Bio, in progress...
Well here I am, at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where I have been teaching since 1999. I didn't really intend to play the saxophone. It just happened.
My mother, an artist, told me she played classical music to me before I was born. Early on I dreamt of playing the horn. Measles kept me home on instrument selection day, and my best friend helpfully suggested I would like to learn the saxophone (so that he had a partner for duets). On returning to school I was indeed surprised to find a saxophone waiting for me. Rather than trade this in I took it home dutifully every day, not realizing instruments could be stored at school. It was a revelation when my high school band director, Leroy Wolter, said to me (without any apparent supporting evidence), "you know, if you practiced, you could be pretty good." Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, I replied, "practice, what's that?"
Nevertheless it was a start. Unable to find a saxophone teacher in Wisconsin in the 70's, Leroy gave me a stack of recordings and said,"here is your teacher." The LPs were by Donald Sinta, Fred Hemke, and Eugene Rousseau, who I eventually came to think of as uncles Don, Fred, and Eugene. Neighbors complained to my parents that I would relentlessly blast Ibert's Concertino da Camera at rock concert volume, over and over on the back deck on summer evenings, apparently diminishing their enjoyment of the outdoors. How did they know it was Ibert?
I made my concert debut with a transcription of Mozart's piano Sonatina at solo and ensemble competition. This first performance was especially inspired by the door monitor's comment on the preceding soloist: "sounds like he put the wrong end of the piano in his mouth." Afraid of tempting the fates into making another performance of the Sonatina my last, I moved on to other repertoire. I know, not that funny.
The big change in my musical life came when I was 13 (no, my voice cracked the next year...). On presenting a stack of music that included all of the works in said recordings (Ibert, Glazunov, Villa-Lobos, Creston, Dubois, Hartley, among others) to the clerk at the Saxophone Shop in Evanston, IL, the clerk laughed and said, "you can't play that stuff." Enraged, it set me on a path to prove to some anonymous person that I could, actually, play that stuff. The jury is still out.
I came to the attention of the famous saxophonist Eugene Rousseau in typical fashion the following year at the Shell Lake Saxophone Workshop. Of my performance, in which I wore an antenna and garbage bag (meant to reproduce a Martian space suit - but that's another story...) Rousseau years later commented, "he's come a long way."
A few years later I moved to Amsterdam. While there I visited the state-run booking agency Nederlands Impresariaat to see if they would consider representing me. They were nice, but dismissive, suggesting that they could probably use a sax-accordion duo. Strangely, during a bus trip to the south of France a few weeks later I struck up a conversation with the woman seated behind me. She turned out to be Otine van Erp, one of the top accordion players in Europe. Long story short, we formed a duo, put together a great program of Dutch and American works, and in short order won a competition that offered as top prize two years of free representation by - you guessed it - the Nederlands Impresariaat.