Whether I’m playing tunes on the Irish flute, writing hymn compositions or picking on the guitar, there are few things that elevate my spirit the way that music does. Music was part of my life from an early age but finding my musical passions took longer. My love of great historic hymns was fostered by my wife Deborah and friend Kevin Twit, both of whom I met while living in Nashville just after college. Deborah and I recorded on the first Indelible Grace record that Kevin produced – the first of now many fantastic albums that feature ancient hymn texts set to new music.
Nashville was good to us. Not only did we enjoy an amazing community of like-minded musicians, it was there, while working as a guitarist, that I developed my first teaching studio, working with beginning guitarists as well as professional musicians such as Will Sayles (Drummer for Norah Jones, Over the Rhine…) and three time Dove Award winner Ginny Owens.
The “dream job” called me from Nashville to Greeley, Colorado, where I continue to serve as music director for Saint Patrick Presbyterian Church. Greeley is an amazing place to live as a musician with its rich heritage, University of Northern Colorado’s world-class music program and a tight-knit community of talented artists. Even though I lived in Boston (a hub of traditional Irish music) while studying guitar at Berklee College of Music, it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado years later that I would be introduced to “pure-drop” traditional Irish music via Irish flutist and friend Shannon Heaton.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
In Irish traditional music I felt I’d found my true musical love. I wanted to immerse myself in it, so Deborah and I took a sabbatical and headed to Ireland in 2005 where I attended the University of Limerick and received my masters in Irish Traditional Music Performance on the Irish Flute. Since then, I’ve taken my love of teaching music online with my Irish flute, whistle & bodhrán courses which have been enjoyed by thousands of students all over the world.
2011 saw the release of my debut Irish traditional album “Fiddle & Flute” with fiddle champion Natalie Rae Padilla and pianist/composer Peter Romero which was favorably reviewed by critics worldwide and put in rotation on various RTÉ Radio (Irish Public Radio) programs. You can even find it at the Traditional Music Archive in Dublin!
Late 2016 will see the release of my new course for guitar. It’s a one year / 50 lesson guitar method that takes students from the basics to being able to accompany themselves and others in song in any key using a capo and great sounding chord shapes. Natalie Rae Padilla, Peter Romero and I have also teamed up again, this time developing new music for film which we hope to share with you soon!
Filmmaking snuck up on me. Unlike my lifelong and intentional pursuit of music, this foray came when I, innocently enough, offered friend and director Jem Moore help with his feature documentary The Keymaster: Patrick Olwell’s Story. I did have a decade or more of experience with DSLR type cameras but that was mostly in studio environments taking product shots for one of our businesses or video for my online music courses. What I didn’t realize when I offered to help is just how much I would enjoy making moving images.
Since then I’ve worked on everything from 15-second commercial spots to one-take cinematic music videos to documentaries abroad. In 2013, Jem and I along with Philip Van Drunen started Cloudgate Films, a film production company specializing in cinematic aerial cinematography. In 2015 I traveled to Bavaria to film The Drum Maker, a documentary on bodhrán maker Christian Hedwitschak and am hoping to see its release in mid 2016.
“It’s possible to fly without motors but not without knowledge & skill.”
My earliest memories were either flying cross country in my parent’s airplane or going to the remote controlled model flying field with my father. In my junior high years I started competing with RC sailplanes and by age 17 I had won 9 national titles. I took a few years off when starting up my music career but have been back at it over the past few years and, in addition to flying for Cloudgate Films, I still compete nationally as a team Horizon Hobby / Spektrum pilot.