In 6th grade I attended a new school.  Everyone was put in chorus for 6th grade.  I had sung in elementary school and was considered a good singer.  But when I got to 6th grade chorus I remember people laughing at me when I tried to sing out.  So somewhere inside I decided this wasn't for me, and music took a back seat for many years, even while I was taking piano lessons.


As middle school and high school went on, I got very interested in art and drama and I excelled in those things.  My music making was confined to practicing at home and private excursions into practice rooms.  Secretly I wanted people to listen to me play.  I used to go into the chapel after lunch and bang on the wonderful Baldwin, playing and singing Billy Joel and Elton John, hoping folks passing by outside would think I was great.  Mostly they ignored me, or I got scared when I noticed they were listening and I quieted down.


That's when I met Lionel , my first piano hero.  He was everything I wanted to be as a musician:  brave, charismatic, agile.  He sat at the piano and sang these songs he'd written which could have been something on the radio, and people would want to hang around with him.  And he could play Jazz!  His right hand just flew all over the place, doing anything he told it to.  We used to compare notes on the black piano in the chapel from time to time, and I learned everything I could from him before he graduated and went off to a life as a professional session musician. 


That was when I first really began to notice that I was missing something.  I could improvise, too, but my improvisations were huge, monstrous formless things.  Sometimes I heard amazing music coming from me, but only when I was alone.  And my right hand couldn't move nearly as fast or with as much cleverness as Lionel's.  I was a two-handed percussive kind of guy.


My senior year I tried out for chorus and was accepted.  That was the beginning of my return to music, but I was a long way from where I wanted to be.  Inside I felt like I was a Lionel, full of talent and charisma, with all sorts of music waiting to explode from me.  But outside I was just a kid with a nice voice and a good ear.  And as a pianist I didn't know how to play out.


As I entered college, I consoled myself that I really was a good piano player, that I could learn any piece of music if I really wanted to.  I found out I was wrong.


Next time:  The wake-up call.

I took my first series of piano lessons from the time I was six years old to the time I was eighteen.  You might think twelve years of continuous lessons would turn anyone into a piano superstar.  That's not quite what happened.


John Chagy was a Julliard graduate, wonderfully knowledgeable about Classical music, and had something like forty years of experience teaching.  He was also really nice.  I liked him immediately.  He never made me feel nervous, and he only ever got cross with me once in twelve years.  Taking lessons with him was like visiting a friend, or even a relative.


The first two years were pretty normal.  I showed a lot of promise.  I picked up the music quickly.  But some of my strengths undermined me.  I learned a lot of the music by ear instead of being forced to read it.  As a result, even after twelve years I was a rank beginner in music theory.  I could figure out basic rhythms, as long as they didn't have too many dots.  Notes on ledger lines (above the staff) made me stop.  I got accidentals and knew how key signatures worked, but I couldn't have told you how many sharps were in the key of E.  In short, I really couldn't read.


But my ears were phenomenal, and to make matters more interesting, I had music going through my head.  I could improvise really interesting stuff.  I just couldn't write it down.


After a few years I began to get bored with Classical music.  I was ready to quit the piano, but I didn't want to quit Mr. Chagy.  He agreed to let me learn other kinds of music.  So I began learning ragtime and the Beatles.  Mr. Chagy tried to interest me in Art Tatum, but for some strange reason I couldn't believe that anyone was better than Joplin!  My loss...


And so we went into a holding pattern that lasted another nine years.  I got a notion in my head that I needed to perfect a piece of music before moving on, but I didn't really know how to practice and instead found myself repeating my mistakes week after week.  I spent way too much time on bad piano arrangements of Beatles tunes that I never learned to play.  I dabbled with Root Beer Rag, which was too hard.  The ragtime was okay, but there were certain challenges I never overcame.  Mr. Chagy made certain suggestions to me that would have helped, but I never listened and he never insisted.


At the end of twelve years, I didn't have much to show for my time, and what was worse, I actually thought I was pretty good, which I most definitely wasn't!  So why did I stick with him, and why did he stick with me?


I went to my lessons probably because they were a constant in my life, something safe I could go to while my home life was beginning to deteriorate in my teenage years.  Even though the lessons had long ago become a farce, I was still playing year after year, and the piano remained a part of my life.  While I wish I could have started my college years as a real pianist, I do owe Mr. Chagy the gift of his time and compassion.


Next time:  The other half of twelve years:  Who I listened to, who I wanted to be

Dear friends,


Those of you that know my history may already know that in addition to my music education background, I'm a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and that this work deeply informs my teaching.  In two weeks I'll be attending a Feldenkrais piano workshop.  It will be the first time I've gotten to study piano in the context of this amazing awareness-work.


I will be blogging about the experience.  Before I do, I want to take a few posts to tell you the story of myself as a pianist.  It's a roller coaster ride, and anything but a straight path.




My father played piano as a young man in Dallas, and even placed in a competition.  My earliest memories include listening to him play on the Steinway we inherited from my Grandmother.  But by the time I was old enough to play, he had given it up.  Nevertheless, I'm certain his playing imprinted on my mind and influenced my choice of instruments.


When I was six I started banging on the piano, just throwing my fingers down on the chords at random.  I honestly thought that this was what concert pianists did, and i couldn't hear any difference!  I ran upstairs to ask my Mom if she'd heard how good I sounded.  She complemented me like a Mom should.  At that point she must have thought I had a spark or something and wanted to encourage it.


Shortly thereafter she found me lessons with a man named John Chagy.


Next week:  12 years of lessons?

Hi, Musicfriends!



First of all, the last Wipes show was, unfortunately, the LAST Wipes show.  The Wipes as personified by yours truly and the band are hanging it up to make room for new Wipes who actually still have kids at the Preschool!



I submitted some poetry to Beloit Poetry Journal.  They were very kind and responded within a day.  The comment I received was that I was "editorializing" too much in my poetry.  I found that interesting and, perhaps because I found it painful, it must be true.  What makes it painful is that I was trying to give my poetry some direction and purpose, rather than simply make it "words about words."  It seems I overshot, at least for this journal.  So it's back to the drawing board.




I'll be attending a piano workshop in June led by my fellow Feldenkrais practitioner and author Alan Fraser.  I intend to blog heavily about it!  If you didn't know I was a Feldenkrais practitioner, you can visit my other site:


More later!




Dear Musicfriends,


If you've never seen Adam Cole in his role as keyboard player for the Wipes, the rock-and-roll band that plays an annual benefit for the Grant Park Cooperative Preschool, then you've missed:


- Amazing performances of your favorite rock hits (and lesser known gems)

- Great Food

- The heartwarming sight of dozens of preschool children sitting on the floor mesmerized by a rock-and-roll band


Don't miss it this year.  We're at our faithful host location, the Graveyard Tavern in East Atlanta, on May 7, at 3:00.


Y'all come!





Dear Musicfriends,


More than a year ago I took the RPM Challenge to write and record an album in a single month.


I never meant to wait a year to release the tracks.  My intention was to fix up the recording somewhat.  We had five recording devices working that day.  Three of them failed.  I don't have access to the fourth recording.  That leaves only one, and that's what you can hear today!


To hear any of the songs from the session, go to and click on the Best of [Both] Worlds tab.  If you want to hear the complete session with dialogue, false starts, and children laughing, you can download the whole thing at  Warning:  It's a large file!


My thanks to everyone who participated, and we'll have a real CD release party someday!

Dear friends,


I recently had the pleasure of getting a photo shoot from Jordan Fink.  He has posted the results on his website.  Want to help me choose?


Which one do you think would be the best "Author Photo" for my young person's fantasy novel?  How about for my Mystery Novel?  My Science Fiction writing?


Which one should I use for my next album?


Love, Adam


Hi, Musicfriends,


I got a lot of grateful responses to my last blog.  A lot of you really seem to need hope right now.  I wrote a song about hope which I haven't shared with too many people, and I thought now might be the time.


I was taking the train home from the Dale Carnegie training about 8 years ago when I got a melodic idea in my head.  I managed to write it down and some words came along with it.  That became the song "Faith In Your Shining Star."  I've just uploaded it.


At the time I was spending every day of my life terrified of the future, far from achieving any of my goals.  Since then I've accomplished a lot of them, but I've also gone into a tunnel.  I didn't have a lot eight years ago, but I had vision.  Today, my vision isn't so clear.


Sometimes I write songs that turn out to be messages for myself later on.  This was one of those.




Dear Friends,


I receive Discmaker's blog.  Ordinarily I'm not tempted, but the other day I saw a heading:  "Top Music Business Mistakes of 2010" and I bit!


I'm glad I did.  The series of articles I read was perhaps the most sensible thing I've EVER read about us self-propelled creative types.  In sum, the five articles, plus the attached interview, say more or less that there is no "big break," no "next level."  You try stuff, you keep going, and if you last long enough, are organized, have good goals and have something of value, you make slow progress.  Period.


For a long time I fretted about making it to "the next level."  But this series put my mind at ease.  Sure, there are big breaks, but they come as a result of a long slow process.  And in the end, they're just another link in a long rope that goes beyond them.


So I've been doing what I need to do to succeed for a long time.  I may not be as organized as I need to be, may not have done as much or been as smart as I could have, but by doing what I can do and trying to get better, and by keeping on, I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.  And if I succeed, I succeed, and if I don't, I don't.  Period.


That may not be reassuring to everyone, but for where I'm at I'm ready to hear it, and it's exactly what I need to hear.





And here it is, Lost Song Number 12! I wrote this song while working at a job where I had a lot of time on my hands. I was struggling to write something more interesting, more substantial than my previous songs. I really wanted to write something GOOD. I was inspired by the building of the 17th Street Bridge (which looked a lot better before they painted it yellow) still incomplete at the time. I came up with this musical motif that represented a bridge, and I wrote the song around that. There is another, more polished version of this song on this site as well. This was my first recording of it, and I like it better.

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