In what part of town do you live?
We’re north of the Falls, a little bit west of Pinecrest.
How long have you lived in the area?
We’ve been here 30 years, in the same house. We bought it after hurricane Andrew.
Where are you originally from?
I grew up in northern Illinois, in Moline, along the Mississippi river.
What brought you to Miami?
I had a cousin down here and came down to see him and spend time with him and that led to going to UM Music School.
What keeps you busy now during the week?
I’m retired from full-time teaching. I did that for 30 years here. I write music, I help a friend with a jazz radio broadcast, producing for him. I’m working on an album with a friend from Miami-Dade college. And, we have a nice size yard and I enjoy the critters out there and our trees and trying to garden a little bit. That’s pretty much the week.
How long were you teaching and what were you teaching?
I taught at Miami Dade. I got there in 1989 and I taught music, music business, sound engineering, midi, history of jazz and pop, and music history. I taught about everything you can teach in the music department.
It’s interesting that you were teaching the business side and the technical side, is it typical that one professor would cover such a range?
When you teach at a community college, you’re expected to have a broad range of subjects that you’re comfortable with and it was just kind of expected. I learned to do it and I found it all interesting. I can’t think of anything that I taught, which I dreaded. I enjoyed every minute of it.
What type of technology were you teaching when you started?
When I got there, there was very little software and a lot of hardware. I was teaching tape splicing and tape machine operation and using all this old analog equipment – some with tubes.
Which things did you enjoy teaching most?
I enjoyed the midi class, which is teaching people how to make decent music using synthesizers and computer software. It’s machines that make sounds, then you make music out of those sounds. I enjoyed that because a lot of the people I taught had a love of music and very little knowledge of it. So, I was able to introduce them to the mechanics of music and the workings of music.
Did anyone question the validity or musical integrity of machines making sounds vs traditional instruments?
That’s a good question. Not at Miami Dade. Everybody there, including the students, were pretty accepting of performance on musical instruments and performance on electronic devices. But, a friend of mine said a long time ago, ‘it ain’t got that swing if it’s played by a thing.’ I never quite bought into that. There was room for both sides, people who just want do rap and hip hop and people who just want to play in string quartets. And then, there’s the room in between to merge the two.
MIDI has led to complex software; do you continue to play with the new technology and learn new things?
At this very second, I’m doing that. I’ve stayed on with the college as an adjunct. When the world went to virtual learning, I got involved with developing classes and I’m still doing that. I got involved with helping teachers learn how to teach online during the pandemic. I’m teaching right now, a music for film and multimedia class. So, I’m having to stay abreast, even in my old age, of the software that’s used for creating and editing music and film.
What kind of music do you create?
I’m a bass player. And, I play a few other instruments, but bass is what I’m known for and what I could make a living doing. That’s what I studied in college when I went through school to be a professor. The music I fell into for the last 25 years was a kind of an acoustic, progressive folk music, kind of thing. I worked with a lot of Dubliner musicians, wonderful traditional Irish players and took that music and kind of gave it a more modern bend and combined it with more improvised music. I’ve performed locally in and around Florida, for the last 25 years. That kind of came to a halt when a really good musical partner moved away and then the pandemic closed down just about all the pubs and concert venues. I played locally at John Martin’s at least once a month or more for 25 years until they closed. My musical work these days is pretty much me practicing or working things out on the computer.
What lessons did you learn from your students?
I learned to really enjoy my students. Their experiences were compelling and we’re so diverse in Miami. I think I was one of the luckiest teachers on the planet to be teaching down here with this population, their ideas and their experiences were inspiring and frustrating. They would bring art to the class that they were proud of. They would tell me that they have an uncle who plays a song or a parent who plays in a compás band, a Haitian band. It was compelling.
When you’re teaching at a school that’s primarily two years, you send your students out into the world and we all feel like they may be almost ready to not do damage, or they may be almost ready to get their foot in the door and try to have success. Then you meet them a few years later and you find out that they were grateful for the education you gave them and that they are successful and that they are contributing and they have well rounded, enjoyable lives.
How did you discover our stand?
That’s my wife. She got very interested in changing our diet, changing our lifestyle into organic foods. She would take us to the Pinecrest farmer’s market. We would fight the crowds to get to your smoothies. Then, she learned that you had your stand out there by Tamiami airport.
What’s the experience like when you come by?
It’s always enjoyable. It’s the best part of our weekend. And, I’m not kidding. It’s a nice break from whatever we’re trying to get done. When family comes down or friends come to visit South Florida, we take them to your store, to show them the good side of Miami.
What do you pick up when you come by?
The smoothie’s the draw for us, but we’ll get the granola and munch most of it by the time we get home. Trying the tropical fruits has been a lot of fun. And, your pickles are great too. I never knew I liked them so much until I bought a couple packages. I got the kombucha recently and the Thai basil ice cream. My wife gets some of the yogurts. And the Turmeric Melts! We had them this morning in our oatmeal. We’re always eager to see what you have and see what we need.
What other places do you enjoy going to that you might recommend?
Ghee, in Dadeland. We really try to stay veggie. Planta Queen in Coconut Grove is really good.
What’s one of Miami’s best kept secrets?
Miami’s got a lot of secrets; they reveal themselves every day. We have an old canoe in our yard, that’s been in the family for 60 years. We recently got it back on the car and took it to Chapman Field. There’s some mangrove trails back there that lead into Biscayne Bay. The water’s fairly clear and you see all kinds of fish and birds, and then it opens up onto a beautiful view of the bay. It’s easy access and there’s a dog park and then you can go canoeing. So, you can get a lot done. It’s quite a place.
What for you as a worthy splurge?
Theater tickets, a concert, or travel would be a worthy splurge.
What community groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
I’m real big on the environment and just trying to keep the bay waters clean and protect the critters around here and push back on some of the zero-line building. I don’t think I do enough to help, but certainly the Pelican Rescue, and Guitars over Guns on the civic and the youth side. We’ve gotten involved with the Audubon Society. Anything that protects the environment and improves our landscape other than concrete buildings.
Is there a pitch about something you’re working on that you would like to share?
I’m available as a bassist. I read and play all styles. And, I’m working on Boomer Ballads written by Pat Hughes and myself. We’re working on humorous songs for older and retired folks, with titles such as “I’d help you, if I could” and, “Back in my day,” and the “Goodbye, Boca polka.” It will be a good album. We’ll probably record it in Nashville. So, if I’m promoting anything it would be to watch for Boomer Ballads on Amazon Music and Spotify.
What question challenge or words of advice would you like to pose to the community?
Stay positive and be inclusive. I think there’s too many lines drawn in the sand. Be progressive. The world is changing and anybody who’s fighting to keep it as it was, is fighting a losing battle and it’s kind of making it miserable for everybody else. The dynamics of the world are changing. Educate yourself, be welcoming and be kind.
Do you have a question for us?
(RR) What is your turmeric cookie recipe?
(A+W) That’s top secret! One clue is to start with whole root turmeric and not powder.
What have I not asked you that I should have?
That’s a tough question too. I respond to spam email as kind of a hobby or avoidance behavior. I’m not sure which. There’s lots of people that want to send me money. Somebody wanted me to be a secret shopper. So, I wrote back and told them that I’m over seven feet tall and that I’m prone to violent outbursts, but I really welcome the opportunity to finally have a job. They sent a website link to apply.
The only other thing to say is I really appreciate what you do. You guys are always looking at the horizon to see what’s there and how you can serve the community. You guys are leaders. Thank you.