Guitarist | Educator | Mentor
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~ William Butler Yeats
It was the steel strings of James Taylor, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, and Paul Valdemar Horsdal (better known as Valdy) that my soul resonated with. Music wasn’t something that was just pleasing to my ear, it reached into the deepest, most private corners of my being and gave those emotions, thoughts, and ideas a voice.
Music has always been an integral part of my being. My mom tells me of a moment when I was very young (I don’t remember this), when I was off by myself listening to a band play at an outdoor stage while all the other kids were off playing somewhere else. I’m not sure where my interest in music came from. It had no source or beginning; it was just always there.
I recall listening to Julian Bream recordings and being fascinated by all the different orchestral colours he could conjure out of the instrument. I remember attending a house concert in Kitsilano and the soundscapes that the guitar painted, the emotions that came from such a small instrument was so powerful that it captivated a packed living room of gobsmacked ears. I also think back to when I presented a barefoot, classical and acoustic fingerstyle guitarist at the university where I was teaching. The stories and energy that came out of the instrument had everyone grooving, laughing, bobbing their heads, and tapping their toes.
But I have also been drawn to the other arts. I think back to when my junior high drama teacher took three of us to watch an outdoor presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the courtyard of Corbett Hall at the University of Alberta. Barter Theatre allowed patrons to pay in whatever currency they could present. I thought it was hilarious that you could negotiate your admittance with a case of beer or, as in my case, two dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies. Although I don’t remember much about the play, I do remember the costumes, the lights, the stage, and most importantly, the energy of the evening. It was exciting. Magical. There began a lifelong love affair with the theatre.
As years passed, I also became fascinated with art, particular sculpture. It wasn’t just the fact that it was aesthetically pleasing to my eye, it was the energy and the stories or, more often than not, the politics behind the works that captivated my attention. Touring Rodin’s home and gardens in Paris was mesmerizing. Although the context gave the work meaning, it was the artist’s craft that gave the work life. How someone can make metal or stone appear to move and express what no words can say still boggles my mind.
Nonetheless, music has always been my first love. It has been my escape and my medicine. For me the guitar that has become my chosen voice. Initially, when I was ten years old, I wanted to study classical guitar, but I ended up playing rock guitar. Thirteen years later I was studying jazz fingerstyle guitar and my instructor suggested I study classical guitar in order to advance my technique. The rest, as they say, is history.
I was the first person in Western Canada to graduate with a performance degree in classical guitar from the University of British Columbia. Since then, the classical guitar world has exploded and as much as I admire those who thrive in the spotlight, I have learned that I have better skills and gifts in helping others find their own musical voice and creative path.
I’ve never been comfortable in the spotlight. In fact, I much prefer shining the light on others. I have always been amazed and fascinated at just how much work that goes on behind the scenes, whether it be presenting a concert, hosting an art show, or staging a play. No one truly realises how many people are involved, nor appreciate all the work and thought that go on to make something happen, except those, of course, that work behind the scenes.
Supporting others, whether that be teaching a young performer, hosting a concert, or coaching an emerging artist in developing their career, wasn’t something I consciously pursued. It was just something that I liked to do. Having to play multiple roles during my professional career more or less taught me the tricks of the trade and evolved into the kind of career that I truly love. Although I chose the direction, the trail I walked was just as much discovered as it was created.
When I was interviewed for my first university position, I was asked, “What would you like to be doing in five years?” My answer was simple and immediate. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a concert performer or famous: I simply wanted to teach. What that meant and how it evolved has truly been an adventure.
I cherish the opportunities to help young guitarists lay the foundation of musical and technical skills on the classical or acoustic guitar, revere the chance to help advance the skills of a seasoned player to that next level, and truly appreciate working with emerging professionals as they launch their music career.
Regardless of the personal and/or professional reasons why individuals wish to pursue music and the guitar, I am both honoured and humbled by the trust and confidence they have shown me in guiding them in their musical journey.
- Master of Arts (Higher Education), University of British Columbia
Bachelor of Music (Guitar - Performance), University of British Columbia
- Private Music Studio - Owner/Operator (1985 - Present)
- Director of Guitar and Strings, Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (1993 – 2019)
- Chair, Music Department, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (2012-2018)
- External Adjudicator/Examiner – Faculty of Music - University of British Columbia (2000-2012)
- Sessional Faculty – University of British (Summer 2000)
- B.C Registered Music Teachers Association (BCRMTA)
- Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators' Association (CMFAA)
- Vancouver Musicians’ Association (VMA)
- Vancouver Classic Guitar Society (VCGS)