I have always enjoyed music from the earliest memories of my childhood. I began singing at an early age. My family was pretty supportive but also hinted that I needed to add to my repertoire as they were growing tired of the first song I ever learned which was “You Light Up My Life”.
One of our music teachers at Spalding Elementary made music class incredibly fun by introducing modern songs and letting us sing a long with them. You could bring a 45RPM single and sing in front of the class. I did this. My brother Joe even did this until it was determined it wasn’t “cool”.
Shortly after I entered the 6th grade I was invited to join one of the choirs and began to sing as a cantor at my parish, Christ the King.
I auditioned for the Richland Light Opera’s production of “Gypsy” while in 6th grade and got cast as one of the newsboys. Since we only worked on our small part for the musical none of us really knew what the whole play was about. What a surprise when the three strip tease artists came out and sang their song, “You’ve Gotta Have A Gimmick”. My mom said our eyes got really big!
In seventh grade I joined the choir at Chief Joseph jr. high. I attended my first Solo & Ensemble contest in Walla Walla and sang “Seek Ye First”. Everything went well except that I would run out of air at the end of the phrases. Soon after that experience, I met Sue McNally who would be my voice teacher for the next 5 years.
I sang in high school at school assemblies and competed in competitions with the choir and as a soloist. I won the WIAA State Solo Contest for baritone in 1988. I auditioned at several colleges for music scholarships and got the best deal at the University of Idaho.
I was off to college in 1988 to begin work on a Vocal Music Education degree. My voice teacher was Mrs. Dorothy Barnes. She was incredibly kind to me especially when I had to undergo emergency exploratory surgery during my sophomore year due to food poisoning by the Marriott corporation. She even gave me opera tickets to “The Marriage of Figaro” in Seattle so that I could attend with my mom. She and her husband were season ticket holders.
The surgery made breathing and voice control a bit more difficult. Still, with God’s grace I made my way through school and was very active with music ministry at St. Augustine’s Catholic Center. A generous couple, Irene and Don Gustafson had provided scholarship for Liturgical music. Don was a retired professor from the University of Idaho and Irene was a teacher in the public school system.
I entered solo competitions but the competition was getting tougher and the Lord was starting to draw me in the direction of priesthood.
One highlight was through the generosity of the University of Idaho Alumni, we were able to go on tour and sing at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in New York City. We performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and it was an incredible blessing to be a part of one of Beethoven’s most magnificent works.
My voice teacher sat me down one day and told me that I had a beautiful instrument but didn’t have the passion that a lot other musicians had who wanted to pursue performance. I then told her that God had another plan for me and that I was going to be heading off to the seminary. She smiled and didn’t seem surprised. Later on she brought me back a Rosary upon her return from a sabbatical to Rome. She said she brought it to the Wednesday Audience and the “Big Guy blessed it”.
I helped with music a lot at St. John’s Seminary and was also able to sing as a cantor at Padre Serra Parish.
I have been able to continue singing for various events as a priest and have done several concerts and benefits for Project Rachel, The Palisades Retreat Center, and My Catholic Faith. I also did a couple of benefit concerts of the Youth at Sacred Heart Parish in Enumclaw.
I have produced three CD’s (Reflections of Grace, Holy Darkness, and A Simple Christmas) and made some CD devotionals for our parish school. I am working on getting an order form online so you can preview and order them if you wish. I wish I had more time and money to learn about audio mixing and producing CD’s. I am pretty much self-taught but would love to take a professional course some day.
With all of the operations I have had I consider myself incredibly blessed that I am still able to sing. My left lung was significantly damaged after the last surgery so I have to be more deliberate and focused when it comes to breath control and phrasing.