Who we are
circa: from Latin circa “about” or “around”
paleo: prefix used in scientific combinations; from Greek palaio-, comb. form of palaios “old, ancient; also “far” (in space and time)
circa Paleo: around the world in approximate times.
Violin, Fiddle, Guitar
The inspiration to learn violin first came when I was 17, as an Irish violin aire was playing on the family stereo. It was the only instrumental piece in an album of vocal folk ballads and had been played unnoticed countless times throughout my childhood, but at that moment I was totally captivated. The slow, simple melody spoke to me of the emotion of someone from the distant past, asking that I remain still and simply listen. That day I dug out our broken, dusty heirloom violin, untouched for decades, and began a journey of learning, which continues to this day.
My studies ranged from classical violin to folk fiddle, and my interest in Irish and Celtic music soon spread to other cultures. I was drawn to the musical traditions of Greece and Eastern Europe. Since people started calling me a “gypsy” even when playing a jig, it seemed time to find some real Gypsy players to teach me. More recently I have explored the sounds and lives of Mongolia, Armenia and Persia…all strong influences in the first circa Paleo release, Eleven Lives. Now Scandinavia has stolen my heart and I am practicing fiddle styles from Sweden and Norway on the 9-string Hardanger Fiddle.
My performing career began as a founding member of E Muzeki. The Texas Renaissance Festival introduced us to a concentration of listeners with an eager ear for the exotic sounds we offered, and we released four self-produced albums. The generous enthusiasm of these fans created the opportunity to travel the country for seven years of joyous musical performance at festivals, elite acoustic venues and nationally syndicated radio. This tradition of sharing continues, in a new way, with circa Paleo.
Plethora of Percussion and Hand Drums, Saz, Clarinet, Bass Guitar
Since before I could walk, my deepest, most ardent and intimate passion was always…Legos. So when, on Christmas day the tenth year of my life, my parents decide to gift me a black five piece Cannon drum set with pawn shop cymbals and construct it right next to my fully erected Lego sets of Knight’s Kingdom King’s Castle, Castle of Morcia Play Set, Robin Hood Outpost, (which battled the Castle of Morcia DAILY! It had no chance against the Knight’s Kingdom) City Fire Station, and a plethora of Star Wars space crafts and battle stations.
I was, needless to say, a little cautious – I mean, this thing was less than 500 pieces! However, it did not take long for me to greatly understand and utilize this bulky and foreign contraption by carelessly tossing my dirty clothes onto it, transforming it into a rather treacherous laundry area. It was not until three years later during a routine, epic pillow fight with my friends that my destiny was revealed. I accidently hurled a fuzzy, brown, stuffed monkey right into my Lego collection, effectively destroying most of it. My Lego days were over and I became a ROCK DRUMMER!
Beginning to absorb the rhythmic heavy music from such bands as Rush, Dream Theatre, and Tool, I became increasingly entranced with percussion and the deep rhythms it can animate. From junior high school through my college graduation, I performed in nearly a dozen bands all over Texas. After attaining my degree from Sam Houston State University, (the ever coveted and applicable Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting) I discovered the vast and beautiful world of ethnic percussion and it immediately plotted the course of my future.
I sold all of my drums and began maniacally collecting and studying world percussion instruments such as Indian tabla, Egyptian darbuka and riq, African djembe and udu, middle eastern frame drums, Spanish cajon and Persian tombak. Simultaneously, I fell deeply in love with renaissance festivals and knew my place was to be among them. As fate would have it, I became a part of the group E Muzeki, toured with them for a year, and recorded on their fourth album release, Agrafa. The opportunity allowed me to combine both western and eastern drum sensibilities, and I was able to construct a unique drum set composed of world hand drums played much like a normal drum set. Sans sticks. Because they are hand drums and that would be ridiculous and besides, Jay hoards all the sticks. Won’t let me touch ‘em.
The evolution of circa Paleo has also given me the opportunity to branch out into the exploration of such diverse instruments as the Turkish Saz, which is comparable to the European Lute, the acoustic bass guitar, which is comparable to a non-acoustic bass except it is acoustic, and the Clarinet, which is comparable to giving CPR to an angry, congested mouse.
My inspiration and World Percussion hero, Greg Ellis, once wrote to me that all a musician wants is someone who listens. For that, I thank you.
Bass Guitar, Stick and Mallet drums, Orchestra Bells, Percussion
I have a more formal and classical history than my bandmates. Come to think of it, I’m the only member of the band old enough to have a history.
I survived the public school band program in Texas, scraped by long enough at the University of Texas at Arlington to somehow earn a Bachelor of Music degree, and spent an eternity one summer traveling and competing as a member of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. I spent many years as an educator, adjudicator, composer and performer in the Houston, Texas area while studying music composition, percussion performance, and instrumental conducting at the University of Houston Graduate School of Music. I’ve played, conducted and/or taught gazillions of musicals, variety shows, concerts, contests, halftime shows, private lessons, master classes, clinics, and marched in so many parades I needed therapy. No, really, ask any of my ex-wives.
Trained primarily in Western music (that’s Western as in Hemisphere, not “Country and…”), the opportunity to learn and perform new styles and new instruments from other cultures around the world is very exciting for me. With 35 years of performance experience behind me, in everything from jazz bands and marching bands to handbell choirs and symphony orchestras, I feel fortunate and grateful to be where I am right now – nothing I’ve done so far has been as fun or as fulfilling.
Doing what I love, with people I love, for people I love.
Thanks for listening.
Guitar and Mandolin
For as long as I can remember I’ve been comforted by and drawn to music. Raised by a classically-trained singer-songwriter Mom and a Dad who would wake my sister, Jenny, and I on Saturday mornings by playing his drum kit along with his rock and roll albums, music has been a part of my core existence from the beginning (whether I liked it or not).
First compelled to learn banjo at age eight, I soon began figuring out guitar chords to songs and appeared on my Mother’s CDs singing harmony vocals. I played flute in the school band but did not surrender to music as a way of life until well after earning a Bachelor’s degree in psychology – and realizing: what better way to study psychosis than by traveling with musicians?
Concentrating my musical interests on the guitar and mandolin, I was an avid fan of my sister Jenny’s creative endeavors on violin. When the circa Paleo project was created by Jenny and Joshua, along with Jay, I almost didn’t make the cut because my name didn’t start with a “J.” And because I have a dog. But when it was realized that I had wicked guitar skills and that in certain completely unknown ancient Tibetan cultures a “K” is pronounced with a silent “J,” I was allowed in. And so was my dog, Suki…who is Tibetan.
Currently with circa Paleo, I am the Lead Solo Rhythm Backup Supporting Guitar Player, Head Mandolin Manipulator, Assistant to the Assistant Bass Player, Lead Vocalist (but only while traveling in the car), Head set-list Submitter, and Chief Suki Wrangler.
I am fortunate and grateful to be traveling with people I love, presenting live music to audiences across the country, and making new friends and new fans everywhere we go. Thank you for being one of many who make it possible.