of Minnesota. After I finished my MM degree at Minnesota, I took a job with one of the Air Force bands. I spent 4 great years performing all throughout New England, New York and New Jersey.
Something changed about halfway through my enlistment, I was bitten by the teaching bug. Part of our job in the band involved master classes at high schools and colleges. It was the college-level masterclasses that I enjoyed the most. Around the time I needed to decide to reenlist, I called my trombone teacher/advisor at the University of Minnesota to see how long it would take to get a DMA. I found out I had a year’s worth of coursework to finish, a few recitals and then the final doctoral project. It was tough leaving the steady gig with the Air Force, but it felt like the right thing to do.
So Jessie, Colin and I packed up and moved back to Minneapolis. I finished my DMA and started performing regularly with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. To this day, the opportunities to play with those world-class orchestras remain as some of my favorite musical memories. Then, in 2007, I applied for a job at this little school in Wisconsin.
They were looking for a half-time trombone teacher, which seemed like it could work for our growing family. I commuted to Whitewater from Minnesota that first year. I was only teaching on Monday and Tuesday, so it worked out. Ethan was now in the picture, Jessie was
working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, and I was also covering a leave of absence in the Minnesota Orchestra, so things were busy. Thankfully we had a great network of folks in the Twin Cities to help us out. As I was putting the finishing touches on my doctoral project and was finding that I needed experience and a doctorate to land a full-time, tenure-track job. The half-time gig at UW-Whitewater was the perfect way to get my foot in the door while I finished up my DMA. I finished my doctorate, applied for the job here again at UW-W when it became tenure-track in 2009, and here we are. I’m not going up to the Cities anymore to perform but am lucky to play with our faculty brass quintet, the Isthmus Brass (look for our new Christmas album in November), and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. My job at UW-W has changed quite a bit since 2007, for I am now the Chair of the Music Department. My involvement with the WAA has been on a limited basis thus far. I feel that the WAA does a fantastic job promoting the arts and I see my role as a board member to help further the WAA’s involvement with live music in our community. Our town in quite unique and the support for the arts is greater than one would think.