Piano, Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute
William Paterson University
Classical and Jazz
I teach piano, saxophone, clarinet, and flute. My musical success can be largely attributed to my own teachers. Although I began learning at age six, my lessons, practicing, and as a result my playing all came together when I began lessons with Alex Bohrer at age eleven. Alex’s teaching style put music theory to practical use in the music I learned. This knowledge of how music was constructed gave me a deeper understanding of music. Instead of just learning what notes to play, I learned why I was playing those notes. This style of music education is present in the lessons I teach. Instead of learning chords and scales in a cold, academic way, you’ll learn how they fit into the songs you’re learning. This understanding of a practical application of music theory will not only let you learn new songs faster based on your understanding of underlying patterns, but you’ll be able to write your own music and improvise.
After leaving Texas for New Jersey to attend College, I began studying saxophone with Vincent Herring and piano with Harold Mabern at William Paterson University. Outside of school, I took private lessons in New York City with Doug Yates on bass clarinet and Mark Shim on saxophone among others. In 2014, I moved from New York City to Baltimore to attend the Peabody Conservatory on a full scholarship in order to study with the legendary saxophone player Gary Thomas. I bring the knowledge of these musicians as well as the many others I’ve performed with into lessons with more advanced students.
At age 19, I began teaching my own students. Six years later, I have the experience of passing on my musical knowledge to students as young as 4 all the way up to adults in individual lessons as well as group settings.
When did you begin playing Piano and/or Saxophone, and why?
I began piano at age 6 and saxophone at age 10. I loved listening to jazz from an early age, and that motivated me to learn.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
At age 11 I began learning clarinet, and I started learning flute when I was 13.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
My goal has always been to express myself through music, and I believe this can be accomplished by playing creatively at the highest level possible. This goes beyond simply learning an instrument — I work on ear training, rhythmic studies, and composition on a daily basis.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
In my first lesson with the teacher I had that really motivated me to get serious about music, I came in and played “maple leaf rag”. At the time, I had little to no knowledge of music theory. When he began breaking down how chords existed within the song I had just played, it changed my perspective of music as a mechanical activity of simply getting my fingers on the right notes into an art where different combinations of notes could evoke different moods and/or feelings.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
“Tell a story” — Mulgrew Miller. Oftentimes in the past I have been caught up in what other people (especially other musicians) think of my playing. After a performance in college that had been filled with complex chords and 16th notes, one of my professors stopped us and re-directed us back to why we should play music in the first place. Music is meant to be a vehicle of self expression, not an arena to display virtuosity with no further purpose.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
When I got my first bass clarinet, I couldn’t play a note on it. I had been so eager to learn, and when I finally got the instrument, it was unbelievably frustrating. After a few days and a couple lessons later, I had learned about voicing on the instrument and was able to begin developing facility on the instrument.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
This is a tough question for me to answer. Right now I’d say just being a professional musician at my age is my biggest accomplishment. My playing has reached a level beyond what I thought I would be capable of when I made the decision to study music in college. Some of my other biggest accomplishments would probably be playing on my teacher Gary Thomas’ album as well as releasing my own album.
Favorite thing about teaching?
Every time I see my students progress, I vicariously experience the sense of accomplishment that they also do. It is very fulfilling.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Always make sure you’re having fun. It is somewhat of a cliche, but I’ve found in the past when I put pressure on myself to accomplish certain goals, I reach a point of diminishing returns. When I structure my practicing and performances in a way that I enjoy, it energizes me and I end up working harder instead of tiring myself out.
Personal music projects:
I routinely play at Chris’ Jazz Cafe and other jazz venues in Philly. I also play around Maryland, New Jersey, and New York (all places I used to live).