As a fifth-grade student in Southern California, I picked up a trumpet for the very first time.
The trumpet is a member of the brass family and is considered a difficult instrument to learn. It is one that requires great attention to detail, discipline, and practice.
It has taught me lessons about life and opened doors to opportunities that I could have never even dreamed of.
Little did I know, on that day in fifth grade, the journey was just beginning.
A passion uncovered
While I continued playing the trumpet in the band for the entirety of my middle and high school days, I began to branch off and explore more of the music world.
I began composing.
Now, keep in mind, this was in the 1980s, so the software at that time was far less sophisticated than the tools we have at our disposal today, but nevertheless, I was intrigued.
The trumpet remained what I knew, however.
It was familiar.
After high school, without a clear picture of what the future held for me, I became a member of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps.
I spent the next four summers touring the nation with my fellow performers.
I learned an extraordinary amount about performing, but what this experience really taught me was far more valuable.
I learned the importance of structure and discipline and was reminded of the level of passion I had for this world of music.
It fueled my decision to enroll at California State University – Los Angeles and set my sights — again — on composing.
More specifically, film composition.
As a young college student in Los Angeles, however, I quickly learned that film composition was not for me.
An interesting hobby and unique challenge, absolutely, but composing for a living was not the path I wanted to take.
Conducting, however, was.
There is just something about observing the conductor during a performance.
Knowing, in the back of your mind, that this individual is more familiar with the music than anyone else in the entire room.
The knowledge of the scores is incredible.
Equally as astonishing is the number of adjustments made to the tempo, articulation, phrasing, and repetitions of sections to create works of art that captivate audiences all across the world.
On a mission
After years of studying and countless hours of preparation, I went to the Conducting Symposium.
Not just for the experience, however.
I went in as a man on a mission.
I wanted to audition for the great Thomas Lee, Director of Bands at UCLA.
I knew, through some mutual friends, that he was seeking two new students for the Master’s Program at UCLA, and I was insistent that this was my shot to learn from the very best.
To chase my dream of one day conducting performers of my very own.
I knocked the audition out of the park and was accepted into the program.
During those two years of obtaining my master’s degree, I soaked up every single ounce of knowledge that I possibly could in regard to conducting.
I wanted to prepare myself to perform at the highest level.
And then, an opportunity arose. An opportunity to be the Interim Director of Bands at Baylor University.
Despite the unpredictability of the interim tag and knowing that my wife, Michelle, would remain in Los Angeles that year, I knew this was a chance worth taking.
Baylor is a prestigious university with a very reputable music program.
It was exactly the start that I needed.
While the first year was incredibly challenging, it was worth it.
By the time year two rolled around, I had earned the title of Director of Bands at Baylor University.
This time, no interim tag attached.
My wife was able to join me down in Texas, and for the next six beautiful years, I spent my professional days mastering the art of conducting athletic bands.
While my days in Waco were fulfilling, I ran out of opportunities to grow.
I needed a new challenge, and my wife and I agreed that a new adventure was in store.
It was then that I was named the Director of Bands at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. A program, very unlike my first two stops, that needed a complete rebuild.
The students worked incredibly hard, and for five amazing years, we built that program from the ground up. The marching band numbers skyrocketed, and we reached over one hundred total members.
It was an incredibly rewarding opportunity and one I was eager to remain a part of.
However, something was missing.
A risk worth taking
I had spent the last eleven years away from my home.
Everything that I knew and loved was back in Southern California, and my wife and I decided it was time to go home.
Without jobs secured or a clear path forward, we loaded up the kids, Ethan and Lucas, and our two cats, and embarked on the one-thousand-mile journey back home.
Upon my return, I dedicated time to my family. Directing bands is a job that requires a lot of time away from those you love.
I was always on the lookout, however. For that one opportunity to make my return to conducting.
A perfect opportunity.
One day, my phone rang. On the other line was the Director of Bands at California State University Long Beach. He was eager to discuss an opening the school had for the Interim Associate Director of Bands.
An opportunity to be back home in California, doing what I love at one of the most prestigious programs in the area was on the table, and my mind was made up.
This was my next adventure.
I now spend my days conducting the symphonic band at CSULB and will begin composing pieces for the winds and the symphonic bands in the near future.
This incredible opportunity has also allowed me the chance to conduct the pep band. I absolutely love being an integral part of the game-day atmosphere and doing everything in our power to pump energy into the venues and captivate the fans in attendance.
In my heart of hearts, I truly feel as though I have found a forever home here at CSULB and long to continue to give back, leave a legacy, and do all that I can for a university that has provided me an opportunity of a lifetime.
I am doing exactly what I love to do, right here in Southern California.