Music has always been with me. It is not related to hearing it on the radio or listening to a band playing. It has always been deep within me. In one sense, it is like a vital organ that works within me to sustain life. So gravitating towards a guitar at age 7 and figuring out some basic chords was not wonder. Nor was it a huge leap. But it was a start (way back in 1973)! There was no YouTube (or even internet) or the many plethora of outlets available today to gather information, learn from, or be inspired by. Still, music always drew me in. Within a few 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. Nothing against the guitar. But I did not readily connect with it the same way I did a piano style keyboard. Ultimately, 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.
Many of my music teachers seemed bent on molding me into a concert pianist. However, I was not and am not a virtuoso, especially not at the piano. To this day, maybe because of how I began my musical journey, I feel like a frustrated guitarist, who happens to play the piano. So when my first rock band came along (oh, 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". Gladly, 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, record it, 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. Then that 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 a vital 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. The first draw is to try to emulate them. Covering a musical mentor's creations is rewarding. It feels like an accomplishment when you actually do that cover justice. The real challenge, however, is to become, not emulate, one of those composers. Not just to compose, but to compose well. And 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 that will likely be a never ending pursuit.
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 (edited November 1, 2019)