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, a professional 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 hope to put some of these pieces together into a solo recital sometime in 2018. I have also performed occasionally in community orchestras (presently as a violist with Blacksburg Community Strings) and in amateur chamber ensembles.
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 Antonio Carlos Jobim, but also quasi-classical tunes by Celso Machado, Astor Piazzolla, 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 most recent dates were at Gillie's Restaurant on College Avenue in Blacksburg (Fri Aug 18, 2017) and Our Daily Bread Bistro and Bakery on South Main Street in Blacksburg (Sat Aug 19, 2017). We are planning to make a recording in early 2018.
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.)