Long story, short

I'm a multi-faceted guy, on a quest to know "enough to be dangerous" on a very wide variety of subjects. Currently, those subjects include: Design, Photography, Ryan Adams, Ruby, Rails, Guitar, BDD, Business, Wilco, Passion, JavaScript, TED and Apple. I am an active member of the Ruby and Rails communities and I've just started teaching computer design classes at local junior colleges. Above all, I am a ferocious learner, who's always looking for the next thing to learn something about, and then patiently teach it to my peers.

I am currently freelancing, designing and building websites for small businesses. I'm always looking for a good idea to get excited about. If you have one and need some help, get in touch.

Short story, long

Note to the reader: I hate writing about myself. I think a lot of people do, really. What follows is my attempt at giving you some insight into my personality, why my career has become what it has, and why I make the decisions I make. I chose to write this in prose format because it's more enjoyable writing a story about the people and events that have shaped me, than just writing about how awesome I am.

Looking back, it's safe to say that my Dad is mostly responsible for the path my career has taken. When I was around 10 or so, he started a design firm, which, at the time, consisted of a desk at my Uncle's print shop. A year or two later, he had gotten a few more clients, moved to an office of his own, and hired my Mom as a second designer. This is where I spent most of my afternoons for the latter of my grade-school career.

My Dad's office consisted of two rooms, an outer-office that felt like a living room, but without a TV, and the main room where he had two desks, two drawing boards and a long mock-up table where he and my Mom would layout the pages of whatever project they were working on at the time. I remember the office having a particular smell, but I can't quite place it. Perhaps it was the smell of independence, and making your own destiny.

Sometimes, on the weekend, my Dad and I would go to his office together. He would put on some classical music or jazz or talk radio, and settle in at his Mac Classic to do some work while I would try to keep myself occupied. Usually that meant drawing or painting, but eventually, my attention turned to the Mac IIx sitting on my Mom's desk. After a while, it became obvious that I was really taken with the computer, so my Dad spent a few hours with me every-so-often teaching me how to do more complicated tasks, such as scanning photos at the correct resolution, and typing up notes from clients. In some sense, this was the beginning of my design career. I loved it.

My Dad had his studio through a good chunk of my time in high school, but eventually, his client list dwindled to one, and he had to go back to a full-time job. The office moved into a corner of our basement where my Mom would hold down the fort. Eventually, that one client dried up, too, and my family and I learned a few valuable lessons: own your decisions, put your all into everything, and never put all your eggs in one basket.

Go your own way

Leaving high school, I had a pretty tough decision on my hands. I had graduated as the editor of my school's award-winning art publication and first chair trumpeter in my school's jazz ensemble. I was caught between two loves: art and music. Looking into colleges, I found music would be an easy "in", but I had learned another lesson my senior year of high school, that made taking that option a bit harder.

Every year, our school would enter the IMEA State Band Competition. They had two ways to enter: for competition, or for comments. Those players who entered in the competition version of the tryout were eligible for entry into the State Band and would go on to compete on a national level, while those who entered "for comments" would receive comments from a judge, but not be eligible for the state band. Naturally, my school's band director pushed his best players, including myself, to enter for competition, which I did in my junior year but to no avail. In my senior year, at the height of my musical abilities, I chose to enter "for comments" instead, which turned out to be a very formative decision for me.

That year, I had the best trumpet instructor I'd had in the 5 years I'd been playing. Ivo Braun played in the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band by night, and taught private lessons to high school students by day. It was Ivo who selected the piece that I would use as my entry in the IMEA competition. And, while it probably bothered him a great deal to watch me enter for comments instead of for competition, it was Ivo's influence that convinced me to do so. Ivo spent hours with me working on a very challenging piece that only he thought I was capable of playing. And, in truth, I couldn't play it until I had committed it to memory. And I couldn't commit it to memory before he had told me all about what the piece meant, and the author's emotion behind the notes. For the first time, music spoke to me in a way that went beyond the way it sounds, and told a story. Once I had this story, remembering the notes became easy, and once I remembered the notes, I could express the story as if it was my own.

Once I understood this piece in this way, playing it as a means of entry into a state band, with all the pressure of the competition, seemed to trivialize it. Entering for comments turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I'd had in 4 years of attending the IMEA competition. Similarly, a career in music seemed to trivialize what music meant to me at the time. I imagined myself playing gigs I didn't want to play simply to make ends meet. and in an instant, a career in music sounded like it would be a lot about making money and not much at all about making music.

To be continued...

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this story, but I plan on finishing it in the near future. Perhaps I will continue it on my forthcoming blog. Because, frankly, my website needs to be done.


Photo taken by Becca Heuer