Welcome! I started this site so that I could finally have some regular output and structure associated with my creativity. If there is enough interest, and a community, I’d also love to take votes for which songs people would like notated and I can make sheet music available for other piano players out there.
As far as my REAL life goes, I was diagnosed with leukemia in the last finals week of my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Acting, December of 2007.
I quickly went into remission, and was able to graduate, but I remained on chemotherapy for almost four years to prevent a relapse. Much of my writing is informed by that incredibly transformative time in my life. “Fall then Winter” (released December 2012) is a memoir album composed of piano solos written over that five year span. The songs create a musical catalog of my journey through chemotherapy, remission, and the transition into adulthood. The album was released in December 2012, marking five years since I went into remission, thus considering me “cured.” Each song on the album features the year it was written, and the time since diagnosis, creating an aural memoir of my journey.
“sam i was,” a memoir musical about my experience with leukemia, was workshopped at the Yale Institute for Musical Theatre. Emmy nominated film producer Manjula Varghese and director Joshua Sarlo attached their talent to the piece after seeing a live performance. It raised almost 10 thousand dollars on its initial fundraising run, and it is currently searching for increased funding to become a feature film.
I use an Ivory piano set by Synthogy to record my music. The Italian Grand II. I LOVE It. Such an amazing sound for a software instrument. And I record on Logic Express 9 (I know, I should probably upgrade) on my own homebuilt Hackintosh. Check out tonymacx86.com if you are at all curious about that gargantuan undertaking.
My biggest musical influences are:
(Nocturne in C Minor, Op 48 No. 1, By Frederic Chopin, performed by Valentina Lisitsa)
No other composer, for my money, has so successfully ridden the line between sentiment, soaring melodies, and a profound sense of the harrowing isolation of the human experience. His awareness of the bittersweet nature of life, and the chiaroscuro he brings to his music is breathtaking. The first album I ever owned was a CD of Chopin’s greatest hits, and I’ve probably listened to his music more and longer than anyone else’s. Although on a technical level his music exceeds my wildest dreams for my own work, his aesthetic pervades all my compositions.
Modern composers include Philip Glass, for his simple, repetitive melodies and chord progressions; Yann Tiersen for his playful, nostalgic song structure and style;
and three big ones from my childhood: Kurt Bestor, Daniel Lanz, and (oh yes) Yanni.
New Age music at its finest. I mean look at their hair! Obviously Yanni takes the trophy for luxurious mane, but the other guys are cleaning house too. Yanni also uses only his first name, which is (in the parlance of the kids these days) “to the window, to the wall, til the Yanni runs down my basketballs” awesome. (I served Kurt Bestor at my restaurant about a year ago, btw, and he left a terrible tip. Really crushed my childhood dreams.) My mother loved everything that came out of these man’s fingers, and she played their albums almost constantly (in between Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Gloria Estefan) while she cooked gargantuan meals for a family of seven in our tiny kitchen.
“Yanni also uses only his first name, which (in the parlance of kids these days) is ‘to the window, to the wall, til the Yanni runs down my basketballs’ awesome.”
I grew up in a Mormon community in Northern Utah (Logan). (No, I’m not Mormon, and never have been. And no, they aren’t all polygamists. And, yes, some of them believe they will be Gods someday, but who can blame them?) My mother–an ex-Mormon, pianist–instilled in all her kids a respect for art, culture, and especially music. Her mother was a virtuoso pianist herself. As a teenager, my grandmother Rula played duets with her twin sister, Roma, around Northern Utah in small concerts and dance halls. When not playing simultaneously, one of them would take the keyboard while the other tap danced on the lid of the grand piano. I’m guessing it was quite the entertainment for people suffering during the Great Depression, and the years during World War II. I imagine their routine looking something like this:
My mother took this love for music with her into her adult life, putting me and my siblings into piano lessons at an early age, and playing herself whenever she had time between working as a nurse full time and raising five kids. I don’t remember this, but apparently at the age of three I would sit next to my mom at the piano and try to make her teach me how to play. She finally relented, and began to teach me how to read music before I could read anything in English. After begging her for a year to let me take lessons from her piano teacher, she took me along and I began my classical training at the age of four.
I absolutely loved the piano. I spent hours every day racing through the beginning piano books, exceeding everyone’s expectations for a four year old. I loved the mechanical beauty of the piano: its direct representation of musical theory, and its simplicity for a beginner with the promise of intricate complexity blossoming on an ever expanding horizon of new composers, and new music.
In high school my piano teacher suffered the loss of one her sons and took a reprieve from teaching for about a year. I started improvising simple melodies on minor scales, and writing little songs with my new spare time. For a short time I took lessons with a graduate student at the University in Logan, but she never really jived with me, and looking back I realize it hurt my original piano teacher deeply; in her time of need her student of twelve years leaving for a new teacher must have been hard for her. I was a punk. And probably still am. So I decided to stop taking lessons altogether and pursue the creation of my own music. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
(The Pirate King [or Queen in my case, haha] and that funny guy from Oklahoma!)
My other passion all through high school was acting. I was that guy everyone always said was going to be a sitcom star on NBC or be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. This was a small town, I remind you, so the bar was not incredibly high. (Nor the standard for my stage makeup.)
(Oh yeah, college level theatre. Drinking whiskey right from the bottle. I am a dangerous and mysterious man.)
Nonetheless I took their comments to heart and decided to make theatre acting my major at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I took my piano with me, and continued to play and compose in my spare time, converting the angst and emotions of a privileged young, white college student into equally angsty songs and impromptus. My junior year of college I got a role in “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” directed by a well known New York casting agent Rich Cole. The play had a number of songs but the music that shipped with the script was incomprehensible at best. I decided to go off and try to compose some music for some of the songs myself, and my friend Kristen Bailey encouraged me to approach the director about it after she heard my sketches. He went crazy. He loved the music and loved the idea of having a cast member write the music for the show. It was a great success! The audience loved the music and I got an itch for writing music to words. I wrote my first musical, Notes on a Sunday, the following year, and was diagnosed with leukemia December of 2007, and that brings us back to what I’ve already written, and to the present. Check out synopses and few samples of my musical theatre work on my musicals page.
I’m always working on a new musical, play, or song. I love reading, classical music, dogs, video games, and hiking, and I live in New York City. Thanks for reading along, and hopefully you’ll come back for more. See you next Tuesday!