I've been waiting for 20 years for someone to ask me what makes me qualified to write music for Shakespeare's lyrics!
The short answer: My entire life.
The longer answer:
My musical education started before I was even born. My mom sang in barbershop quartets, and her quartet did Christmas shows two weeks before I was born. She sang baritone, and I can still sing the lead parts to songs her quartet and chorus sang for competitions in the 1970s.
I started singing with the children's choir at church when I was 3 and continued through high school. Our musical director was also the head of the music department at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, and every other summer our high school choir would go on tour with a musical he had written for us.
My Great-aunt Delcie taught me to play "Doe a Deer" on the piano when I was around 6, and my mom continued to try to teach me to play piano through middle school or so, although I never really got the hang of playing with both hands at the same time. In fourth grade, I started playing clarinet, and I still consider that my main instrument. I was lucky to take private lessons from amazing teachers through high school, and the band director in high school thought I hung the moon. I added tenor sax and guitar in high school.
I did at one point consider making music a career, but I decided in the end to go with the so-much-more-stable field of journalism. I continued playing clarinet in bands through college, including three years with the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band -- it would have been four, but I had an internship about seven states away fall quarter of my junior year.
Michelle and I moved to York in 1990 after I finished grad school, and for a couple of years I did little except work. But in 1994 I started singing with the Greater Harrisburg Sweet Adelines, a women's barbershop chorus, and I sang with them for about three years, during which we won two regional competitions and sang at two international contests. So yes, I can say that I sang at the Superdome, while wearing heels and false eyelashes, no less.
I started adding theater to the mix in 1997, and Michelle and I started TUTT in 1998. I had never realized before how much music Shakespeare put into the plays (more on that in another blog post sometime). For the first couple of years, I adapted music for our shows, such as Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream Suite and Celtic folk songs for The Tempest. The first time we performed Much Ado About Nothing (2002) was the first time I wrote music for Shakespeare's lyrics, and I've been doing that ever since.
Over the years, I've gotten to add a few more instruments to my quiver. I'd love a chance to play the alto recorder again, and I discovered that it's a lot easier to play electric guitar if you're not thinking about the notes and instead are just looking at the frets. Also, bagpipes are designed to be played by men who are 6'6'' and have spent their entire lives walking up and down the mountains in Scotland. When I tried to play them for As You Like It, I nearly fainted every time. And nearly anything can become a percussion instrument -- I drummed on a cooler the second time we did As You Like It.
And I've gone back to church music as well. I play in the handbell choir at St. John's Episcopal Church (doing a duet on Christmas Eve), and I sang with the York Ecumenical Choral Society for a couple of years, until my work schedule changed.
By the way, I"m also the city editor at The York Dispatch.
Anyway, enough about the past. This year we're planning to do a bluegrass-themed Merry Wives of Windsor, and I already have lots of songs running through my head. Anybody know a good banjo player?