Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I spent my teenage years in Newark, Delaware after my parents decided to leave the city for the promise of suburbia. Like so many of my peers, my fascination with the guitar began in February 1964, when I watched the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. My empathetic parents arranged for the arrival of my first guitar the following Christmas--a Sears Silvertone (replete with a tiny amp built into the case). Armed shortly after with a few chords, some friends and I formed our first group, eventually to play the popular rock and roll tunes of the day at fire halls, schools, and parties throughout high school. My early musical interests include rock and roll, folk, and jazz music including some of the great jazz guitarists of the 1960s: Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, and Kenny Burrell.
As neglectful as I was of my high school studies, I somehow made it into the University of Delaware for a short-lived stint. The lure of playing full-time was strong, and I left college to begin full-time career as a guitarist in the early 1970s with local popular and jazz music groups from Northern Delaware. After studying with Philadelphia guitar teacher legend Dennis Sandole, I toured the United States for four years with Turning Point, playing contemporary popular music. The experience included an opportunity to play with oldies groups including Joey Dee and the Starlighters who hit the charts in the 60s with the Peppermint Twist. After returning to Wilmington in the late 70s, I played jazz and popular music with a number of local groups including Centerpeace, Encore and Boulevard.
I had gained an appreciation for the day-gig during my performing years, and returned to the University of Delaware in 1980 to earn a B.A. in American Studies and an M.A in Literature and Pedagogy. I eventually began teaching English at Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Delaware in 1984. In 1996 I became a high school principal in Milford, Delaware, and in 2001 received a doctorate from Wilmington University. I returned to Smyrna in 2000 to assume the position of the Director of Curriculum, retiring in 2016. I am blessed to have worked with wonderful students, teachers, and administrators throughout my career.
I believe my musical journey took new twist in the mid-1990s when my interests turned to fingerstyle guitar, and I was introduced to the music of El McMeen, Steve Baughman, Pierre Bensusan and other great artists who arrange music for the guitar in alternate tunings. In fact, a lesson with El sparked an interest in arranging fingerstyle tunes and set me on a path to evolving in that musical direction.
Tim Alexander from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a fellow fingerstyle enthusiast—and I eventually released Giving Voice (Piney Ridge Music) in 2006—our collection of solo fingerstyle guitar tracks, each of us doing seven tracks. Giving Voice was recorded and engineered by Marc Moss and produced by El McMeen who remains a friend, mentor, and inspirational musician . I became a bit obsessed with arranging tunes typically associated with jazz into DADGAD tuning. That passion has resulted in the release of Newer Every Day (2014)—my solo guitar CD.
Stefan Grossman was kind enough to produce three DVDs of collections of mostly jazz tunes for Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop—two in DADGAD and one in Open G. I am indeed most grateful to have worked with Stefan—a guitar legend.
Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar in DADGAD
Further Adventures in DADGAD
Fingerstyle Guitar in OPEN G
I have also contributed arrangements to two books from Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop.
A Festival of Tunings For Fingerstyle Guitar
Early Jazz: Dances, Songs, Instrumentals for Fingerstyle Guitar
El and I have recently complete two books together. It was quite an honor to have worked with him.
The DADGAD Gospel: Gospel Guitar Solos in DADGAD Tuning (Mel Bay)
The Glory of CGDGAD Tuning: From Music to Method (due out on Mel Bay Spring 2022)
As a solo performer, I perform fingerstyle arrangements of Scottish, Irish, American tunes, both traditional and modern, and jazz tunes in alternate guitar tunings such as DADGAD, CGDGAD, OPEN G and yes, standard! I should note that I am not loath to pick up the electric guitar now and then for a gig should friends send one my way. And I am half of Sandy and Stevie D!—our pop, oldies, jazzy duo that performs in the Rehoboth Beach Delaware area. I enjoy all things guitar for sure! I currently reside in Milton, Delaware