I’m a kid growing up far away from the crossroads of music making.  Nevertheless, there is music around me. The Country on the radio is nice; I like the words and the banjo. The Pop music that my older brother and sister listen to is fun.  I even try to dance, which makes everyone laugh, including me.  I hear Louis Armstrong play and it’s really fun. Listening to Louis Armstrong is what convinces me to play trumpet. I join the school band. We play marches and it’s exciting, especially the ones by John Philip Sousa. At first I figure it’s only because Mr. Cyrus R. Crouse, the band teacher, says he’s special, but the more I play Sousa marches the more I believe that there actually is something special about Sousa.  (There is, by the way.)  So, all music falls neatly into one of four categories: nice, fun, really fun and exciting.  These are good things.  I like music. I still try to dance.  Everyone laughs.

I’m eleven. A neighbor, Virginia, brings over a stack of Reader’s Digest Classical LPs. Each is in a thick plastic cover with dark blue writing, which, against the black of the album, is difficult to read. Virginia and my Mom tell me this music is Culture. (Yes, my Mom, bless her, actually uses the word Culture, and pronounces Beethoven as “BEETH-oh-ven”; and Mozart as “MOWZ-art.) I don’t know what this Culture thing is but it seems to be important.  I ask my Dad what Culture is and he says, “Well, listen to the music and you’ll find out. You might like it.”

I have my bicycle to ride (the freedom!) and baseball games to play, so I wait a couple of weeks before I sit down opposite the green, portable turntable and the stack of Culture albums. I choose one that has music on it by a composer that neither my Mom nor Virginia had mentioned. It’s Smetana’s “The Moldau.” “Hmmm,” I think, “What’s a Moldau?”  I get the dictionary and it says, “A river flowing northward through Czechoslovakia into the Elbe: length, 270 mi.: Czech name, Vitava.” I look up Elbe and it’s another river.  I look at the album.  I look at the thick plastic cover with the dark blue writing.  I wonder how it was that “Vitava” became “Moldau” or vice versa.  And why would anyone do that?  I get the feeling I’m not going to be dancing.  For some reason I wait some more.

I go to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of milk.  Mom’s in the other room sewing; Dad’s at work; my brother and sister are probably at a friend’s house listening to Pop music and dancing or listening to Louis Armstrong and having a lot of fun.  Or both.  I drink my milk.  I go back to my room.  I sit cross-legged in front of the green, portable turntable with the rectangular speakers.  I’m alone with Culture and a river with two names in Czechoslovakia.  I wait some more.

Finally, I put the needle down.  What comes out of those little speakers is wondrous; a thing I had no idea existed.  It’s huge.  It’s grand. It sweeps and it transports.  I don’t know what an Epiphany is – I don’t even know the word exists – but that’s what I experience: an Epiphany.  I’m transfixed for the duration of the entire piece.  I want to cry, I want to laugh; I want to shout, I want to sing.  I even want to dance.  Instead, I sit there, gawp-jawed.  I play the Moldau again and it’s better.  I play it again and it’s even better.  I play it again and again and again and it gets better and better and better.  It’s so completely different from Pop, Country, Louis Armstrong, and John Philip Sousa that I wonder if it’s even music.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s just Culture.  But it sounds like music so it must be music, right?  I don’t understand it all but that doesn’t matter.  I’m in paradise.

I listen to all the Culture albums: Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, Verdi’s Fanfare from Aida, Brahms’s 3rd Symphony, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Bach’s “Little” Fugue in G minor; and Rachmaninov and Berlioz and Schubert and Liszt and Chopin and Rossini.  And Smetana’s Moldau, I never forget my river with two names in Czechoslovakia.  These are my composers, this is my music, this is my world.  I’m in love.

I start high school.  I listen to Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky while my friends listen to The Beatles, The Stones and The Who.  I think dancing is an odd reason for music.  They think I’m weird and I guess I am, but it doesn’t matter: I’m gawp-jawed in paradise and they’re dancing.  I’ll take paradise any day.

I’m Seventeen.  One day, the guy at the record store suggests I buy a Stravinsky album.  “I think you’ll like Twentieth Century music,” he says.  I buy The Rite of Spring.  Before listening, I look up Rite in the dictionary. It says, “a ceremonial or formal, solemn act, observance, or procedure in accordance with prescribed rule or custom, as in religious use.” “Hmmm…”.  I listen to the Rite of Spring.  I’m hooked on Twentieth Century music.  Soon, I’m listening to Schoenberg, Bartok, Hindemith and Berg while my friends listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  I love my music, my composers, my world.  It’s a much larger paradise now. My friends no longer dance; they mostly just sit around, bored, with music playing. I compare the two: sitting around bored and paradise.  I still prefer paradise.

One day my band director at school says, “Dwight, why don’t you study music theory?” “What’s music theory?” “It’s the principles by which composers compose music.” “Oh…Okay.”  He gives me a book called Harmony by Walter Piston.  I read it.  It makes sense!  I can do this!  I write my first two pieces for the 14-piece school orchestra.  I copy the parts and it takes over a week.  Finally, the big day arrives: the premier of the newest contributions to paradise; during 4th period, just after lunch.

I quickly eat my lunch then walk into the music room and hand my music to the director.  The first thing he says is,  “Oh geez, Dwight – you don’t write violas in treble clef.”  He takes a score from the lectern, holds it in front of my eyes and points to the viola line.  “See,” he says, “That’s called the alto clef.  Violas are in the alto clef not in the treble clef.”  I’m crushed.  I walk over to the wall under the Exit sign and try to blend in with the beige paint.  After what seems an eternity, the rest of the less-than-twenty students arrive.  A few minutes later they tune up (sort of) then spend twenty minutes struggling through a two-minute piece.  The director calls me over.  He apologizes for coming down so hard on me about violas in treble clef.  “A lot of people make that mistake on their first piece,” he says.  I feel better.  Then he says, “There are only two violists anyway and one of them reads treble clef. We’ll play your music.”  I pass out the parts.  The musicians smile.  The director smiles.  I’m smiling. We’re all excited. My premier has begun.

I can’t believe my ears. I’m expecting an Epiphany; instead I’m bombarded with one of the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  Two thoughts pass through my mind: it’s light years from paradise and you can’t even dance to it.  I feel stupid.  The orchestra plays the second piece and it’s as bad as the first.  4th period is finally over and so is my premier.  I collect my music, embarrassed and glum.  The director comes over, puts his hand on my shoulder and smiles. “That was very good, Dwight.”  “It was?”  “Yes, it was.  It takes years of study and hard work to be able to write a great piece of music.  And you’ve made a good start.”  This makes me feel good again.  I’m hooked on composing.


I go to college, I practice trumpet, I study scores, I write music.  I drop out of college and play in various dance bands while arranging the horn charts.  For a few years, I do a lot of studio work playing trumpet and sometimes I do the horn and string arranging.  I get married and have a family.  I decide to concentrate on composing and retire from trumpet playing – my last gig: recording a brief baroque-like trumpet solo.  I continue composing Classical music and have now finished about 20 pieces.  I need to study orchestrating and have two options: go back to school and wonder how we’ll manage financially or study orchestration by copying music and make some money in the process.  I choose music copying.

I’m a music copyist for films and TV.  The money’s good. I send out a bunch of tapes, land some very decent TV scoring work and no longer have to copy music.  I learn how to promote myself.  Work is coming along well, yet I continue composing my Classical stuff.  At night and on the weekends, I study scores and compose music.  I now have over 40 pieces of music.

One day, in a moment of uncertainty, I gaze at the green pastures of predictable income and I’m back to music copying.  I don’t dislike the activity, I dislike the fact that I’m doing it again.  Nevertheless, I continue composing and now have over 60 finished pieces, which are in the filing cabinet in the garage.

I finally quit the music copying business.  The income takes a dive for a while but everyone in my family is great: they understand.  I’m happy.

PART  2.5

Along the way, I get some great gigs: arrangements for Chicago and Ann-Margret, and orchestrations for Barbra Streisand and Quincy Jones and Elmer Bernstein.  My music is in films (Reservoir Dogs, Naked Gun 2 1/2, Seven, She Devil, All the Right Moves and a bunch of others) and hundreds and hundreds of television shows worldwide. All those horn and string arrangements (over a hundred Jazz, Pop and Show tunes, all recorded and released) were fun to do. And those hours and hours of orchestrations – more than I can remember – were a challenge happily undertaken. Even Howard Stern plays my music everyday on his radio show.



I retrieve my scores from the filing cabinet in the garage.  Some I throw away, some I decide to salvage, a few I keep pretty much as-is.  I begin the long process of transferring them to the computer, doing little fix-ups along the way. I write some new music.  I send out letters to get performances (something I’ve never done before) and it works very well.

I decide that I’d like to score some more films.  Many more.  I decide to create a website.  The first thing I create is a page listing the things I do and offer, then I create a brief resume-type page.  I then add some mp3s, a smattering of score pages, a collection of photos, several examples of my writing, and my collection of quotes on music and art.

The thing is, I need to write a Curriculum Vitae but don’t really know how to go about it.  I ponder my self-assigned task for a few days but my thoughts are more along the lines of a memoir.  Finally, on a wet Thursday night in September, I begin:

I’m a kid growing up far away from the crossroads of music making…

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