Being the last to offer a personal statement about the way music has defined my life is humbling because the past 30 days have given rise to a collection of stories that have truly said it all. Music brings people together, touches hearts, defines you, creates and sustains relationships, heals wounds, spawns traditions, conjures up nostalgic memories, unites those in peril, comforts those in need, and before you know it - little by little, compounded over time - one begins to understand the power of the creative spirit; the Divine within us all. No matter your faith tradition, it is impossible to ignore that our shared humanity is best expressed through music. Music is the universal language that connects us all as soul-filled human beings.
I got my start in music at the age of 6 playing the piano in Williamsburg, Virginia. As I progressed, my first piano teacher reported she could do no more for me and that I needed a more advanced teacher (Side note: this was a sad day, because one of the most exciting things about my first piano teacher was her collection of comic books. After every lesson, I could choose a new comic book from her vast collection. It wasn’t until graduate school when my teacher offered me a glass of wine after my lessons that the comic book bribe was finally trumped!)
My subsequent keyboard teachers through high school just happened to be church musicians and each insisted that I be singing in a choir. I am sure they recognized that this was the best way to grow a well-rounded musician. Thus, I was enrolled in the Boychoir at Colonial Williamsburg’s famed Bruton Parish Church where I was steeped in the Royal School of Church Music tradition.
Eventually my skills at the keyboard (and trumpet and French horn) grew to match the musicianship that was being developed through my experience as a chorister. This led to several summers at Interlochen Center for the Arts (then known as National Music Camp), scholarships to DePauw University where I received my Bachelor's degree in Keyboard Performance and then to Peabody Conservatory for a Master’s in Conducting. All along this journey, my musical experiences included the company of some very talented musicians, many of whom were singers.
I am sure that this explains my dedication to vocal artists and the choral experience, and why I have happily dedicated the past two decades to growing Heartland Sings, Inc. Though I am principally a keyboardist and conductor, my life and my musicianship is indebted to my training as a chorister and from the privilege of working with singers.
As I step into a new year, I am excited to tackle the challenges before Heartland as it grows and transitions into its new business model. I do so with a grateful heart, acknowledging the many dedicated member-supporters, audiences, volunteers, board members, vocal artists, staff and advisors who have supported Heartland along this soon-to-be twenty-year journey.
Thank you and Happy New Year!