music @ petechen.com

I've been playing and discovering all about music ever since I can remember. Like some tortured kids my generation, I started out on violin with the Suzuki method somewhere around 3 - the "mother tongue" theory has it that if you learn music the same way you acquire language, it is vital to establish music language in early childhood development. My observation is that Suzuki works to the extent that a child can be raised bilingual (or "trilingual" in this case) but that too many parents and teachers emphasize the idea of using it to develop early prodigies over musically conversant children. It's as if by raising your child to speak Spanish, you're hoping that s/he will become another Pablo Neruda by age 16. The more likely scenario is s/he'll be willing to read Neruda by 16.

Speaking of by 16, so violin has been my primary instrument all my life but by 7, I was taking piano lessons, 8 basic guitar, 10 trumpet and saxophone, and from there on I figured out how to play most western instruments competently. A funny story has it that when I was 16, I was messing around with a bass fiddle at school and word got back to a previous orchestra instructor who called and "hired" me on short notice to fill in on a gig. I had to quickly familiarize myself with reading only bass clef.

I went to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to study Music Education and Violin. Well, actually I was one of those double degree kids in the College majoring in Biochemistry at the same time - well it took 5 years. Music Ed was a very natural fit and I had very fine teachers to work with and developed a lot of skills both as a musican and as an educator. Aside from student teaching, I taught after-school music programs, had my own students, still played tenor sax in ensembles as a secondary instrument, started and coached a water polo club, served on student government, and all this before my evenings of research in the chemistry lab. A typical schedule involved getting up at 6 AM to student teach at public schools until about 2:30, return to campus for ensemble rehearsal or violin practice, an hour or so at the gym, dinner @ 7, and to the lab until midnight.

While at Oberlin, someone introduced me to fiddle jazz - particulary the work of Stephane Grappelli. Actually, it was someone that I did my summer research with. I found an exciting new avenue for my fiddle playing and began to find and learn the works of Grapelli and many others including, Jean-Luc Ponty, Svend Asmussen, Jerry Goodman, Stuff Smith, Eddie South, Vassar Clements, Joe Venuti, Zbigniew Seigert, Michal Urbaniak, and Mark O'Connor. I also got one of the early Zeta Midi violins - a Ponty "Jazz" model - and began playing experimental styles and techniques with effects and electronics used primarily with electric guitars and keyboards. Somewhere out there, Andy Cohen has a recording of his senior recital with my solo electric/electronic violin playing one of his suites.

Following college, I took a long break from active involvement in music. I had a choice of becoming a music teacher in Telluride, CO or working in pharmaceuticals back in California. [Actually, it wasn't my choice, but the Telluride hiring committee took too long to decide and by the time they called, it was too late.] In 2000, I started getting sought out for playing weddings again and began actively looking for both classical and modern jam opportunities. I was "discovered" at a "Django jam" and asked to join Coyote Blue in 2002 - a swingy/bluegrassy outfit and found my way into the fiddling/jamming/camping comunity that pervades California. Since then, I've played with a number of other folks, sometimes one-off gigs for rock bands, sometimes sitting in with a gypsy jazz group lacking a fiddle. Amoritmo is another more latin and swing based quartet that has been forming with Bruce Maurier on bass, Michael Schwartz on guitar, and Robert Morrisey on drums. We play tunes from traditional Hot Club jazz to Brazilian choros and sambas, to old and new jazz standards.