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I was born in Boston but raised in Eureka, CA behind the “Redwood Curtain” of Humboldt County in the northern-most part of the state. This is one of the most beautiful, pristine parts of California, difficult to get to and therefore hard to develop, and it has left a lasting impression on my imagination, especially the extraordinary ancient redwood forests (made famous in “Return of the Jedi” as the “forest moon of Endor”). I was homeschooled for much of my childhood, studying piano with Yumi Watenabe Weisman (who I credit with my excellent ear training), and started at Humboldt State University when I was 15 after a brief stint “trying out” high school (High School didn’t go so well for me). Going to HSU was probably the most important thing that happened to me in my musical life, because despite the size of the department and its relative isolation geographically, I was given an education that I have subsequently realized vastly outclasses the education I’ve received at “more prestigious” institutions. While there I studied composition with Brian Post, toured in the percussion ensemble under Eugene Novotney, and studied piano with Deborah Clasquin. Dr. Clasquin was a force of nature, and the three years I studied with her changed my life. She died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, and every moment I spend making or teaching music is directly attributable to her. I miss her dearly.
I have always had a love for contemporary music, and in fact had to be forced to digest standard repertoire when all I wanted to do was indulge my compositional fantasies. I met John Adams as a young teenager, sending him some of my pieces as a 14-year-old and meeting him a year later (he was very kind). I was accepted to the Colburn Conservatory in 2005 to study with John Perry, my teacher for the following eight years. During that time I was properly immersed in the standard piano repertoire, surrounded by musicians so much more facile and experienced than myself, in an environment that, since Colburn was so new and small, was extraordinarily close-knit. By mere chance I applied to and was accepted to the Tanglewood Music Center in 2010, which was a life-changing experience. There I forged new relationships with composers, many of whom I continue to collaborate with today. I returned two more times to Tanglewood, the third time in 2012 as one of the festival’s ensemble of contemporary music interpreters, the New Fromm Players.
Art song has long been a passion of mine, owing almost entirely to the fact that my long-time partner, Lucy Fitz Gibbon (now my wife), is the most extraordinary singer I have ever known. I owe to her much more than I can possibly elucidate here, least of all any good taste I may claim to have. We collaborate often as a duo, and this is one of the most satisfying musical activities in my life.
I have always been a tinkerer. My grandfather was an extraordinarily skilled and meticulous amateur woodworker, and had a passion for doing things the “right way.” I built a clavichord with him in 2016-17, which resulted in a beautiful instrument. I work a fair amount with electronics in music, the most quotidian being audio engineering much of my own recording (my “debut” as an engineer was released this summer); I also build microphones/preamps/synthesizers, have rebuilt vintage gear, and refurbish/modify modern equipment; and have taken much interest in reconstructing electronics from historical electro-acoustic works, most notably Karlheinz Stockhausen’s MANTRA and Jonathan Harvey’s Bird Concerto with Pianosong. I also make alcohol (beer/cider/etc). I see this last point as inexorably connected to the rest.
I live in Ithaca, NY, with Lucy and our family of parthenogenetic Vietnamese stick insects. I am currently finishing a doctorate at Cornell University in Keyboard Studies, with an emphasis on contemporary performance practice, and am also a Visiting Lecturer in Piano Performance.