I can faintly remember the events, but probably because I've heard the story from my mother so many times. My older brother and sister were taking piano lessons when I was an infant. Being I wanted to do whatever they were doing, I requested that I be allowed to take piano lessons as well. When I was five, my mother walked me over to the piano teacher's house, which was only a block away from home, to discuss it with her. The story goes that she said I was too young to start, that my hands were too small, and that I should know fractions. Being only five, all I heard was that I wasn't allowed to take lessons. The story goes that I got such a sad, pitiful look on my face, that she could not resist. She asked if I would practice every day. I promised that I would...a promise I kept for the next six years.
By the time I was ten, I was playing fairly serious classical music on the piano, having skills quite beyond the average ten year old. During these early years though, I became addicted to pop music. I listened to AM radio religiously, and wore out the needles on the family phonograph playing the albums my sister & brother had ordered through the record clubs. Before I knew it, I was absorbed in music by famous 60's bands like the Beatles, Stones, Hermans Hermits, and the Monkees. As I grew up, so did my musical taste, becoming enthralled with such 70's bands as Led Zeppelin, Yes, Queen, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Rush, Kansas, and Angel.
I had the itch to start playing rock music. The problem was, I had been trained how to read music and play what I read. This is almost the exact opposite of how rock musician's get started. They normally mess around on an instrument and play what sounds good to them or mimic what they hear and like from others. I could really do neither. This is when I changed teachers to someone that could help. Instead of only practicing scales, he had me ear train and practice things like chord structure and inversions. Once there, I could start listening to rock & pop songs and try to duplicate them. Once I got to this point, rock music was fair game, since most rock songs are simple chord progressions anyway. This is when I first thought of starting a band. I remember listening to Grand Funk's "American Band" over and over, and made up my mind that playing music in a rock band was what I wanted to do.
It's then that I started looking for musicians to play with. I got Geoff's name (pronounced Jeff) from someone at school and he came over with his guitar. We kind of hit it off. We started learning some covers and also started writing some originals. He had older brothers that played instruments, and his older brother Bob sang. So we started rehearsing and started the band Shadowfax. We played with older brother Bob on vocals, Mike Riley on bass, Ron Bartlekowski on drums, Geoff on guitar and me on keys. I remember our first three gigs: (1) The State Penitentiary (2) The Deaf School (3) The Deaf Club. It was probably a good thing too. The first group couldn't get up and leave if they wanted to, and the others couldn't hear a thing!
The other guys in Shadowfax were all many years older than Geoff and I. So we left the band to form one with kids our own age. I had seen Jeff play for sock hops at the local Jr. High School. We contacted him and found out his band broke up, and asked him if he would like to start a band with us. We met in his basement, and with Danny Paul on bass, first formed Wakefield (find out more about Wakefield by going to the home page and click on the Wakefield tab). With Wakefield, my dream of being in a serious rock band came true. We played and traveled together for the next 13 years. It was 1987 when Wakefield finally broke up.
What do you do when you have played music for a living for 15 years? I had a Computer Science degree from Augustana College (where I was actually a piano major my freshman year), which I had earned while playing music with Wakefield on the weekends. But in 1987, my degree was already 6 years old. I went back to school in Rapid City at the South Dakota School Of Mines where I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, I started a career as an Engineer in the manufacturing of aluminum. Because the company I worked for paid for education, I went to night classes and earned my Masters In Business Administration (MBA). Really, for the next ten years, what keyboards I kept, remained packed away. I didn't have a piano in my home or touch a keyboard for literally ten years!
It was in 1997 that I was contacted to do a 10 year reunion concert with Wakefield. We played a couple dates back in SD. I think I was living in Chicago at the time. It reminded me of how much music had been a part of my life, and that I wanted it to be again. I bought my Technics piano after returning home from the reunion, and was happy to have a piano in my home again. From then on, I started playing more and more, and looked forward to doing Wakefield reunions during the summers when we returned to SD for family vacations to visit our relatives.
Over the years I have lived with my family in the Quad Cities IA, Chicago IL, Toledo OH, and Los Angeles CA. My most recent move has brought me back home to SD where I enjoy being around all my old friends and family. Over the years, having a piano in my home meant I had to work up some