Yes, this is where I get to lay it out about myself! It tells where I've been as a musician and as a person.
I became deaf when I was a baby, most likely before I was a year old. From what, we don't know. My parents claimed I was born with it. I don't think I was, as I recall hearing certain sounds, and it's been documented in the baby book that I started talking at 2 months old (NOT 2 years old). I had four words under my belt by the time I was 7 months old. But then something happened, and I wasn't diagnosed as being deaf until I was six and a half years old. I went to the Sunshine Cottage School for the Deaf in San Antonio, Texas, where I improved my lip-reading skills (I knew enough to fool my parents) and finally learned to speak. Later, I was mainstreamed into public school, starting out at the second grade.
I started playing music in the 5th grade in the elementary school band program. The inspiration for my interest in music was the snare line in the old, old show, "Hogan's Heroes." Oddly enough, I had begun with experimenting with the idea of instruments having different pitches and timbres (or quality of the tone) on my Dad's electronic organ, and this was probably about a year or more before I started band. I would just sit there and hit a single note, play with different effects, and notice how the sound was affected.
I played throughout grade school into my first year in college. I played drums as my primary instrument while playing bass guitar on the side (first for fun, and then when I got to high school, in the jazz band, marching band, and symphonic band). I did try to play the cornet or trumpet during one summer after 5th grade, but I didn't stick with it and went back to drums. I got my first drum set during the end of 6th grade. I was exposed to a lot of different performance scenarios:
- Concert band
- Marching band
- Drum corp (during one fall season)
- Jazz band
- Percussion ensemble
- Percussion solo
- Choir (low alto)
My best exposure to symphonic music happened when I toured western Europe twice, with America's Youth in Concert in '83 and U.S. Collegiate Wind Band in '84. In '83, Carnegie Hall in New York City was a major stateside event before heading to Europe. We went through England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. In '84, we started in France and went through (then) West Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and back through France before ending in London, England. These were great touring experiences, where we rehearsed hard before starting the tour, and we played almost every day; a few times, we played two times a day.
Jazz band in high school was an odd experience. This was where my position in this ensemble was initially the drum set. I was becoming interested in the bass guitar at some point, and I auditioned one song on the bass guitar, and I was given the go ahead to play one song during a performance on the bass guitar. The bass player happened to be more interested in playing the drum set. We ended up swapping instruments for that one song for a while. Then it became two songs, then three, and eventually, we completely switched instruments and never went back. Typically, it was only a few people who played more than one instrument, like a pianist playing a flute. I'd say that for my high school, I broke that mold and set the trend for anyone who played an instrument and wanted to pick up an entirely different one in different performance scenarios.
I played one year at East Texas State University in Commerce (before it was renamed as Texas A&M Commerce). There, I played in the pit in the marching band, played bass guitar in an experimental jazz band, played in the concert band in the spring, and learned about playing the steel pans.
Then after that, it felt like a brightly shining chapter in my life had closed as I pressed on with college and tried making it in a "real" major - Computer Science. Boy... What a learning experience! It turns out that after about 3 years of college, I didn't want to be a programmer, but I was too afraid to go back to being a musician. Imagine the horrors of horrible gigs that didn't pay anything, having a hungry child wearing clothes two sizes too small ('cause the money wouldn't keep up with the child's growth pace!), not knowing if I was going to have enough money to eat on and keep a roof over my head, and on and on! Ahh, no way!! But of course, I tend to have the habit of catastrophizing possible events, which doesn't help matters. Anyhow, that's how I viewed it; as a closing of a chapter of my life, to never be experienced again rather than as an expansion of the book of my life into the university music setting, where I could learn so much more with more educational resources available to me and change musical directions if I wanted to. This view really affected me, leading me into depression over the years.
After that first year of college, I had drifted into music sporadically once in a great while. I picked up my sticks and either played on the drum set or a practice pad for a few weeks at a time, then I might not touch my sticks again for a long time. The same thing happened with my bass guitar. It was about 17 years later, in January of 2003, that I decided that music must be a permanent part of my life. At the time, I was horribly depressed, with no idea where I was going to go with my life (I had gotten back into the computer field recently, only to have it implode on me soon afterwards). You know, in all these years when I was working in a line of work and had to leave for another line of work, music was always circling back to me, and it always faced me, asking me, "Why aren't you playing music? Why not do it this time?" I couldn't ignore it this time.
I reopened the book of my life and began writing the expansion of the story line of this "book." I bought an electronic drum set to start with (I was living in an apartment at the time). Later in 2003, I bought my acoustic drum set after I moved to a room in a house. In early 2004, I helped form the first band (Somehow Unique) with Marcos Galvao, a guitar player from Brazil, and Chris Camacho, a bass player originally from El Paso. The style gradually moved toward a pop style laid down on a funk foundation. Once in a while, we would play on a Reggae beat. In July 2004, I moved to Houston to be with the hard-rock band, Gurlfriendz, and to work part-time. Gurlfriendz did cover songs from Bush, The Exies, Audioslave, Weezer, 7 Mary 3, Godsmack, 3 Doors Down, Nickleback, Stone Temple Pilots, Matthew Sweet, Incubus, Foo Fighters, etc., which was all more recent hard-rock music that I loved to learn during this time. We made our first CD, an LP, "To The end," just in time for the Houston Pride Festival in June 2005. We disbanded shortly afterwards, and I used the following six years to late 2011 to work on bringing my playing technique to another level while finding out what I wanted to do next. It was in late summer of 2011 during the Bastrop County Complex Fires that I experienced a difficult time watching friends loose their homes and my traveling out of state, which led me to begin the process of withdrawing from a line of research that I no longer wanted to do. I needed to make changes to my life.
This includes moving in an entirely different direction, musically. I'm not ready to reveal the change, but it is enough to say that while I love rock 'n roll and will play it again with the right people, I don't want to play in an environment where people, band members and audience alike, live in ways that are destructive to themselves and their bodies. I'm looking for a direction that fits me because it meets my needs and feels right.
I would like to give thanks to many people who helped me get started and stuck with me, and to many others I've met along the way:
- Dad - for believing in me and helping to make my music trips and opportunities possible.
- Audrey (Stepmom) - for helping with the rigors of learning music and working with the band directors early on.
- Leo Garza, Rick Ball, Claudine Henley, and Joe Blades (music teachers) - for believing in me and pushing me to excel, do better.
- Mom - for believing in me and supporting me.
- Krystin, Jen, Rachel, and Kelly - for giving me the opportunity to really push myself and learn a lot about Rock music!
- Stephen Belans (current drum instructor) - for teaching me and encouraging me in a very exploratory time in my life.
- Marcos (guitar) and Chris (bass guitar) - for being willing to work with me on our music.
- Adrian Conner (Adrian and the Sickness, Hell's Belles) - a hell of a guitar player and inspirational musician. She's also a cool, down-to-earth person.
- Heather Webb (Adrian and the Sickness) - a sweet, strong, and great bass player.
- Ric Furley (Adrian and the Sickness) - a great hyper drummer who has helped me with my growth struggle as a drummer.
- Adrienne and Bethany Sneed (The TunaHelpers) - great musicians and wonderful ladies! So friendly and warm, but don't cross them... Keep up the sign language parts in your performances!