My Story

Interesting comparison: When I was 49 years old, I found myself pretty comfortable and making money in my music career teaching and playing and a few small royalties from my three world patents for the PIPER vibraphone, published vibraphone music and clinics and guest artist work at Universities but I was a bit restless and wanted to get out. As I look back, it might have been a bit of mid-life crisis but I think that's just a word made up to keep dreamers in their place aka 'gaslighting'. As I sat in my studio with a 1 hour wait due to a student cancelation, I thought about things I could do and what I might do differently if I could do it all over again....or perhaps I could still DO SOMETHING completely different! So rather than just dreaming about it, I looked up the nearest Fire Academy and called about the paramedic profession. My question was, to learn the age limitations on 'paramedics'. The person on the line (a fire fighter/paramedic instructor) answered and asked "why do you want to be a paramedic". My answer was simple and clear, "because I'm too old to be a firefighter". He said, "no you're not if you can do the job and beat the younger ones out of the position". He went on to tell me about a man (51 years old) who just got hired as professional firefighter/paramedic with a department. I asked if he could put me in touch with this person. I learned that there are two different types of fire departments; Civil Service and Non-civil Service. Civil Service departments have an age cap of 35 y.o. (I think that's what it was at the time) and NON-Civil Service fire departments can't discriminate against age. WOW! I also learned that most of the professional departments in the DFW area were non-civil service. I knew I could get myself in great shape and give this a go. There are a lot of other differences but that was the only one I was concerned with at the time. It was a new, purposeful, meaningful, formidable challenge that I wanted to accomplish. I enrolled in the fire academy and started working out like crazy. I got old tires and strapped them to ropes to drag, I jumped rope daily 1800 to 2400 skips, ran, lifted, sledge hammered those tires and made myself desire the pain it took to be in shape for the job. I went to a local Fire Department and was lucky enough to get a conversation with the chief who is younger than me but is still a mentor to this day. He invited me to work around the station and I started helping as an intern, learning the culture (not very impressive at the time) but I got use to it LOL. I had put myself through the fire academy and got hired on as a professional firefighter/paramedic at 52 years old. I was number 1 on the hiring list at two relatively small but very respected non-civil service fire departments. Most of the fire departments in the DFW metroplex are non-civil service departments. After ten years in the service I decided it might be time to head back to my music roots (60 years old) but I wanted to do something more before I 'retired'. I always loved hearing about Antarctica. How completely untouched and remote it still is. I knew there was a lot of science going on there and figured there must be need for paramedics so I googled it. Low and behold, "firefighters/Paramedic wanted for mcmurdo station antarctica". I immediately contacted and researched the options. I learned now about 'contract fire' which is a completely different thing. That's where you can go all over the world - even to Antarctica. So I signed up, got hired, deployed my first time for 4 months in the Antarctic Summer. I saw many challenges, places, things I wanted to see and do such as be part of SAR team so I signed up for a two-year contract. While I was there for my first four months, I didn't have a vibraphone to play but I did have a portable keyboard that I used to write 'Shapes and Patterns of Music - Prologue'. When I returned home from my first deployment, I immediately began designing and putting together a vibraphone I thought I could get to Antarctica. We are only allowed 80 Lbs of baggage to take with us so I had to make this instrument conform in every way possible. Many of the ideas were thought up while I was deployed the first time. I knew what challenges I’d face getting the instrument to the ice so I had to make parts small enough to ship. I also had aspirations to get to the South Pole which is 900 miles inland from the costs and you have to be selected to go there so the instrument also had to be flight worthy to get to the pole if I got that opportunity to go. When shipping things to the Ice, it could take a month or a year or never arrive at all - in other words, the whole thing was a very expensive gamble. I was lucky and all my parts made it to McMurdo about four weeks after I arrived. (I also made some friends and wrote PIPER on every box). My end of my third year, I got promoted to Lieutenant and headed up the EMS Officer position on station. BUT, I still hadn't made it to The South Pole. So, I signed up for another two years.

My fourth year, I was chosen to go to the South Pole. The instrument packed up just fine, I went, played for the scientists and their support teams a few concerts and it was an exceptional experience and finally time for me to leave the fire service and return to the world of music and art full time.

I never really left music, I kept it going and jumped through every hoop necessary and even improved and learned a lot about it. But now what?

My plan was to come home, share my experiences and help with a Good Vibes program I dreamed up while on the ice. I learned that money is comfort but serving feeds fulfillment. I wanted to experience more of that fulfilment so I started the ‘Good Vibes’ program.

Now, I’m far from finished because I’m lucky or blessed or whatever you call it when you have your health, good shape, and ready to take on challenges. My age however seems to suggest to many people that it’s time to quit. That to me is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.

I want to share my unique story with young people who want to accomplish their goals. I want to play my music that is inspired by unique challenges and experiences. But, where to do that. Where to do that. (that is not a question, it’s the current challenge).