My Musical Education

As a boy, I first learned about music by hearing my father sing.  He was an outstanding baritone with tenor and bass ranges also.  At one point, he did several seasons of light opera at Grauman's' Chinese theater in Hollywood until the reality of supporting four sons sunk in.  In sixth grade, I began playing the trumpet and continued until braces pretty much finished off my lips around 10th grade.  The next few years were spent envying my best friend Bruce who played blues harmonica, organ and piano. Over many shared bottles of wine, I learned to play the "blues harp" pretty well myself.

Later, I started to teach myself piano while at the University of California at San Diego where I was (in one of several detours) a music major (electronic) sans a primary instrument.  At this time, I also studied the Baroque alto recorder (with Jeff Raskin) and became fairly fluent with it, and began using it to improvise jazz.  Spurred on by the limited range of the recorder, my next door neighbor Steve turned out to be my first jazz piano teacher.

Upon transferring to UC Santa Barbara, where I did three more years as a music composition major (but never finished the degree), I met my next jazz piano teacher, David Steinberg.  David gave me lessons for free, let me copy his Real Book, and even lent me his entire jazz record collection for six months while I made tape copies, listened and studied.  Thanks, David.  Later, I studied jazz piano with Jim Argiro at the Music Academy of the West.

I fell in love with salsa first as a radio announcer at the campus station, and then later dancing in Costa Rica.  I became determined to learn Spanish and to dance salsa.  Finding salsa dance and piano teachers were fairly hard until I took a chance and made a trip to Havana Cuba in 1994 to study at the main university for the arts there, la Escuela Nacional del Arte.  During three trips in different years, I spent six full weeks of several hours a day working with Cesar Pedroso (Pupy) the pianist for the great Cuban ensemble Los Van Van.  The daily classes were followed by many hours every evening dancing to one of the other great salsa groups everywhere in Havana.

Later, in San Diego and Los Angeles, I studied salsa piano with Edgar Hernandez (maestro de Charanga Cubana) for several years and even helped him typeset the musical examples for his book on salsa piano.  I  worked with his techniques and they helped me alot, enough so that now I play piano with our local salsa ensemble, Somos Son.