My name is Mark Palmer and I’m a musician. I have tried several twelve-step programs to cure myself of this problem, but as it turns out, the best I can hope for is to be considered a recovering musician.
I was born in Glen Dale, West Virginia, on December 16, 1967 (a Saturday) to David S.* and Lorayne A.* Palmer. Dad was a choir director and mom was a pianist. I always hated music, or more specifically musicians (partly because of the fact that they were a subset of the larger problem…people), but my parents forced me into it against my will**, which may explain many of my dysfunctional behaviors today.
I graduated from John Marshall High School in Glen Dale in 1986, possibly the best year that has ever existed, though one could argue similarly for the years 0, 1776, 1967 and unexpectedly, 1541. Anyway, I believe 1986 is definitely in the top ten.
But I digress.
Finally set free of my parents’ musical tyranny, I went away to college at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV and majored in advertising. However, after four and a half years of "work", I realized that I stood to make far too much money by following this career path. To remedy this issue, I decided to pursue a career in the field of music education, earning a bachelors degree in 1994, and later completing a masters degree in 2004.
I am happy to report that making too much money is no longer a problem.
Between all this degree-getting, I managed to land a couple of jobs, starting as a band director at Cameron High School in Marshall County, West Virginia, and then later (and currently) at University High School here in Morgantown. (We have a webpage. Here it is: www.uhsband.net.)
So these days, I live Morgantown with my beautiful and intelligent wife of [x=current year minus 2003] years, Jen*, a couple of kids, and our aptly-named dog, Little*, so-named because we weren’t going to keep him, we didn’t want to get too attached to him, and he was not big. (I forget now whether we got too attached to him or we just forgot to not keep him.) Regardless, we're glad he stuck around.
I try to play a lot in and around the Morgantown area because it gives me a performance outlet that recovering musicians need. Unfortunately, my job also gives me precious little time to rehearse (or do much of anything else for that matter), so I have found it much easier to do a solo gig than to put together a band. As it turns out, this has worked to my advantage because the money is better and I don’t have to deal with working out rehearsal schedules or dealing with “artistic differences”.
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, "gee, I wonder how he got this far?"
Well, I'm wondering the same about you, but I'm glad you asked...
I pecked around at the piano practically all my life. My parents tried to get me to practice enough to justify piano lessons, but at the time, the Steelers were winning Super Bowls and the Pirates were winning World Series, so pretty much all I cared about was pretending to be Terry Bradshaw or Kent Tekulve. Fortunately, I had a younger brother Bryan (a great drummer in his own right) to play Lynn Swann and Ed Ott, respectively.
My beautiful and intelligent wife Jen* as she appeared the year I graduated from high school.
Nontheless, I did play a lot of piano by ear, and because I also played trumpet and had a couple of years of piano lessons, I always seemed to know how to read music on at least a rudimentary level.
Fast forward to college. After years of playing piano at home, playing trumpet in John Marshall's band (I was lucky enough to go through JM in the glory years, and owe much of my musical success and career choice to Director Ron Rose), and singing in my dad's (and later Dave Dayton's) choirs, I sold my trumpet, became an advertising major, and had no musical outlet other than the radio. Eighties radio, no less. In some ways, I feel lucky that I am not damaged any further than what you see.
But my friends and I did often go see a lot of outstanding local performers of the day, including Acoustical Ambience, Kenny Zara, and several others. But my favorite was a guy named Gary Roper, who always seemed to be playing at a local bar called Gibbie's. I have no doubt that those who were around Morgantown at that time will see many similarities between Gary's act and my own. I thought so highly of him that I copied practically everything he did. I feel very fortunate that I came across someone for whom I had that level of respect. Gary was a professional musician in every sense of the word, and 14 years later, played in my wedding.
So I got my first guitar as a Christmas present from my mom in December of 1989, and the following March I played my first open mic at Gibbie's. It was a Tuesday, and I played "Something In the Way She Moves" by James Taylor, not realizing that there were about eighty bazillion songs that I could have learned faster. But as it turned out, my ignorance served me well. By concentrating so hard on a style of playing that was a little more technically challenging, I inadvertently made a lot of other tunes seem pretty easy. I continued to play open mic nights, learn as many songs as I could, and go to Gary's gigs and ask him if I could sing and/or play whenever possible (a practice I am now pretty ashamed of, by the way).
Then, after graduating from WVU, I eventually played my first paid gig on October 18th, 1991 (a Friday), at a little place in Marietta, Ohio. (I was living just across the river in Parkersburg, WV at the time). I even forget the name of the bar, but I told them I had a lot of experience playing back in Morgantown--though I didn't define "a lot", and I left out the part about not actually being paid by anyone yet. I just barely had enough tunes to make it through a three-hour show, but I did, and from that point on, gigs eventually started coming more regularly...at least until I started working at University High School in 2000.
The UHS job was so big and so time-consuming that I went several years playing only about five or six times a year. Then I remembered that I really missed performing and jumped back into it with both feet in about 2005.
So at this point, I plan to play at every opportunity. It's just too much fun not to, and the supplemental income is surprisingly good, which is especially important now that the money I once spent on new musical equipment is now spent on things like daycare, diapers, bicycles, baseball, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, doctor's appointments...
*Real names have been used to implicate the guilty.