family moved to Beaverton when I was in junior high, so I went
to Sunset High School. That's where I got into jazz. From the
ages of five to thirteen, I studied classical music, practicing four
hours a day. When I was a sophomore at Sunset, I remember
practicing Gershwin's “Rhapsody In Blue” at the school, and the
jazz band director heard me.
That was Greg Hall. “How would you like the jazz orchestra
to back you up on this piece,” he said. That's how he got me in
there, that was the enticement. At that time, I just didn't understand
jazz, I just didn't get it. I was a classical player. I didn't understand
the chords with these alterations, it didn't make sense
to me. Then, we started practicing other stuff. We did the music
of Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie charts, cool stuff. One day he
handed me a recording, to prepare for a state jazz competition,
a big band arrangement and asked me to transcribe the Lyle
Mays piano solo. I took it very seriously. At the state competition,
which was being held at Mt. Hood Community College, our
band won for best big band, and I won the outstanding soloist
Greg Hall kept saying, “Go to a music conservatory.” But
I wanted a real job, like being a doctor. My older brother was
already a pre-med student. My parents wanted me to play music
for fun. So I went to Seattle Pacific University, majoring in
chemistry and completed all the pre-med requirements. I hated
it. My brother and I were in the same classes. One day he said,
“You're never going to become a doctor, you're always in the
Seattle Pacific actually had a small jazz band made up of
students and people from the outside, so I continued playing in
a jazz band while I was there. I also started playing with a bass
player who was a cousin of a friend of mine, and we put an act
together with a singer. We entered the SPU talent show and
Then we thought we should try and get a gig, so we drove
around Seattle looking at places and we saw this upright piano
in a cool Italian restaurant on Eastlake called Serafina. We
thought,”Why don't we ask the owner if she's interested in having
music?” She said, “Come in on Friday night.” We get there,
and it's packed. So we played quietly, more like ambient music.
We also dressed up so we made a good impression. They fed
us a really nice meal as well.
That led to a regular gig for the next eight years, and to
other gigs like the Sorrento Hotel in downtown Seattle. I was
still studying to take the MCAT (medical college admission test)
while gigging around Seattle. One night while playing at Serafina,
a group of Swedish businessmen came in and asked me
if I was coming to Sweden to play. I told them I was going to
be a doctor, and they responded that there's so many doctors
[but] not enough jazz pianists. That left an impression on me. It
made me think about that.
Portland: I came back to Portland to get a music degree
at Portland State University. There I studied with Darrell Grant
and played for the vocal jazz ensemble. He got me to the next
level. I then moved to McMinnville for financial reasons. Out
there I continued playing music in the restaurants and wineries.
I opened my own recording studio called INSTEPMUSIC, which
I still operate, and I helped my sister start an internet business.
In the process of helping her, I learned computer programming,
and now I work on developing websites. After a few years I decided
to return to Portland.
I now have a handmade Yamaha S6 piano, a favorite of jazz
players, in my recording studio. Through working with Lynn Darroch
on the “Grand Piano Series” segment of his “Bright Moments”
show on KMHD, I got to record many of the top Portland
piano players in my studio in Portland. I've also created the
website as a resource. At the moment,
I have more studio work now than gigs. I also do arranging for
One of my gigs is church pianist for the Mission of the Atonement
in Beaverton. This church is a mix of Catholic and Lutheran.
They wanted a jazz player, someone who could improvise.
They received a grant for a jazz liturgy, and they hired me to
help them put that together. Most of their music is just a melody
line or chant, and you have to harmonize the rest of it. They
wanted me to take the traditional Catholic music and “jazzify” it.
Vince Guaraldi did the same thing for Grace Cathedral in San
Francisco. Jazz pianist Weber Iago helps me, and Andre St.
James is our bassist.
Most Satisfying Experience: There are so many, that's
hard to pin down. Just being able to play in the church on a
Christmas Eve with a jazz trio ... how often does that happen?
As jazz players, we're often background music. The nice thing
about a church gig is they're listening and they really appreciate
it, you get that affirmation.