Music has always been with me. Not just on the radio or from a band playing, but it has been deep within. In some senses, it is like a vital organ that works with the rest of me to sustain life. It is what moved me to first pick up a guitar at age 7 and figure out some basic chords... not really a huge leap, but a personal big step back in 1973. There was no YouTube or internet or the many plethora of outlets available today to gather information, learn from, or be inspired by. But there was one thing...inside. Within two years I moved from the guitar to the piano. It seemed if I could move past six strings these ideas that were in my head could form into something more tangible. As much as I felt I knew about the music within me, I really understood nothing at all about it. Thankfully teachers came along at just the right time.
Teachers were bent on molding me into a concert pianist. One teacher even treated me like a virtuoso. Despite the honor, I was not and am not a virtuoso, especially not at the piano. To this day, I feel like somewhat of a frustrated guitarist. After all everyone wants to be the guitarist in a rock band! However, even when in my first band (and every band since), I was the keyboardist. Though learning aspects of several instruments over the years, the piano or a keyboard is really "at home". Still, being a musician is only a small part of my musical role.
Most of my musical life has been spent writing songs and producing them. By the early 1980's I had a growing MIDI-based studio. One of the most intriguing things was seeing how it all worked together. At the time, my studio consisted of only a 4-track Tascam tape recorder and a couple of synths. In time, I figured enough out to be able to produce my own music and hand that out on home made cassettes. Being an acknowledged frustrated guitarist, most of the material I worked on followed genres that were guitar friendly (read ROCK) but were largely created and duplicated on keyboards. Of course, as technology moved forward, so did my studio and the sound scapes at my disposal. Over the course of all of this, I had delved back and forth with a lot of electronica styles as well and finally put my first official CD (read professionally put together and distributed) out for public consumption. That was in 1997. In the next few years, MANY projects, both professional and personal came through the studio. More than 40 different artists and dozens of CD releases began to fill up my resume. This process included work for several films. However, it got so intense that I had to take a break. The fun had begun to go away.
In 2013 music returned to me in a much more compact form. Personal. Direct. From my roots. But it was more fun than I have ever had with it before. Since then I have released seven original albums. It has been really exciting writing this music and releasing it. But one of the biggest thrills I had was to score music for a live action drama. And that whetted my appetite for more.
My first symphony came to me when I was 16. It was called Three Butterfly Suite. There was nothing special or grandiose about it, except IT WAS MY FIRST SYMPHONY! Composition has always intrigued me. It really is the platform on which everything musical stands. The structure, the theory, every little aspect about it is compelling.
For whatever reason, I moved from composing to songwriting early on. I guess it came easier, but more likely it was because it was expected. Being in a pop rock band that needed music, and feeling like maybe I should be "that music guy" only made the draw stronger. So the writing began. It turned into tons of songs. Despite this, composition never left me. As mentioned, composition is the platform on which everything musical stands. And music is like an organ in me. Through my entire musical career (producing, song writing, engineering, performing, etc.) the desire to return to composition has been prominant. Likely this came from many musical influences.
It is easy to drop names; names like Brian Wilson or George Gershwin, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, or even Mozart. They are all great names to drop...they are all great composers. It may even seem easy at times to emulate them. I am not alone as one who has "covered" one or more of his musical mentors. But what is harder is to become like one of those names. Not just to compose but to compose well; that is the challenge I give to myself. Whether it be for film or just ear candy for mass consumption, I want to compose well. And I hope you find my music moving forward meeting that personal expectation!
Therefore, today, I am a composer, a producer, and a musician. In the end though, through all of my musical efforts and achievements and even in the course of teaching music, I am still a student, trying to understand the music that is in me and how to get it out and share it with you.
- Jon Solo, March 14, 2017