For someone who considers himself primarily an actor, somewhere behind that a playwright, and pragmatically a guy who records college textbooks, saying that I’m a composer still feels strange.  How exactly did I end up writing a song cycle?  Well, to a certain extent it has a good deal to do with Chad Rehmann.

Chad asked me to be in a rock band.  I said yes.  I took piano lessons for years, but eventually persuaded my parents to let me quit.  I had by that point picked up the trumpet and subsequently the French Horn (which unbeknownst to me would help me get my first acting gig out of grad school).  But Chad knew that I played the piano, and with him on bass, Ryan Sherman on guitar, and Jason Harr on drums, in our junior year of high school we formed a band with the somewhat unfortunate name Shades of Blue (we should have kept the initial idea: Never You Mind).

(left to right: John, me, Uri, Chad, Josh, and Pat at – wait for it – band camp)

Chad taught me how to play by chord, to see playing the piano through the lens of music theory and improvisation.  I still feel that I play the piano now like a guitar, with an angular muscularity that would probably make my childhood piano teacher blush.  But it was something I understood, playing chord progressions like violent mathematical equations.  When I write music now it’s not a series of notes on a staff, but rather a collected shorthand of numbers and letters: Bb/D  Bb2  Ebaug7.

Shades of Blue only lasted our junior year, as the drummer and guitarist were a year older and graduated.  We did have a few great gigs, including headlining a couple high school dances.  What it really gave me though was an understanding of music that was less structured, less classical.  We played some original tunes but also our share of covers: Pearl Jam, Radiohead, The Verve, Blur, to name a few. Chad is now an LA based composer, whereas I set much of my musical life aside to pursue acting.  I continued to play music of course, mostly for myself (though sometimes to impress girls).  Not until grad school really did I begin writing music again, mostly incidental music for productions and workshops at NYU.

Chad is featured in a portrait I’ve written of my high school friends (“Right Foot to Red Circle”), specifically about New Year’s Eve 1999, the year after we graduated and the last time I really hung out with all of them as a group.  I’m glad he’s a part of this project and am looking forward to the interview he and his wife Kari (another high school friend, who is also featured in the song) film and send me from LA. Without Chad I probably wouldn’t have written any of this at all.

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