I was reflecting recently on the people and influences that shaped me musically. I grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet so public school music was very important for me. I’ll admit to being a goof off but had the chance to participate in a wide variety of ensemble experiences and be exposed to different kinds of repertoire. My high school orchestra teacher demonstrated that music was about more than reading the notes on the page and encouraged us to compose and arrange our own music.
We didn’t have cable for most of my growing up so we had one local station and PBS. The music played during station breaks and even during Sesame Street was incredibly sophisticated. I learned to love Take 5 hearing it between my favorite programs.
My town had a yearly parade with at least one marching band and one or two polka bands. I grew up hearing classic rock, protest songs, and bluegrass. I grew up around re-enactors so was thrilled when I lived in the Twin Cities and had the chance to see groups perform on period instruments in historically informed ways. I also had family members that played instruments just for fun, not because they were performing or part of a school group but just for their own enjoyment.
Probably one of the biggest influences was my college choir director and ear training professor. I had a limited knowledge of classical music and the basics of music theory but my professors believed in me and helped me succeed. My choir director had an extensive background in jazz and preferred lush harmonies. He taught me to savor the tension and release of harmonies resolving as well as a good understanding of musical phrasing.
Today, I have a number of other music therapists, musical colleagues, and youtubers that continue to inform my musicianship.
Who are your musical influences?