(January, 2005) In one of my earliest music memories I'm sitting on my granpa Orlie's lap while he plays the banjo. I also remember how surprised I was as a kid when I first tried strumming and picking--the banjo just didn't sound as good as when granpa did it. I still get surprises like that when playing music! My grandfather and grandmother used to sing at “play parties” throughout the small farm towns of Iowa, but by the time I heard them our families all lived in Portland, Oregon. The main person who finally taught me to play the banjo and guitar was Pete Seeger; I learned by listening to his instructional records and studying his books. A 1961 book I still have is American Favorite Ballads: Tunes and Songs as Sung by Pete Seeger. After a few years I gave up the five-string banjo because my large fingers fit better on the guitar fretboard.
For many years in the 60s and 70s, I concentrated on acoustic guitar folk music, but then I got electrified in the late 70s and began playing blues, jazz, rock, and pop music. For a number of years I played in a garage band in Hollywood that was only a block and a half away on Sunset Blvd. from the famous Guitar Center (a good place to hang out). We liked to tape record our jam sessions and might manage to get one or two good songs out of a two or three hour session of taping. (In addition to the electric guitar I also learned to play the harmonica, alto and tenor recorders, the kalimba, and conga drums. I still own and play several of those instruments—except for the drums.)
By 1994 I was back in the Pacific Northwest where I purchased my first Yamaha keyboard, a PSR-530, and began learning to play piano by using instructional records, tapes, CDs, instructional software, and Internet resources. After a few years, I also began composing and started sitting in occasionally, in the back row, at some of the music master classes at the Eastern Oregon University. I found it much easier to compose music from the keyboard rather than with a guitar. When I retired in 2004, I purchased a PSR-S910 and began spending more time composing by 2007. I'm definitely a composer rather than a performer, so my keyboards and other instruments are set up with computer hookups and various software packages to facilitate the composing, recording, mixing, and editing of songs. I like to play and compose in various styles including jazz/blues, new age, ambient, pop, and soundtracks. I enjoy both instrumental and vocal music but need more training in recording and mixing vocals before I release many songs with lyrics.
Most of my music I now put up in albums at the world-wide free music site Jamendo. I especially like the process of developing albums because all the songs that go into an album can be organized around a musical theme rather than just assembling a compilation. My albums on Jamendo are listed under the artist name "Truman," which is my middle name--I always hoped that name would be good for something.
For many decades in my professional academic work I helped faculty and students learn from computer-aided instruction and from the Internet; it's fun for me now to be a participant in the online learning and sharing of music at PSR Tutorial, Jamendo, Bandcamp, and other sites.