Ever since the age of ten I wanted to be a musician. I was aware at an early age of my musical abilities: a good ear and sense of rhythm. But it wasn’t until I started playing guitar that I developed the passion for music.
My first experiences with the guitar were at summer camp. Up to then I had been playing violin and then cello, which mainly involved private lessons and daily practice, a pretty solitary pursuit. Guitar, on the other hand, was about playing with other people: at first, around the campfire with the counselors and other campers. I loved the group sing and the fact that guitar provided the background chords and rhythms. Guitar was also about learning from others, first the counselor who taught me my first chords, and then from my peers, with whom I traded cool musical moves. Not being an athlete as a child, guitar became my way to bond with others and a good source of my own confidence.
As far as I can remember, I have had an emotional response to music, whether it be marching to a Sousa march in 1st grade or listening to one of my two favorite pieces of classical music as a young child. My active involvement with music, learning how to play, fed that emotional response, and I would feel excited when I was able to master the musical challenges that were presented to me. Throughout my life this has not changed. The emotional power of music still affects me strongly, and the satisfaction derived from learning and mastering continues to feed me.
I started out as a folkie, but once I heard Kenny Burrell playing jazz guitar I was hooked. I loved the bluesy sound of his instrument, and his rhythms were seductive to me. Through the process of imitation, learning from records, I began to learn how to play jazz. Upon first hearing a great solo, I was struck by the magic of the sound and a desire to learn how he did that. My vinyl records received a pretty good beating from putting the needle down and picking it up over and over in order to learn a lick or a solo, but it was through this method of learning from imitation that this magical world started opening up to me.
Just as guitar helped me connect to myself, I made a deeper connection when I started to write music. This world can only accommodate so many bebop guitarists. However, it was through the process of composition that I got in touch with a deeper musical self. I started to realize that the process of writing music was really a search for whatever particular musical phrase or gesture I needed to say at that moment. There were the times when I would write somecthing that sounded pretty good, but didn’t really hold up when I came back to it later. But when I actually wrote what I was hearing deep inside there was a sense of inevitability; that this is the way it has to be. Musical composition became my way of connecting with my center.
Finally, as I started to get good and began playing with others, I discovered the excitement and fun of making music with friends and colleagues. In my years of touring, doing concerts and recordings, I loved more than anything else those exceptional musical experiences where the band played as a unit, where you felt swept up by the rhythm and sound, where making music was like breathing, where it seemed inevitable that beautiful sounds were happening and where we musicians were simply the conduit for something bigger than us. It is as close to rapture that I can imagine. This is why I love music.