Piano, vocals, composition and arranging
Current Performance Location
Selected Fridays, 4:30 - 8:30 pm
Highlights of the Month
The Downeaster Alexa, Billy Joel
Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran
L’Ultima Notte al Mondo, Tiziano Fero
Need to get in touch?
• born Sault Ste. Marie, Canada
• grew up in Midland, Ontario on
• Bachelor of Music degree,
University of Toronto
• Now settled in Hamilton,
living in a century home
with his wife Marsha,
a professional cellist
full version ...
[ short version ]
• born Sault Ste. Marie, Canada
• grew up in Midland, Ontario on Georgian Bay
• lived, attended university and performed in Toronto
and southern Ontario for 10 years
• Now settled in Hamilton, living in a century home
with his wife Marsha, a professional cellist
[ long version ]
Interesting only if you’re a total obsessive…
I grew up in the mid-sized town of Midland, Ontario, where I discovered early on, that, unlike many Canadian kids, music, not hockey was going to be a lifelong passion.
I owe it to my parents. They both loved music, but different genres. Dad was nuts for jazz. Traditional jazz in the style of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet was his love.
My mom, although also a jazz fan, was really more of a
classical music aficionado, and played CBC radio from morning till night. That was during the glory days of our national broadcaster, when they showcased art forms which actually made its listeners use their brains. Consequently, I grew up believing that being a fan of jazz and classical music was the norm. ( I eventually discovered otherwise, but that’s another story) As well, I had a terrific music education during the early years, and did choral singing at school and at the local United Church. As elementary school led to high school, I became involved in concert band activities, having begun studies on the clarinet. High school music teacher John Coull proved to be an encouraging and inspiring figure, and helped steer me toward career a path as a professional working musician. Along the way, I gained invaluable experience in the music retail industry as well, selling instruments and records (remember those?) at Johnstone’s Music Land, the local music store.
The lure of performing professionally became stronger and stronger. I listened and practised endlessly, working up the ranks, playing with established musicians and entertainers in diverse duos, trios, quartets and quintets in the local Legion halls, nightclubs, and the occasional summer resort. I played any and every kind of music: jazz, rock, pop, country, middle of the road, polkas, French stuff, dixieland... Night after night on the bandstand with older seasoned pros gave me humility, but also helped me build confidence and a familiarity with the songs that every musician of the era needed to have in his or her working repertoire.... Feelings, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, The Beer Barrel Polka, Blueberry Hill, Proud Mary. You get the idea. After years of local gigging, I eventually moved south where I received a four-year bachelor’s degree in Music on clarinet from the University of Toronto, studying with Joaquim Valdepenas. Working with and befriending the Canadian jazz legend Phil Nimmons was a high point of these years.
Playing music on the weekends during university was a perfect way to cover tuition and expenses. Big-time musical fun really came during the Barrelworks years. The Barrelworks was a 60's-era big-time dance hall in the frequently wild and crazy town of Balm Beach, Ontario. Beach parties, beer and fun of every description were the order of the day. The music we played was loud and high energy. The 400 or so faithful regulars who would crowd the dance floor every Saturday night were mostly weekenders from the Toronto area, with some locals mixed in. I was a member of the house band at the Barrelworks from about 1974 to 1981. During those years, we witnessed the rise and fall of punk music, the growth of New Wave, the demise of the over-produced California sound, and the enduring popularity of 50's rock and roll. We played anything at all, as long as it would fill the dance floor. And then came disco...
Ironically, the rise of disco proved to be an opportunity. Sadly, the writing was on the wall for large-band live dance music. Disco was making a huge dent in the employment opportunities for real musicians. Up until this point, many lounges in the country had offered live entertainment six nights a week, with Holiday Inns and Ramada Inns featuring show bands with lineups of six or seven musicians. Suddenly every club owner was tightening his belt and installing sound systems for pre-recorded dance music, or downscaling to duos and trios.
The year was 1982. My guitar-player music partner and I smelled opportunity. Techno-pop was really big around this time and lots of bands were using the new synthesized drums, which had improved markedly since the beat boxes of the previous decade. Even some of the big hit records at the time featured them. We figured if we cut our number down to two and worked twice as hard, we could function as a duo using synthesized drums, making the sound of a full band without compromising our principles of having no pre-recorded tracks or loops (except the drums). We chose a name: Nightlife. Not too trendy, good shelf life, suitable for all genres. We polished our new act and in September, 1982 we went on the road.
Touring six nights a week for two years at Four Seasons Hotels, Holiday Inns, Ramada Inns and numerous other resorts and lounges throughout the province provided us with enough tales to write a few good novels, but most of the material is best left in the vaults. After all, this was the era of two-for-one drinks (until the province decided it was causing excessive drunkenness and deemed it illegal) and people generally didn't think about things like handguns or killer social diseases. We traveled Ontario endlessly, but the Muskoka resort circuit become a more and more frequent destination for us as entertainers. The people were nice, fun, and generous. The resort owners were personable and treated us well. Performing at resorts became a bigger and bigger part of our performance schedule. Fern Resort (Orillia), Cleveland's House Resort (Minett), The Briars (Jackson's Point), Pinestone Inn (Haliburton), Casino Rama (Orillia), Bayview-Wildwood Resort (Orillia), Pinelands Resort (Port Carling), Grandview Resort (Huntsville), Bangor Lodge (Bracebridge), Patterson-Kaye Lodge (Bracebridge), Muskoka Sands Resort (now Taboo - Gravenhurst) Tamwood Lodge (Port Carling), Aston Villa (Bracebridge), Rosseau Lake Beach Resort (Minett) became and have remained our most frequent performance venues over the years. Then there are the ships...The Wenonah, The Lady Belle, the Miss Midland and the Georgian Queen have all been home to Nightlife functions many times over.
Fern Resort in Orillia deserves special mention. With my partner Gerry Holden, I have been a performer at this amazing place since 1983, providing music for the 12- week summer high season, as well as the winter weekend getaways, the busy Christmas and New Year's Eve dances, and a great deal of corporate work sprinkled throughout the year. I have witnessed fires, floods, windstorms and several severe power outages, and Fern just keeps on chugging along and getting better by the year, due in no small part to its effective family ownership and management by the Downing family. It is truly an amazing place.
The thrill of playing hasn’t diminished at all. If anything, it increases with time. And the bio continues…