I started violin lessons and piano lessons at the age of 5. When I left home for college in 1983, I kept up with piano as a staff accompanist in the Music Department at Hope College, and as a jazz performer, mostly in a trio with a great bassist (my brother Francis) and a very fine jazz trumpet player named Kevin Watt, who now leads and performs with the Jazz Ambassadors, an ensemble of the United States Army Field Band.
But at that time I gave up the violin entirely.
In 2009, when my daughter started violin lessons, I decided to pick it up again and see what might be possible within the constraints of career, family obligations, and continuing involvement in the local music scene as a jazz pianist.
I now enjoy the violin thoroughly, partly because the quality of instruction that I (and my daughter) receive is so much higher than what I received as a child. I have performed the Bach D Minor Sarabande and Gigue, the first movements of the Haydn G Major and Bach A Minor Concertos, the Mozart E-Minor Sonata K304, Gluck/Kreisler Melodie, the Beethoven G Major Romance, and numerous other pieces as part of "adults-only" recitals. I have also performed occasionally in community orchestras and in amateur string quartets.
I live in Blacksburg, Virginia, where my wife and I are both members of the Virginia Tech chemistry faculty. I teach inorganic chemistry and my research is in the area of organometallic chemistry and polymer synthesis. My wife's expertise is in X-ray crystallography. We have two daughters, one who plays violin (as already mentioned), and one who plays cello. I have accompanied their performances on the piano, and we have even played a few chamber pieces together for informal recitals, etc.
Under the Highlands Jazz brand, I perform regularly, mostly in trios (piano/bass/sax or piano/bass/drums) or duos (piano/bass). The Highlands Jazz Quintet recorded a CD, "Two Degrees East Three Degrees West," in 2012. Recently my friend Justin Craig (a professional guitarist in the area) had the idea to put together a different kind of trio in which I play violin including some jazz improvisation. Our book is all Brazilian tunes (a lot of AC Jobim, etc.) This kind of music is a little easier to improvise over than swing-type tunes, so it's a good opportunity to build my skill. The trio is rounded out by Bill Ray, a local pro who is Principal Percussionist of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. We have played a handful of gigs together, and our next date is at Our Daily Bread Bistro and Bakery on South Main Street in Blacksburg at 9:30 AM on Saturday, August 19, 2017.
Obviously I spend a lot of my spare time on music but I also enjoy hiking, family-style cooking, and woodworking (furniture, built-ins, home carpentry, etc.)