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When did you start playing music and why did you choose guitar?

I started when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I was in sixth grade at a public school, and I chose the saxophone. I enjoyed it, but we played music that didn’t interest me. I wanted to play swing, but most of the time we were learning Hot Crossed Buns. 

My parents filled our home with all kinds of music: the Clancy Brothers, Oldies, Motown, Swing, Wynton Marsalis on classical trumpet, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Disney and Broadway Songs. But, I remember my father playing Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman for the first time on a cassette tape in his car, and I was blown away. I was drawn to early rock and roll sounds, and loved jazz, especially Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.  But, then again, another musical memory I have is going to a symphony at Lincoln Center in Washington D.C. I sat in the balcony, and laid my head on the rail, loving the glorious and loud sound of such beautiful music. 

We moved to Illinois when I was fifteen. I met a dude at school who loved the blues. He wore a fedora, and his sister worked for Alligator Records, a top blues label. He played all sorts of records for me, and though the lyrics of the songs were pretty earthy, I had no clue what they meant, and I just loved the sound of the music. I asked for a guitar when I was sixteen, and the rest is history.

Photograph by Tirzah Spang

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