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I was a musician and these are the instruments I played (professionally in bold). I do not teach, but I have been a teachers’ aide at Chula Vista SCPA, and in smaller teaching environments.

Trombone
Electric Bass
Violin

Viola
‘Cello
Contrabass
Synthesizer
Percussion
Piano
Vocals
Harmonica
Guitar
Vihuela
Guitarron

Up until 3rd grade, I had only banged on pots and pans, toy drums, and a small electric organ my parents bought me from the thrift store. In 3rd grade, there was an assembly put on by the music teachers of the South Bay Union School District – Mike Pretzer, Joe Shaara, and Dale Saare. The district concert band, jazz band, and orchestra played some songs, one of which featured each of the instruments doing what it does best. As it happened, I liked the slide trombone because of its comedy, and immediately signed up for a loaner and lessons from Mr. Pretzer.

A year later, I joined the concert band on trombone and also started to learn violin from Mr. Pretzer, eventually becoming concertmaster of the orchestra. Mr. Pretzer also taught me ‘cello and viola. When the viola section was empty, I filled the void, until my brilliant friend switched to her favorite stringed instrument and I, back to mine. Indeed, for my last year of elementary school, I was concertmaster again. Also in my final year, Mr. Shaara, like a force of nature comparable to the greats of drumming – Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, taught me percussion. I would ultimately play trombone, violin, and ‘cello all professionally.

In middle school, I learned electric bass (later played professionally) for the jazz and concert bands, and two mariachi instruments, the vihuela and guitarron, from Greg Caldera. In high school, I learned how to sing from Eric Mabrey, play the standup bass classically from Conrad Bruderer, as well as the harmonica and classical guitar from Mike Luzak.

After 9/11, the local music economy tanked and what little paid work there was to be had dried up, in favor of all-volunteer ensembles. Despite becoming the youngest local musicians’ union member that year, I effectively retired from music soon after my early graduation in ’02, and found “legit” work.

Thanks to all my private teachers in no particular order (my long-term memory is fracked, so please yell at me if I forgot to list you)…
Tamara Paige – Strings
Adrian Skinner – Piano
Albert Palmeter – Piano
Kristina Ranger – Electric bass
John Ramirez – Strings
Malva Freymuth – Violin
Geary Thompson – Dixieland trombone

Epilogue
My final night of music performance came in January of 2012. When I got home that night, after playing at a jam session, then seeing Tribal Baroque as they happened to be playing across the street, my poker face cracked and I broke down sobbing in front of my parents. I soon reached the logical, emotional, and spiritual point that I could completely and truly quit. My peak ended in 2002 when I graduated high school, playing in the groups there, and the pro gigs had dried up. It really was a goal achieved to be a paid musician, even if only for those few years.

I felt like I rationally had to make a choice; either start practicing and taking lessons to get back up to pro level, and make it a career for good, including moving wherever in the country that would provide for a comfortable living and enough therapies… or stop putting my body through the exhausting fibromyalgic pain and allergies, even though I’d only played for “fun” at 6-12 month intervals since ’02.

“Professional musician John Roe, multi-instrumentalist” was my stage identity for the previous act of my life. It was time to finally let the identity of “Alwin” develop anew.

I’ve been at peace with this decision for over 3 years now, as I’m still trying to sell my violin (and a flute I picked up at the thrift store), my last instrument. Music is still my lifeblood (and my internal soundtrack), and I love being around Guitar Centers, rehearsing band/orchestras and tech booths, but I have no desire to put anything in my hands unless I’m tuning/fixing it.

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