Sunday, June 08, 2008

Who is this Tony guy anyhow?

I started making music late in high school, using the family computer (a Commodore Amiga 500) to compose electronic music in the mold of NiN, Filter, and Tool. My interest in the guitar was sparked by the desire to use higher fidelity samples than the ones I was able to find and rip out of other songs. Around this time I made a new friend, Dave Cox, an extremely talented drummer who had recently picked up guitar. He turned me on to the Allman Brothers, Phish, and Dave Matthews Band. When I went to UMass Amherst, I began to play guitar more and more, first on a Harmony hollow-body borrowed from my father, then on a cheap dreadnought borrowed from a friend. Eventually I bought my own guitar and began to learn more Dave Mathews tunes, as well as songs to play at the Christian fellowship meetings I was attending. My junior year, I upgraded to my first "good" guitar, a Larrivee D03. I was getting into Phil Keaggy (I knew about Phil because my parents listened to him a lot when I was little), and read an interview where Phil credited Michael Hedges as a major inspiration for his (then) recent direction on acoustic guitar.

So I went down to Newbury Comics and picked up two Hedges CDs: Oracle and Live on the Double Planet. I picked Oracle to listen to first. By the time the first track had finished, my mind was completely blown. My entire musical journey up until that point had been a search for a kind of emotional intensity, a deep expression where you could lose yourself in the music. The loudness of rock and metal/industrial music tickled that intensity for me; the freedom of jam bands approached the aspect of being wonderfully lost in sound. But here was one guy with an acoustic guitar doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was floored. I was enraptured. I had to play this music.

I signed up for a classical guitar class at the university, because I read that Hedges was classically trained, and I figured I needed some kind of grounding in a tradition (so many of the artists I admired seemed to follow the pattern of starting in a tradition and innovating from there). My encounters with the world of classical music education have been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I have benefitted tremendously from the rigor and depth of classical technique and method. On the other, I have found it to be a very stuffy, arrogant, snobby, and restrictive culture. What else can I say? This is true. I dropped the class after a few weeks and continued to meander towards Hedges' oracle.

Around the end of my time at university, I met and began to study with a local guitarist of international renown, Brooks Williams. The time I spent learning from him got me unstuck from where I was and opened huge new avenues of playing for me. He is an extremely gracious and humble teacher, and his playing has this silky smooth, virtuosic, contageous quality to it. He is the sort of guy that makes you a better player just by watching him play!

I got married in 2003, and two years later moved from the Pioneer Valley to eastern Massachusetts, where I began to focus more on solo instrumental performing. I began to go to the local folk open mics (not an exact match for acoustic fingerstyle instrumentals, but my music has been well-received nonetheless). Out of this came my first open mic feature, my first opportunity to open for Brooks (at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, June 2006), and many ongoing friendships and musical collaborations.

My current focus is on arranging and recording Bach and traditional Irish fiddle music for solo guitar, as well as playing and singing at the local Vineyard Fellowship. I continue to be inspired by sacred and secular music alike, from Bach and O'Carolan to Bensusan and Keaggy. Even though my full-time "day job" is being a software developer at the MathWorks, music remains one of my primary passions.

1 comment:

How To Guitar Tune said...

It's really great to hear that you have such a passion in classical guitar that leads to you arrange pieces yourself. Awesome!