Often times after performing a show I am asked by members of my audience, “Why did you choose clarinet?” Rather than a simple act of small talk most of them were genuinely curious as to why I chose such an obscure instrument to play in a jazz setting. I was baffled every time; how has the clarinet, which was so instrumental in the creation of jazz, come to be viewed as an outsider? From the first time I was put in a situation where I felt exotic in my environment I knew that this was something that I could change for the next generation within the jazz community. With the way that I play this instrument, my ultimate goal has already started to take effect. My peers have started to see clarinet in a new light; they are including me in groups without considering me as an awkward instrumentation, composing beautiful songs with the clarinet in mind, and in the end becoming more comfortable having a jazz clarinetist around.
When I began studying clarinet, my instructor was gracious enough to provide me with an album compiled of all his favorite recordings of artists like Eddie Daniels, Buddy DeFranco, and Jimmy Hamilton. His main goal in doing so was to give my study some direction in terms of tone, but I listened to that album day and night for a year and am still listening to it today. I loved the way the clarinet sounded and I wanted to achieve a level to where I could perform like they did. My instructor felt like I should approach jazz from a more practical stance though, immersing myself in the genre through saxophone. Being versatile on the saxophone provided me with many more opportunities when I got in to high school, performing with all-star groups in my area of California.
I made the decision to become a jazz musician at the young age of 10 years old. Even by then it was clear to me that music was my path, as it was one of the only things in my life that made me feel purposeful. Committing myself so soon only helped my musical progress, as I wasn’t just practicing because I enjoyed it, but I had to practice so that I could become something. This ambition that I have always had is fueled by the fear of wasting my time. There is no fallback career for me, I am going all in and if I fail then there’s no backup plan.
When I was 15 years old I met the love of my life, to which I am still with today and plan to devote the rest of my life to. She lived in Ohio so we have always been in a long distance relationship. She provided me with the most sensitive experience I have ever had in music. She was in a horrible accident when I was 17, knocked unconscious with a crippling head wound. Her doctors weren’t sure if she was going to wake up from it, but her family went on my Youtube channel and played a song that I recorded for her. She became conscious and called for me by name. My music was able to save her life, and she will always be my inspiration.