(photo: Kodak Quartet, with violist Daniel Spink at right)

Practically from the beginning, the Spink family has been a part of the Center for Musical Arts. James and Leslie Spink have been enthusiastic donors and supporters, and both of their sons, Stephen and Daniel, took lessons and performed in ensembles at the Center (at the time, the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts). Stephen Spink currently plays trumpet in the United States Air Force “Heartland of America” band, and Daniel has an accomplished musician currently playing viola in the Rochester, NY-based Kodak Quartet.

Recently Daniel sat down with Education Director Kathy Kucsan to catch her up on his exciting career as a musician and teacher, his love for musical improvisation, the story behind his instruments (he plays violin and saxophone as well), and much more.

Watch the interview or read the transcript below.



Meet Daniel Spink

Kathy Kucsan: Hi, Daniel. Daniel Spink is a former [Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts] student who’s made it big. Well, whatever. We can say that, I think. So, Daniel, do you want to just tell us a little bit about yourself? We were just talking about how you were hanging out in the office and… okay, wait. Let me do the embarrassing thing first, okay?

Daniel Spink: All right.

Kathy: Okay. Here we go. We’ve got– [sharing a photo]

Daniel: Oh my god.

Kathy: …Daniel with the glasses on and his brother, Stephen. So, Daniel and Stephen started out in their musical career at the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts and are currently, now, professional musicians, both of them. So, Daniel was kind enough to take a little bit of time to chat with me today. And so, do you want to say anything about this photo? I think you were telling me that you remember–

Daniel: Oh yeah, yeah. I remember this. And Stephen and I both kind of started out there. When I was young, we went to a class at RMCMA where they let us try all the instruments. And that’s actually where I decided I wanted to play violin at the time. And I guess the rest is history. 

My brother also got his first trumpet there. I think he also tried trumpet at this course. And then we actually made something like this later as a project when we were in middle school. We had accumulated quite a few instruments by that time from dabbling around. And we went to this family that we knew that had about 15 adopted kids and did a similar kind of “Meet the Instruments” kind of class as well and a few other things like that afterwards.

Kathy: That’s amazing. Let’s go back to present-day Daniel, who actually is a professional musician, teaching and playing. And did you just graduate from Eastman? Or…

Daniel: Yeah.

Kathy: Tell me a little about that.

Daniel’s Studies at Eastman

Daniel: So, last year in the spring, I graduated with my master’s degree. So, I did two degrees at Eastman. I did my undergraduate in viola performance with Carol Rodland. And then we hired a new teacher at Eastman when Carol left and went to Juilliard. And that was Masumi Rostad from Pacifica Quartet. And I really liked him and I stayed and did a master’s as well. So, I just finished that last year.

Kathy: Fantastic. And you’re still in Rochester. And you are in a string quartet and you’re teaching.

Daniel: I am. Yeah. I’m in a string quartet called Kodak Quartet after our hall. And yeah. And I have a studio. I teach students, I teach at a local school in Rochester and I also teach an online studio that’s kind of all over the place. So, I’ve had students come in and out of the studio. Some people come for just… they have a problem they want to fix. That seems to be a thing that I do a lot. People have some sort of issue or some pain, so I’ll help them fix it. 

And then I have some ones that have been with me for a while. I had a student in Singapore for a while and in London, all over the U.S. I taught a guy in Nigeria a little bit and yeah. So, it’s been kind of interesting, especially this year because with the new internet thing, the Zoom, you can teach anyone and is becoming kind of normal. I think a lot of people will continue liking that as well because it gives people access that might not have a nice music school locally.

Kathy: Cool. So, that little guy in the photograph, were you about five years old or so?

Daniel: Yeah. I, actually, I had to beg my family to let me play for a whole year before I played. I started when I was six. So, I would have been probably five in that photo, yes.

Kathy: And who was your teacher when you started, Gyongyi?

Daniel: Yeah. It was Gyongyi. And it was at the school.

Kathy: Oh, okay. That’s fantastic. So, would you consider her sort of a formative figure in your life? Or…

Daniel: Oh yeah. She was also a really motherly teacher. She was extremely nurturing. And she provided me with a lot of… I mean, she obviously started me from scratch on the violin so that was my fundamentals, but she also, over the years, gave me other opportunities as well. 

Even after I finished studying with her, once in a while, I would get an email or something to stay in touch from her. It would be a thing that led to something fun or cool to play at. And she also got me into this really cool other program that I believe is still around as well, but I played with them a few times called Inside the Orchestra, which was also the first time I got to play as a soloist with a small orchestra, which was really cool as well. It was cool for me. And I think it was really interesting for these schools that they will go to, to expose a lot of kids to music.

Kathy: Well, your path is really interesting. And one of the reasons we wanted to chat with you was because our intention, when we created the school was to have access really, so anybody of any age or any ability or financial circumstances could come and access music. So, we wanted that, but we also wanted to have a path for people like you who decide to choose a career in music. So, you’re sort of our shining example of how that can really happen. There are a few of you, but–

Daniel: I hope there continues to be many more.

Kathy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, thanks again. So, you started with the violin, then you gravitated toward viola? Or how did that happen?

Daniel: Well, there was a bunch of saxophone in between, actually.

Kathy: Really? I didn’t know that.

Violin, Viola, and… Saxophone!

Daniel: And also, with Steve Christopher. I did a lot of those jazz ensembles as well. He started me on jazz as well. So, I played violin… viola actually… So, I played violin for, I actually don’t… it was probably either 8, 9, 10 or 11 years. I don’t remember how many years it was before I picked up the viola. And my violin teacher… By then, I had moved. 

I studied with another teacher eventually, Britt, and she told me that I should learn some viola because first, I had really long arms and then also because she’s like, “It will help your sound in violin.” And I resisted for a while. I thought, “Oh, I don’t want to be a violist.” And then I played it. 

She set me up with another really good teacher that I had, Matt. And he sent me to a summer camp in Massachusetts, Greenwood. And then I fell in love with playing viola in a string quartet. And so, then I proceeded to go ahead and just apply to colleges for viola the next year. So, that was the end of my junior year of high school. 

So, that kind of happened suddenly. And I just went for it. And it was cool. So, that’s how I ended up doing viola, was just… not totally by chance, but to me it felt like by chance. I just ended up really liking it. I liked the dark sound. I’m a big fan. I love string quartets. That’s just my favorite thing ever.

But rewinding, before that for a while I picked up saxophone in middle school and played in jazz bands and stuff for a while, both inside and outside of school and at the Center. And I found a really cool saxophone at my grandpa’s house, actually. It was a silver 1920s Martin saxophone. So, I played that for a while. Super lucky. He probably bought it at a garage sale at one point.

Kathy: Are you still playing sax at all?

Daniel: I have to say, I don’t really play so much anymore. At a certain point, I kind of had to focus. But at some point, I would bring it back, but it’s hard. I have to carry around either one or two instruments most of the time, so a third one is not always in the cards.

Kathy: This is cool. I did not know about the saxophone thing, but–

Daniel: Oh yeah. Surprise!

Kathy: Surprise. And Steve Christopher is amazing. And he still–

Daniel: Yeah. Well, my brother and I… Part of it too, is I think Stephen and I, we played together a lot. We played basketball together. We played sax and trumpet together. And sax works a little bit better with the trumpet than it does the violin. 

So, we did both. We used to play, when we are traveling, if we were traveling on Christmas or something, we would play Christmas music in the airport. One time, the flight attendants thanked us and gave us the free TV cards for on our plane, back when you watched TV on the plane, you know?

Kathy: Yep. Well, back when we were on planes. So, no.

Daniel: Yes. Back when we were on planes.

Kathy: So, for anybody reading or listening to this actually, we should mention, and maybe we’ll get to talk to Stephen too, but he is a professional trumpeter and currently… oh, you might have to help me with this, but in the Air Force band based in Omaha. Is that correct?

Daniel: Yeah. He’s in the… I think it’s called the Heartland of America Band.

Kathy: Heartland of America Band.

Daniel: And based in Omaha. Yeah. He’s the Air Force.

Cross-Genre Improvisation

Kathy: Yeah. So, yeah. It’s pretty cool what’s happening with the fam. So, I want to go back and ask you… Somewhere it was mentioned that you do cross-genre improvisation. So, do you want to talk for a second about that? Or does that involve the sax too? Or just your violin and viola?

Daniel: That does not, but it was a little bit… there’s some of that kind of in there. So, that was something I always really liked. I kind of had to pick, at least when I was in high school, or I was kind of told I did. I was guided to pick by one of my teachers, “Spend more time practicing violin if you want to do this.” And I’m like, “Okay, that makes sense.” But I always loved that part. And I didn’t realize that I kind of missed that a little bit. I kind of missed that a little bit in the really traditional classical path that most people take, going to the conservatory, practicing a lot, playing all of the music and stuff. Anyway.

So, then several years ago, when I started my master’s, I was looking for a job to take while I was studying. And so, I ended up getting a job at the Kanack School in Rochester with Alice Kanack. And she has this entire program that she does that kind of works with Suzuki, I guess. And it’s called CAD, Creative Ability Development. And it’s kind of a thing that she uses to supplement and also teach people with. But it involves a really, really open form of improv, basically just kind of teaching your brain to be more creative. Anyway. More on that. 

But originally, it started with… she made these string quartets improv… Anyway. So, I got hired at this job and then I was also supposed to teach this. So, I did her teacher training workshop and then it really clicked for me and I really decided I liked improvising as well. So, I kind of went down that a little bit, just along with doing everything else at the time. And so, I taught improvisation for a bit. I teach an adult improv class. Not so much this year. They’re doing some stuff, but it’s on Zoom and I’m not teaching it. But when it was in person, I was teaching this course.

But I also met some other people doing this that really liked to improvise as well. So, along the way, I performed a couple of improvised string quartets and such. And for me, I really just enjoyed being on stage and just completely… we would just start with completely nothing and then just play. And it was actually an audience favorite in that particular concert. So, that’s something that I’m kind of looking to do more of in the future. I still kind of only do it a little bit because, at the moment, I have a lot of other things that I also need to play. But that’s something that I think is super cool.

I mean, it’s kind of a really strange thing. And it’s different than jazz as well. It doesn’t have to be. I mean, a lot of people go from doing this kind of stuff and you can just kind of apply it to anything. But my favorite is just completely aleatoric string quartet. So, you just start and someone starts playing something. You can go with any amount of structure you want. You can add it or you can just play with that. But I found that just doing those kinds of things allowed me to play other genres, if I wanted to go do it. I don’t feel…

When I was young, I would occasionally go… I used to perform on the street a lot. And there was one of those guys that rides a unicycle and juggles knives and torches and stuff. And he’s like, “Why don’t you play with me? Let’s join acts.” And at the time, I was like, “…” and I’m like, “What do you want me to play?” And he’s like, “Just play whatever you want. Make up some music that would go with the show.” And at the time, I was just like, “Oh.” That kind of threw me off the deep end a little bit. Versus now, I would say, “Sure, let’s do it. I’ll just make up some music.” I think it’s cool.

A lot of the other things that I’ve done along the way, including playing jazz and also going to Eastman, they had a really big emphasis as well on certain types of improvisation and things. They kind of really kind of pushing that stuff. But all of those were a little bit more rigid. So, going and taking this really free form thing and then being able to join all this stuff kind of let me put it all together. And now, I’m pretty comfortable. It may go well; it may go weird, but I’m comfortable going on stage and just doing. It’s pretty cool.

Kathy: “It may go well; it may go weird.” I’m going to quote you. I think that’s great.

Daniel: But weird is sometimes good, you know?

Kathy: Oh yeah.

Daniel: I regularly find myself in our quartet rehearsals and someone will play something, like Blake or Martin, the second violin… the cellist, I’m like, “Oh, can you play that a little bit more of a weird sound?” And then I like that. 

Kathy: Yeah, yeah. Maybe we can entice you to come back and do a workshop next time you’re in Colorado or something like that.

Daniel: Yeah. That would be cool.

Kodak Quartet

Kathy: I’ll be pondering that, that’s for sure. Tell me about your quartet. Are you pretty busy? 

Daniel: Right now, we are less busy, but different busy. So, well, we have an exciting announcement coming soon. I can’t say more than that. But our social media has been a little quiet lately. But we have something exciting coming up. I’ll leave it at that.

But in general, yeah, we rehearse an average of like four hours a day or sometimes a little bit more. We’re trying to do more now, I mean, as people’s schedules permit because we have time and we want to… we have some stuff planned for next year that we’re really cranking down for, but this year is a little bit less busy. We’re mostly preparing for videos and livestream type of stuff. Some project like that.

We were offered an album distribution deal in the fall, the most recent fall, last Augustish. So, we haven’t fully picked what we want to put in the album for that. So, that will be on the docket as well. We wanted to spend a little bit more time working on some other things before. That will be for a contemporary… they want a contemporary album. So, that’s on the horizon as well.

We’re just rehearsing a lot. Just trying to sound like a group. I really like it. It makes you better because you’re always listening. The way I think about music has kind of fundamentally changed. We got a new member in the summer and we played… Before that, we’ve been playing as a group for a while, but we really kind of seriously started in the last year. So, we really kind of kicked up the amount of rehearsal and are just going full-time. So, I do that in addition to teaching and whatnot. But most of us, we’re all doing a lot of teaching as well this year since concerts… We’re based in New York. In New York, it’s not legal yet to advertise ticketed events. So, you have to be pretty creative with what you do. So, you can do streams and play people’s fundraisers and make videos and et cetera.

Kathy: Yeah. It’s been a year for sure.

Daniel: It’s been a very weird year.

Kathy: Very weird.

Daniel: I miss traveling. I used to play in a, well, I presumably still will once it goes back to happening, but in an orchestra in Cleveland and whatnot and I also used to freelance in some other cities as well. But most of that is kind of calm this year, which leaves us a lot more time to rehearse for the quartet, which I kind of saw that as an opportunity.

Kathy: Yeah. Well, one good byproduct of the pandemic, that sort of thing is happening. So, backing up just a little bit more, what made you choose Eastman? Or I’m imagining you applied to a bunch of different places? Was it the teacher you were interested in? Or…

Daniel: It was both the teacher and the environment. Yeah. So, I mentioned Matt, who was extremely crucial in a really transitional time for me. Really, really helpful teacher. So, after I got back from that summer camp and said, “I want to do this. Is that even possible?” He’s like, “Well, I think so, if you work.” And I was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” So, then I went and I visited some schools and I took some lessons with a couple of well-known teachers and I really liked a lot of them. I… well, I better not say too much of what I like, but I got along well with a couple of them. And one of them ended up… I don’t know. Anyway. I was told that it would be great for me to come to the school. And then I went and took the audition. And it was good. I really liked it.

Also, one other thing that kind of went into it a little bit is… so, I actually have relatives who live in Rochester. I have my dad’s side grandparents and my uncle. And growing up, I didn’t really get to see them too much because it’s a pretty long trek to go between Colorado and upstate New York. So, that was also just a really nice byproduct of doing that. And especially then once I had started my master’s and got a car, I was able to go see my grandpa quite a lot more, which is something really cool that maybe a lot of people don’t necessarily get to do before eventually moving to wherever I move on to next.

Kathy: Yeah. That’s really great. That’s cool. I didn’t know that either. So, this is fun to learn all this stuff about you. So, do you want to tell us a little bit about your instruments because I understand they’re pretty interesting?

Daniel’s Viola + “The Instrument Finder”

Daniel: Oh, I would love to. So, I have two wonderful instruments that I get to play. One is my viola. It’s made by Nicolas Augustin Chappuy. It’s from 1768. And so, it’s made in Paris and it’s kind of… it’s 16 and a half inches. It took me a really long time to find a viola, actually. I actually started with bows. Along the way when I was an undergrad at Eastman, I went and I played a competition. I was off at that. And there was also a big instrument exhibition there. It was in the Viola Congress thing. And I met a guy who showed me some extremely nice instruments. And I was like, “Wow, what is this? I have to have this. How can I get something like this?” And then he told me the price tag of it. And I was just like, “Ooh, I guess I need to find a sponsor or something.” It turned out you can find instruments. This one was like well over a half-a-million-dollars instrument. I’m just like, “Wow.”

Kathy: Oh my god, okay.

Daniel: It played amazingly. I loved it. So, then I kind of started. And I had just kind of been looking for a bow too. So, I had just tried at least a couple hundred bows. And I kind of started getting really into instruments as well. So then I kind of progressively was just in the back, kind of just keeping an eye out for instruments.

And then a few years after that, I was playing at a summer festival. And my teacher at the time, Masumi, said, “Oh, I think you need a nicer instrument now.” And I was like, “Okay. Awesome.” So, then I picked it up and I spent about like a year or a year and a half at least going around playing all the instruments I could find. 

Violas… I wanted to find something old because I liked instruments that have kind of a personality. You need that kind of really textured sound in the center, especially for a quartet, especially with a viola in a quartet, because you’ve got the bass is much lower than you and you’ve got the violins, which is much higher. So, you need something that really kind of projects right out of the center and kind of glues everyone together.

And so, I was traveling around. And I was in New York. I was in the city. And I was at a contemporary instrument exhibition. Then I met this guy. And he described himself as an instrument finder. And he’s like, “Oh, I’m retired, but I still do it occasionally for people that need help.” I think he found the instruments for some of the people in the Met and some other things like that. You meet all kinds of random people when you’re going… I love it. I miss that. I’m looking forward to this year kind of… But anyway, back to this particular story.

So, I met this guy and he’s like, “Well, if you don’t find anything here, give me a call. Here’s my number. I found something that might be what you need.” Because I had just told them, “I’m looking for something with some age that can actually hold its own in a quartet.” And he’s like, “I might have found something. It’s in D.C.” or Maryland or something, right around over there. And so, I finished the exhibition, called him, and he’s like, “All right, I’ll get it sent to you.” And then I got a call from the guy who owned it. He had just gotten it from an estate from a lady that had this and like a violin, a Strad or something. And he sent it to me and I played it.

And at first, I wasn’t actually sold on it. I was still trying some other ones. And then I played them in the hall and then I got it. And I was like, “Okay, this is good.” I decided to get it and start negotiating for it. And then I got it. 

I decided on this instrument. And then along the way, it actually turned out it needed a lot of expensive repairs. It needed a new neck block. The neck started sinking because these old instruments, there’s tons of stuff with them. But then that got fixed. And nothing really critical; just kind of it had been in someone’s possession for a really long time. And yeah. So, I got some work done. Got it fixed up. And it sounds really, really nice. I really like it. Yeah.

And it basically, it has a really dark sound, especially for a French instrument. Sometimes the French instruments are kind of a little brighter, but this one is… it’s got relatively thick ribs, I think. Yeah. That’s kind of the story of how I found this particular viola. And then I had a really nice bow that my grandpa had given me before he died, actually, that sounds really good on here. And so, I’m all set with that for now, which is nice.

And then the violin is loaned to me. And it’s from the 1860s. It’s an unnamed Italian. And it also has kind of a dark sound because I like that. It’s just really nice. It’s very resonant. And it’s pretty worn. It’s very well-loved. I like to play with just a sponge or something. And when I put a rubber band on it to put it on, I have to put it over the top because the corners are so worn down on it. But it’s been played a lot, I think. Actually, before I had it, a friend of mine had it loaned to him. So, I got to choose that one out of a bunch of instruments that were options to borrow. And I’m extremely fortunate to have that.

Kathy: Yeah. Well, thanks for telling us. That’s really interesting stuff. For a non-musician, if a non-musician happened to be listening to this, how would you describe a dark tone? I mean, for me as an oboe player, it is a different thing, I think. Maybe not.

Daniel: Oh true.

Kathy: It’s not so much different than a string player, but when I think of a dark tone, I think of a rich, round, non-nasally toned oboe. Just a beautiful… yeah.

Daniel: Yeah. That’s also what I would describe a dark tone is… You hear, especially with something like violins and violas, you can hear… violins, they can either be kind of shrill or dark. And violas, some sound whiny and some sound really tubby. So, mine is kind of… it’s dark and rich and round like that. So, the sound kind of has a bloom, but it also, it keeps a focus in the center. So, you can hear the kind of woody, old sound. 

And that’s the part that actually projects in the hall. In a smaller room, the big, round sound… that goes out too, but the kind of woody sound that’s just kind of cushioned by the round, warm… I always thought of it as kind of a fruity sound. That’s actually why I liked the… it just sounds like… it sounds like a nice, sweet strawberry kind of.

How to Listen to Daniel

Kathy: Oh, that’s a great way to describe it. If somebody’s listening or interested to hear you, do you happen to have stuff on your quartet website? I’m sorry, I didn’t look this up, but…

Daniel: Oh, no, that’s okay. Yeah. So, we do. We do. We have some videos on YouTube under our quartet’s name. I’m sure there’s some videos of me kicking around as well. There will be more soon. I’ll be recording probably later this year. 

I had one that got canceled unfortunately. I was going to play the Penderecki Viola Concerto, but that got canceled last year. But there will be more. 

But if you want to see it, you can follow our social media. Kodak Quartet on Facebook. There will be announcements of new things. Not all of the videos are posted through that though. You can also go to YouTube and subscribe to the Kodak Quartet… not “the.” Just “Kodak Quartet” YouTube page. There will be more videos coming there soon, as well as our announcement. And our website is kodakquartet.com. And you can get on the email list for announcements there.

We are currently in the middle of overhauling the website, so I don’t actually know how it looks right now. It’s getting some pages added, a donate page and a list of sponsors and stuff like that. So, if you really want to support, you can become a patron or something as well. All of the support is what keeps all of these organizations in the music world existing. So, thank you, all you wonderful, generous people that keep [the Center for Musical Arts] and us and all the other performers able to do this.

Kathy: Yeah. I hope we can expand your fan club a little bit or a lot.

Daniel: Yeah, yeah. So, you can follow at any of those. And there’s videos up already and there will just continue to be more. And you can follow mine too. My YouTube has a few things, but not a lot yet. So, I’m working on that. We all kind of got dumped into the digital age this year.

Kathy: Oh yeah. I hear you.

Daniel: It’s coming.

Daniel’s Advice for Music Students

Kathy: Yes, it is. So, just one quick two-part question. Last two-part question. So, what is one thing you would say to a young student at [the Center for Musical Arts]? Young, not quite formed yet. Would you have any advice for a kid like that?

Daniel: Well, I would probably first ask them what they want to do and then I would go from there. If they decide that they wanted to do music or if they knew… I knew pretty young. I’d tell them, “Never fake it.” No, I’m just kidding.

Kathy: No, I agree. [laughs]

Daniel: I’m not totally kidding. I would tell them that too. But I would say… you’re going to have to let me think about that for a second. It’s very important what we tell young people.

Kathy: It really is very important. And the second part of that question really would be, what would you say to somebody like you, who’s getting ready to audition for college and wants to be a music major? Might not know exactly which direction they’re going in music, but they know that’s the path ahead of them.

Daniel: Well, I guess I would tell… There’s one thing I would tell both of them, is I kind of wish that… I didn’t know this, but I didn’t really know it until much later, but just remember that you can learn from everything and everyone. Just be a sponge. So, you don’t have to find people that are better than you to learn from. “Better than you.” You don’t have to… you can learn from… try to learn from any single person that will help or listen, at least at first. That’s what I do. And when you go in with that kind of open thing… listen a lot. Listen to what you like. And then listen to other things as well. Just, listen, listen, listen to a lot of music.

And then this is for the person applying to college now. If you’re applying to college to go to music, do your best to… well, some practical advice. I mean, if they were my student, I’m going to give them all the practical advice to reach out to the teacher. That’s easier now too because if you aren’t able to travel and meet them in person and take a lesson, which is prohibitively expensive for some people, now it’s acceptable to do a Zoom lesson. Do it. Take the time. Email them. Reach out. Super important.

It’s important who you are as a person as well when you’re an artist, because people look to artists and musicians for kind of a break from their… monotony of their daily lives or whatever. You know what it is?

Kathy: Yeah.

Daniel: People look to art for something that makes them whole. And this has all kinds of art, all music, all everything. So, just if you can try to embody that, it’ll be healthy. Do that.

And then for the young one, just you know… what do I tell my young ones? I have a few really awesome really young students I’m excited about, but I don’t have a lot of really young ones. I do more of older people and adults, but I have some young ones that I really like. Let me think about that.

Kathy: Well, I’ve heard a lot of wisdom so far, so keep going.

Daniel: All right. I mean, everyone needs to hear something a little bit differently, I think. But generally, just stay focused and work really hard. And maybe if they can find someone that can also keep them honest because everybody has times when they want to do something else.

And also I would say to a young one, and I do say this to young ones, is whether or not you think you want to do something all the way like music, of course there’s a lot of people learning music that don’t necessarily want to become musicians, and it’s still super important that they can still study and play music and actually commit to it because the things that you learn from doing that will really benefit you a lot later. I do tell this to some students. I have some students who don’t want to do music as a career, which is fine because music is a very competitive, difficult career, at first at least. It’s also super fun and incredibly rewarding. I have no regrets, but it’s something that you want to commit to. And it’s not for everyone. And even if it’s not, you should still work hard and do that. It’s a great opportunity.

This is what I’ll tell them. I’ll tell them they have an amazing opportunity to be able to study. And you don’t know how many people I meet that are adults and say, “I would have given anything to study and learn the violin or the trombone or this when I was a kid.” So, if you’re that kid that has the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn this, just take it and run with it. Take it for as much as you possibly can because you are extremely lucky to be able to do this. Whether your family is enabling it or the school is enabling it or a generous donor is enabling it or a generous teacher, anyone, just take it and run with it because there’s so many people in the world who have just told me, they’re like, “I would have loved this.” I get a lot of… I see a lot of adult students. And I like to teach these people as well. They’re like, “I always wanted to play as a kid. My kid is off to college. Now, I can finally do it. Am I too old?” And I’m like, “Of course not.”

Kathy: Nope.

Daniel: So, that’s what I would say to the young ones, is… I think that that’s probably the most important, is just basically be grateful for your ability to actually learn it. It’s a real privilege. And it’s a real privilege that I had that was 100% a gift to me from other people. 

When I was five, I had no real ability to totally make that happen for myself. I was just extremely fortunate to be given that opportunity. And then I get to do what very few people do, which is live their dream. The kid who wants to be a firefighter when they’re in kindergarten, grows up and actually gets to be it. I wanted to be a musician when I was six; I got to do it. I want that for everyone.

Kathy: I want that for everyone too. You’re awesome. Oh my gosh. We’re going to be quoting you, I guarantee it.

Daniel: Okay. I’m sometimes a little bit long-winded because I–

Kathy: No.

Daniel: … I don’t always know exactly what I want to say at first, but hopefully that is, I’m happy, that’s what I would say to those.

And I would want the person applying to college to remember this too because if you do go into music college, it can be pretty hard. There will be something there that is hard for you. Even if everything up to then… you will get your butt kicked. And it is good for you. But remember that, don’t lose your love of playing and such. I do know a lot of people who… you know, yeah.

Kathy: Yeah. A lot of things can happen along the way, but yeah, hang on to it. I totally am with you. 

I’m going to let you go. You’re awesome for taking all this time with us. And I think when you look back or listen back at what you’ve said, you’ll be amazed by yourself because I am.

Daniel: Oh, I hope I didn’t say anything embarrassing, you know?

Kathy: No, no, no, no, no.

Daniel: That’s actually why I play, is I’m much more comfortable behind the instrument generally, I think. [laughs]

Kathy: Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t that awesome?

Daniel: Yeah.

Kathy: Okay, Daniel, I’m going to let you go. And I thank you so much. You’ll find a link to this somewhere. I think will be on our website or… I’m not really sure where our genius marketers are going to put this. But we’re thrilled and we’re really proud of you and it’s just pretty cool.

Daniel: Well–

Kathy: And it’s also a little sobering because it was a long time ago. And now I look back and I see little teeny ones doing what you’re doing and it’s amazing.

Daniel: Yeah. Well, I have to say just the organization, you guys have done an amazing job. It’s really grown. When I started at the school, it was small. It was just… I don’t know if it was just starting at the time. I think it started sometime around then. But you guys have done a pretty remarkable job at your mission.

Kathy: Thank you.

Daniel: I’m pretty impressed. I did some looking at it recently. So, keep up doing the important work.

Kathy: Well, thank you so much. And we’re going to get you back because I’m really interested in your improv stuff really, seriously. So, if we can get you back, that would be really great.

Daniel: All right. Yeah. Just be in touch. We’ll talk about it.

Kathy: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day.

Daniel: You too.

Kathy: Thanks.

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