Music Will Be My Life

Icebreaker Speech - April 20, 2006

It was February 9, 1964; I was 10 years old, and it was one time that I was glad I listened to my mother. My whole family was gathered at my grandparents' house and she wanted us to watch a TV program that Sunday evening: a program called The Ed Sullivan Show; this evening's guests: The Beatles. I didn't know it at the time, but that event may have changed my life. I credit that night with an awakening of my musical tastes, and a journey that has taken me through more than 40 years of experiences in listening, collecting and performing.

As the sixties wore on, my musical tastes expanded, and I never lost my love for The Beatles. I always qualified them as my favorite group of all time, but always had a favorite current artist as well. At one time, the Who and their rock opera Tommy was my favorite. I was there in the front row watching them at Woodstock. Well, not actually at Woodstock, but on the big screen at the Century theatres on Arden Way. I watched Pete, Roger, Keith and especially John as he plucked those melodic bass lines. I had a new favorite, and a new passion to play guitar.

My dad played guitar, and I briefly toyed with it in 6th grade, but found that my short fingers weren't all that effective, but after learning to read music and play clarinet in Jr. High and High School, I turned again towards guitar during my Senior year.

When I was a freshman at Sac State, I helped form a band with a few other fellows that I had met at a college orientation event. We began annoying our parents by setting up practices at each other's homes. Eventually, we booked a few dances and earned enough money to buy some basic audio equipment. But alas, fame was fleeting as our drummer decided to up and move to Utah, and the group disbanded after only 6 months of activity. But I did get my first taste of singing and playing in front of an audience, and made it my solemn vow to become a "rock star."

Although I was no longer in a band, I discovered that I enjoyed writing music, and by the time I was out of college, I had composed nearly 50 songs, including a complete rock opera. One song from the rock opera, being told from the viewpoint of a ten-year old boy, had the reflective, yet prophetic, line "It can lead me away, from it I'll never stray. Yes, music will be my life."

My early college friends had drifted away, but a co-worker and I discovered that we shared musical tastes and he introduced me to a number of other artists, including Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. But the artist for which I will ever be grateful for his introduction was Todd Rundgren. One night after work, he popped in a tape of Todd's Something/Anything? album. I was only familiar with a couple of radio hits from him, but my friend played me some other tracks and I was instantly hooked.

Over the years I saw Todd in concert at almost every opportunity, the first time with a date who would one day become my wife. I anxiously awaited the release of each new album. Through the '80s, I didn't follow him as fervently as I did in the '70s, as I was taking the time to raise my two sons, and parenthood took priority, but I still managed to buy new releases. In the latter years of the '80s we got a chance to see him again in Sacramento, and at one of those shows, I picked up a fan club flier.

Subscribing to that club's newsletter led me to a whole new experience as a member of a fan community. Not only was I able to learn more about my favorite artist, but I found that I was not alone in my fandom. A classified ad led me to join an early Internet e-mail list, where I found other like-minded individuals.

Then in 1994, the World Wide Web entered the scene. I found that there was very little online information on Todd and I set out to change that by premiering the first Todd Rundgren web site in the entire world, years before he developed his own. Today, it is visited by thousands of fans and is recognized as the #1 source for Todd Rundgren information. It has given me the opportunity to meet him, members of his band and other artists like Alan Parsons, and just two weeks ago, Peter Frampton. I may not be a rock star, but I've had a taste of what it might be like. Now, since buying that first Beatles record, I've collected over 2000 records, CDs and tapes; I've gone to dozens of concerts; I play guitar and sing in a church music group; and I've seen another one of my rock operas produced on stage. Music has been my life, and will continue to be.

And as for my mother's advice, I had another opportunity to take it, when she recommended that I pursue a computer science degree. But that's another story.

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