Monday, May 09, 2005

My Musical History - Part 2


In the fall of 1994, I was in my fifth semester as a television/film major at the University of Houston. During the Summer, I quit my rock band because I wanted to do things musically that I simply couldn't do with my old high school buddies. As the fall semester progressed, I was getting more tired of all the classes I was taking and I didn't care about them in the least. I wanted to be a music major. Why, you may ask, did I just not be a music major in the first place?

Let me provide some perspective on my situation at the time. First off, as I said before, no one in my immediate, or extended family was a musician of any kind, nor did they have any experience or contact with anything in the arts. My family (including myself) just had no clue how a musician was supposed to make a living. Also at the time, the only person alive that knew about my potential was me. As far as anyone else knew, they had seen me play my guitar in my rock band a few times - nothing earth shattering there. So the notion of going to music school was going to be a hard sell to my parents - if not an impossible one. I was about to venture into completely uncharted and scary waters, completely alone.

But halfway through that fifth semester at UH, I simply couldn't take it anymore. One day, completely impulsively, I walked over to the main building after my class, and dropped all of my classes. I then walked over to the School of Music, and went into the office. I told the receptionist that I wanted to be a music major. She was nice, but needed to ask me some obliggatory questions. Question One - what do you want to major in - that was easy - composition. Question Two - What instrument do you play? "Guitar", I answered. "Oh I'm sorry, you can't go here", she answered. *silence* - "Uh....why?" - "Because we don't have a guitar program, and you have to study your instrument." "Holy shit."

I was pretty dismayed at first, but I was not beaten. I was way too determined at this point. So, I can't go to UH - I'll go someplace else. So, I go home that night, tell my Mom to sit down, and proceed to tell her what I did that day, and my intention to go to music school to become a composer. She took it....well....I mean, she cried, but she took it pretty well. So, now I had to figure out where I could go. My parents, not being rich, couldn't really afford to send me anywhere out of state, so I was stuck with two choices - the University of Texas in Austin, or North Texas University in Denton. Austin sounded way better to me, so I contacted them and asked what I needed to do to be admitted. They transferred me to the guitar prof. there, and he told me that I had to audition on classical guitar, and that he only accepted about 3 students a year out of maybe 30 applicants. Holy shit again. At this point, I had never touched a classical guitar, nor had I ever read any guitar music. But, I decided to go for it.

I began private classical guitar lessons with a teacher in Houston named Marc Garvin. I had met Marc a few years earlier when he was on a Houston Access television show that myself and some friends used to do called "The Only Funny Show On Access". It was kind of a late night talk show type format, and we had Marc on as a musical guest on our first show. This was now around March or April of 1995. I was also not in school, and working full time as an assistant manager at the now non-existent Blockbuster Music (a Hell I would wish upon no one). I studied with Marc until I would audition at the University of Texas in February - I had about 9 months to not only learn to read music and play classical guitar, but to work up the proper repertoire to audition with.

In July of 1995, I took a trip to Austin to meet with one of the composition professors there. I made an appointment to meet with Donald Grantham. I took in all I had done over the past few years, and he very nicely looked at all of it, and talked with me a great deal about what I wanted to do, etc. I told him my situation, and he seemed like he really wanted me to go there, so he said he would talk to the guitar prof. on my behalf. So - excellent meeting - I went back to Houston to practice.

In February of 1996, I went to Austin to audition for the guitar professor there, Adam Holzman. I was very nervous - I mean, this was my one shot. I had put everything into this one audition - I had no auditions anywhere else, and no kind of back-up plans to speak of. I remember the morning of the audition, I was driving my parents car (because it was more reliable than mine was), and on my way to campus, the front passenger side tire blew on the middle of a bridge. So, I go to the trunk to get the spare - no spare. So, I had to walk back a few miles to my cousin's place (which I was staying at) in my suit and carrying my guitar. I got back, borrowed her car (I just left my parents car on the bridge - didn't have time to do anything about it), and made it just in time for my audition. For some unknown reason, I wasn't nervous at all, and probably played the best I had ever played up to that point. I auditioned with some Sor studies, some Carcassi etudes and the Bouree from one of Bach's lute suites.

So now, I wait. It took a few months before I heard anything, but one day while I was working at Blockbuster Music, I got a call from my Mom. She said that an envelope had arrived from UT, and she wanted to know if she should open it and read it to me. I just stood there, in the backroom of the store, looked around at this environment that I was in and thought how much I hated my life at that moment, and then I told her to open the envelope and read it to me. She did, and when she said "You got in!", I can't describe the feeling I had - it was like I was just released from prison. Where there was a dead-end before, everything now opened up to endless possibility. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

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