Thursday, October 7, 2010

Heroes & Inspiration

We all have our heroes, people we look up to, aspire to be like, or even emulate aspects of their characters or careers. Heroes in the proper contexts can be healthy for our lives, careers and aspirations as long as they are in perspective and having the right kinds of heroes is important as well. They are really mentors-sometimes mentors from a distance.

One of my hero-mentors is Roger Williams, Mr. Piano. When I was in high school and college I would buy his records and any published arrangements I could find and pattern a lot of my playing after his. As time went on I found “my voice” in composing and orchestration, but his music was an important influence on me. His career is rich with accomplishment and his performances display incredible precision and discipline as well real feeling from the heart. There are aspects of his character as both a musician and person that I want to point out.

Discipline-I had the chance to go to go to one his concerts in Las Vegas this past August. He will be 86 October 1, 2010 and he still has his “chops;” it was a great concert.  It takes an incredible amount of practice and discipline to play at the level he plays. Check out the video on his home page:

Passion for his work-that’s such a great example for all of us and you can see as he plays and as he talks about the music he will play.

His refusal to rely on past accomplishments. Most people spend their lives preparing for their retirements. So while many of his peers were and are thinking about slowing down and retiring he carries on. He loves what he does and refuses to slow down.

Kindness and respect-one personal aspect of him is his kindness and respect to his fans. I have only been to just a few of his concerts. But the 2 times I was able to get his autograph and shake his hand, I observed his kindness to other people besides myself, especially at this last concert.

Again, heroes are important to all of us. They mentor us whether we actually have known them personally or not. I came away from his concert thoroughly inspired to renew the pursuit of my craft with the same energy and passion that Roger Williams has exemplified in his.

In future blogs I will write about my influences in film composing.

Jonathan David Neal
Roger Williams & JDN after his concert-Aug. 2010.