Where are you from?
I was born in Corvallis, Oregon. It’s a university town on the western slope, the wet part of the Northwest.
When did you move to Colorado Springs?
Well, I came here in 1969 after doing undergraduate work at the University of Oregon and graduate work at Brown in Rhode Island. After I finished my degree there, there was a job opening here. I came out here and thought I would spend a few years and move to Harvard or something like that. But I had so much fun and it was such a great place and such a great school that I have been here ever since.
Do you have a family?
My wife is Victoria Hanson. She is also in the Music Department. She’s a vocalist and voice teacher. I have a grown son who is a physician. He’s in his early 40s. I have a grown daughter who is a national radio reporter. She actually just had her first article in the New York Times yesterday, so I was pretty proud about that. Both my son and daughter have kids, so I have three grandchildren and a fourth on the way.
What classes have you taught during your CC career?
[I’ve taught] a lot over the years. Most recently I was teaching two jazz courses: an introduction to jazz course and a special Miles Davis course on Miles’ music and his influence on the world of jazz. I also teach an experimental course. This is my last year, though, so I will be out of the classroom. I have been in the classroom for 45 years, which I think is enough. I still do love teaching a lot, and I love working with the students.
What do you like most about teaching at Colorado College?
I guess I would start with the freedom and autonomy that faculty members have. We make our own courses. Of course they have to go through some committees to be approved, but all of us CC faculty have a great deal of autonomy in what we want to teach and in what we want to do with research and creative work. Secondly, the ensemble that I put together and created in 1977 has been very well treated by the college as a whole. Not just colleagues who come to the concerts and are interested in what we do, but the administration has given us a great deal of support. I’ve had really good financial support, so the Bowed Piano Ensemble has been able to tour all over the world.
How has the school changed during your career?
That’s a tricky question. The number of faculty has grown. The student body size has stayed pretty much the same since I came here in 1969. The student generation has of course changed. I can speak specifically about the Music Department. When I came here, the curriculum in the Music Department was essentially academic classroom work, studying music theory, which is important to know if you want to be a musician. Music history, as well, goes back centuries in the Western tradition. There was relatively little emphasis on performance. But when the college built this building, Packard, in 1976, we got the beautiful recital hall, which I’m sure you have been in. The acoustics are great, so our ensembles have expanded. We had maybe one or two ensembles when I came here, and now we have eight or 10. Lots more students get to perform. I think for a liberal arts college, we have one of the best music programs in the sense of the quality of the courses and the teachers and the students. We have so much variety for people to study.
What sparked your interest in music?
Way back when I was in grade school, I used to like to poke out melodies on the piano. My parents were both amateur musicians. My mom would be singing around the house all the time, and I would start to join in and copy what she was doing. When I got to high school, I got a lot more serious about music, particularly jazz. I spent a lot of time playing jazz with friends. I also have a pretty good ear. In other words, if I hear something, I can write it down or play it on the piano. I started listening to really heavy recordings by the bebop people – you know, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. I was doing that in high school. I was transcribing their recordings, and making arrangements for my friends. We weren’t very good or anything, but we got some gigs and we had a lot of fun.
What is your proudest accomplishment outside your teaching career?
I think the creation of the Bowed Piano Ensemble and basically the worldwide recognition of what we do and the knowledge about us. I am especially proud of the fact that this is a student-run ensemble. We play professional gigs. We’ve played in the Sydney Opera House. We’ve been in several professional festivals, which are run by organizations that almost never ask student ensembles to perform. I am really proud of the fact that this is an undergraduate student ensemble, half of which or even two-thirds of any given ensemble are not music majors.
What are your plans for retirement?
Good question. I have no answer. A lot of people are asking me that. I will still be involved in music. I will maybe do some composition for some other kinds of ensemble. I will probably play jazz for myself and for others. We will travel some. My wife and I both like to travel. I like to write. I actually wrote a short book maybe eight years ago that I might want to beef up and find an editor for and maybe see if I can publish it. It’s about sailing, which is one of my hobbies.