+ Any special memories from that time?
+ When did you first find out you loved music?
+ What was the first instrument you played?
+ Tell me about your love of music through your childhood years.
+ Who were some of your favorite music groups and early influences?
+ Why didn't you pursue a career in music?
+ How did you come to writing children's music?
+ What was the inspiration behind Leedo and Booey?
+ How long did it take to create the initial project?
+ Tell us the names and credentials of some of the musicians involved in the recording, and why you used real instruments.
Where did you grow up?
I was very fortunate to grow up in a suburban community called Merrick, New York, located on the south shore of Long Island. The town had its own park, where all the children would congregate to play, as well as elementary, middle and high schools. It was a wonderful environment to learn and flourish.
Any special memories from that time?
At an early age, I remember going to see my mother perform in community theater. She brought the excitement of the stage and music into the home. As an elementary school teacher, she supervised the production of all the school musicals. When school would break for the summer, she was able to bring home different pieces of recording equipment from the AV department, including microphones and tape recorders. I was lucky to have my own room. Now, I had my first little recording studio!
When did you first find out you loved music?
I was always captivated by music and animation, even as a toddler. My parents tell me that I used to stand in front of the television set in my diaper, and dance to the Speedy Alka Seltzer commercial whenever it came on. I remember going with my dad to Grant’s Department Store, in Freeport, to pick out my first record player. He would surprise me and bring home 45’s from the music store for me to listen to. Some of my favorite early records were by The Beatles, Harry Belafonte, and The Young Rascals. I loved listening to the radio, especially to Cousin Brucie!
As I got older, I enjoyed going into Manhattan to see Broadway shows. Pippin has always been my favorite show, not only because of the music, but also because of the magical storytelling involved in the production. To this day, it has served as a lasting inspiration.
What was the first instrument you played?
When I was 6 years old, my parents tell me that I climbed up on a chair to get the phone book down from a shelf in the hall closet, so that I could find a guitar teacher. After my father got home from work, he'd drive me to the Baldwin Music Center to take lessons. My hands could hardly fit around the neck of the guitar. As I got older, I continued studying the guitar with Lou Capece. I remember being impressed by all the different model guitars he brought with him, which inspired me to collect my own guitars. My collection was featured in Guitar Aficionado Magazine a few years ago.
Tell me about your love of music through your childhood years.
I remember one of the first times I played my guitar with other children. It was in the fifth grade, and three of us brought in our instruments to class so we could play together. I couldn’t understand why we sounded so terrible until I took my next guitar lesson. I was instructed on the importance and necessity of all the instruments being in tune with each other. Who knew? From middle school on into high school, I was always part of a band, and enjoyed practicing and playing for friends.
Who were some of your favorite music groups and early influences?
My favorite music group growing up were The Beatles. I knew every song and had every one of their albums. As I got older, I listened to everything that is now called “Classic Rock", as well as most of the great singer songwriters of the time. The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I attended Cornell University to take a few AP courses in a special program for students my age. It was during that summer, that I was introduced to a jazz fusion band called, "Return To Forever". Since then, jazz has become my preferred music to listen to, and Stanley Clarke is one of my favorite musicians.
Why didn't you pursue a career in music?
Upon graduating from high school, I wanted to apply to Juilliard and the Berklee College of Music. However, my father was strongly opposed. He told me that after I graduated and got a degree from an academic college or university, I could do whatever I wanted. I listened! I ended up becoming fascinated with medicine, and subsequently attended medical school. During medical school and residency training, I lived in New York City. I became a regular, every Tuesday night, at the Village Vanguard Jazz Club. I was very fortunate to be able to hear and meet some of the greatest musicians in the world.
Tell us about songs you wrote for film.
I completed my medical training in Los Angeles, where I now live and have my practice. I have since had the privilege of treating many musicians with pain issues, including some of my childhood idols. Numerous writers and producers have come through my practice. I was indeed proud and excited when a music supervisor, for the movie industry, was able to place music I had written into a film.
How did you come to writing children's music?
It was during a summer vacation at my younger brother’s lake house, in Massachusetts, that I became aware of the music that his toddlers were listening to. It occurred to me, that this age was such an important time in a child’s musical development. After five or six years old, children have already tuned in to more commercial music. At this young and impressionable age, I felt that music could and should be magical. I was inspired to create something special, both musically and visually. It was then that Leedo & Booey were born.
What was the inspiration behind Leedo and Booey?
Simply put, I grew up in a house with three boys. Knowing only what it was like to be an older brother, I created Leedo & Booey, two brothers and best friends! However, their Doggy is a girl. I am looking forward to creating more female characters in the next sequel.
How long did it take to create the initial project?
The project initially began with myself writing a group of fifteen songs. I then created the characters, who became the voices singing the songs. The characters came to life through the illustrations of the immensely talented artist, Layron De Jarnette, who helped me create the companion book to the music. Growing up as a child, books were always a big part of my life. With the increasing use of tablets and smartphones, I wanted to make sure I created a hard covered book, so that parents and their children could enjoy some special time reading and learning new songs together. I finally had the songs animated by two incredible artists at Pike FX in Los Angeles, Ben Ceccarelli and Harry Paakkonen.
Tell us the names and credentials of some of the musicians involved in the recording, and why you used real instruments.
Although all of the songs were initially programmed in Pro Tools using synth parts, I replaced all of these parts with real instruments and musicians. The songs were arranged by the very gifted musician Doug Scott. Aside from elevating the overall quality of the music, I felt that it was important for young children to be able to hear real instruments as opposed to synthesized tracks. A few of the musicians involved in the project include Wally Ingram on drums and percussion (Sheryl Crow, David Lindley), David West on acoustic bass, banjo, and ukulele (Peter Lewis, Chris Hillman), and Glenn Hartman on accordion (New Orleans Klezmer All Stars.)
How does it feel to have finally released your work?
This project has truly been a labor of love, and I could not be prouder of the final product. I hope that it will provide a little bit of magic to be enjoyed by children, as well as their parents everywhere.
Tell us about live shows and how they came about? What are your plans for the future?
I approached Roberto Ferreira, of the Puppet School in Los Angeles, to create Muppet-like puppets of the main characters, Leedo, Booey and Doggy. We were invited to perform at a book fair in Hollywood. The reception and feedback were so positive that we decided to create a musical puppet show. The addition of a live performance will add a new dimension and further enhance the project. We're currently in the process of locating a home theater, in Los Angeles, to host future shows and hope to expand into other cities.
What other music are you working on now?
I’m currently working on, “Leedo & Booey and Friends”, the sequel to the first Book/CD and DVD. My first effort incorporated various musical styles including Reggae, Blue Grass and Klezmer. This next album will touch on other styles of music and includes a Mariachi Alphabet Song!
What's your big dream and why?
I have to pay tribute to my inner self, to the little boy who became fascinated and inspired by the magic of music. The enchantment has never left and has stayed with me through the years. Like most teenagers, I’ve always dreamt of being a famous musician. Winning a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Music however, would not be too bad!
What's your next big project?
Raising our new baby girl. I can’t wait to introduce her to Leedo & Booey!
Will you continue to write for adults too?
Yes! It’s hard to limit yourself to just one musical genre. Writing and producing in different styles, for different audiences, will always be something that I continue to enjoy! "I've got magic to do!"