I was born in a small college town in Connecticut and grew insanely jealous when my older brother started taking piano lessons. My earliest musical memory is falling asleep under the piano listening to my mother practice.
But I didn’t get serious about the piano until suddenly I didn’t have one. When I was 16, I spent a summer volunteering in a tiny fishing village near Prince Rupert, way up the coast of British Columbia. No pianos, but the church we lived in had a pump organ, so in my spare time, I played hymns and the only two pieces I could remember: A Bach two-part invention and Solfeggietto. That summer, I decided I had to become a pianist, and can happily say I have expanded my repertoire.
But before that, at the formative age of 11, my family lived in Nairobi, Kenya for two years, where my father worked for the Ford Foundation. They were memorable years of wildlife, the Great Rift Valley and a British-style boarding school and they inspired me to write a novel steeped in my adolescence there.
After getting serious about the piano, I earned piano degrees from the University of Western Ontario, the Royal College of Music and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. I spent two years living in London and Vienna, taking piano lessons and attending as many concerts as my meager budget allowed.
I have performed as a soloist, accompanist, chamber musician — you name it — and starred in an award-winning film about Robert and Clara Schumann for Alaska public television. I fully intended to be a pianist forever -- the idea of working in journalism never occurred to me -- until I filled in for a music critic at the Anchorage Daily News. Writing about music hooked me as strongly as the piano, which I still play daily.
Anchorage is where I met my wife, Judi, at a private music school where we taught for several years. As a singer, she has had an opera written for her and has recorded a solo symphony with the Warsaw Philharmonic. We have three grown children and two grandchildren.
In 1986, we left Alaska so I could join The Oregonian as its classical music critic. This is when my music education suddenly broadened. I listened to orchestras, singers, violinists, cellists and more pianists than I can count. I interviewed composers and performers, conductors, designers and opera directors. The variety, not to mention the newspaper’s deadlines, kept me on my toes and pushed me far beyond my conservatory training.
In 2000, Judi and I spent a year impressed and intimidated by super smart kids at Stanford University, where I was a journalism fellow for a year. In 2007, I was a member of the press jury at the International Cliburn Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs -- a wonderful experience captured in the documentary "They Came to Play." I have written for several national publications, including the New Grove Dictionary of Musicians, Opera News, Sunset and American Record Guide.
I retired from The Oregonian in 2015, having enjoyed 29 years learning from some of the best arts writers in the country. My story about a gifted, but troubled, young cellist in eastern Oregon was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.