Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m an artist with a very eclectic background. When asked to tell everyone about myself, I am swept away to a moment when my parents were asking me if I wanted to take piano lessons when I was in kindergarten because I was banging on my sister’s toy piano all hours of the day. They picked up the hint well. I studied classical piano all the way through to college when I attended Butler University, Jordan School of Music. I fell in love with other instruments along the way. My Father and Mother never missed a beat. They never said no. They were so in tune to each of my new loves in music. They cultivated and nourished each love in just the right way as if they were growing a garden. They were so good at growing my music garden that I never fell out of love with what was planted and growing. First, it was the piano. My youngest sister had gotten a toy piano for Christmas. She never touched it or at least she never got the chance to play because I was banging on it all the time. For the sake of everyone in the family, my parents arranged for me to begin piano lessons However. before they invested in buying a piano, they planned for me to practice every day at another Filipino family friend’s home for about a year. I needed to trek to another part of the neighborhood to practice each day. I remember vividly my friend’s grandmother. She monitored my practice. She seemed so mean and scary to me at that age. However, that didn’t deter me. If I paused for just a moment, she would begin yelling something in our language to keep practicing. I also faintly remember seeing a slipper or two fly by my head My parents said that they would not force me to do this. Mom and Dad advised that if they saw the first signs of interest waning, they would pull the plug on lessons. Despite the trek to practice piano or fly-by slippers, I was so determined to learn the piano. My interest never waned. My practice time slowly grew longer. But no one dissuaded me to shorten my desire to practice. My younger brother started piano the following year, my youngest sister started piano the following year after my brother My parents saw that there was a genuine interest in music with my brother and sister. Piano was not going to be a love for them. My brother connected with trumpet and my sister connected with the violin. Eventually, Father started this Christmas rotation tradition at home where my brother, sister or myself depending what year would get a new musical instrument or an instrument upgrade for that year.
My next love was the alto saxophone. I was so awe-inspired by the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who were in the band. I wanted to be in band SO, SO BAD that I volunteered to carry their instruments into the band room to store them in their band lockers. I must have a been a sight to behold wobbling into the school with all these instruments. But it felt so good to carry those instruments. I asked the band director when students could start taking band as a class. She said that 4th grade. I was just starting the third grade when I asked her. I was so down about having to wait a year to start band. My parents picked up on that quickly too. The next week I was scheduled to start my first private saxophone lessons. These love affairs with music only grew more and more. My music garden grew to include bassoon, flute, and oboe.
As I mentioned before, my parents were the gardeners for the music garden they were cultivating within me. I remember the day my parents as part of their own self-enrichment started ballroom dance lessons. To help them remember what they learned from class, they would teach my brother, sister, and me the dance steps they learned. My brother and I stood behind my father and my sister stood behind my Mother and we would learn all the steps for each of their classes. Of course, a new love affair emerged. I fell in love with dance. The timing of these ballroom dance lessons came when Disco craze. Soon I found myself teaching ballroom and disco dance classes all over town. My love affair with dance showed no signs of waning. When I saw my first episode of Solid Gold, well, that was it. That led me to discover concert dance forms in modern, tap, theatrical, and ballet dance.
Enter Mr. James Carr. I will always hold him with the greatest respect and honor as my mentor in high school. He was so instrumental in shaping the person I was to become. When he first met me I was an introverted pianist who accompanied his show choir with hidden desires to dance and perform. He was instrumental in my self-discovery of voice and of being a performer. He introduced me to Broadway musical repertoire. He had this magical way of tapping into your inner soul for the much needed self-discovery, that would end up having the most life changing effect on a student. I was so enthralled by ambience that surrounded those in musical theatre and show choir in high school. Mr. Carr had already gathered a small jazz band to accompany the show choir during my Freshman year in high school. We would rehearse during the evenings with the choir. I thought to myself one day, that because I had last period free my sophomore year, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could be the accompanist for the show choir for class credit?! I thought that I would be a shoe in because I was already the rehearsal accompanist outside of school. Well, the choir director had other plans. He looked at me with such an unexpectedly stern, serious face. “If you want to take show choir as a class, then you will have to audition like everyone else.” I was so surprised and taken aback that I could not respond for what seemed like an eternity. My voice quivered when I finally came back to reality and tried to speak. I asked and clarified that I wasn’t asking to sing or perform with the choir. I was just offering any instrumental assistance to the group. He just looked at me unmoved as if to say there was no misunderstanding. In the most emphatic, deliberate manner, Mr. Carr advised, “If you want in, prepare a song to sing for the audition. Choose a time slot on the sign-up sheet and be ready to sing your solo for the audition.” In hindsight, he knew exactly what he has doing. He was working his magic as a mentor and planting the seeds of self-discovery. He was aware of all my growing interests outside of playing in a band. In hindsight, this was his push to get me to cross that bridge and become a theatrical performer. He knew that I was on the precipice of stepping out of my comfort zone. To embrace the evolutionary change I wanted so much, I needed that stern push to do this or forever hold my peace. I committed to do the audition. So, I left the room freaking out. I chose this Barry Manilow song. Ugh. I found a stool that I planned to use as a prop. I started jotting down notes of when to sit on the stool and at what angle. I also jotted notes down when to walk downstage for a more dramatic effect while I was singing. Although this was my very first audition, Mr. Carr forced me to think quickly and utilize inner creative resources that I have never accessed before. All of this awakened something within me that was way beyond my comprehension. Yet, it all oddly seemed quite natural. What was it that I just experienced? What I experienced was own process of self-reinvention as I was shedding my old skin and coming into a new realization of myself. I was no longer that introverted piano accompanist. I was becoming something quite different.
Years later having stayed the course, I made my Broadway debut in a musical from James Clavell’s novel Shogun, which lasted about a year on Broadway. I had lost contact with my high school choir teacher Mr. Carr. I prayed and gave thanks to Mr. Carr on opening night. I did so with every subsequent opening night on Broadway. As the saying goes ‘timing is everything.’ I was in NYC at the perfect time when Asian musicals were on the Great White Way for over 10 years straight. I was fortunate to hop into Miss Saigon for 5 years, then jumped ship to do the Broadway revival of King and I with Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy when offered the dance role of King Simon of Legree. It had a good 2 year run. When that closed, Miss Saigon welcomed me back, this time on its national tour. It would last another 2 years. But I knew this was my transition out of show business as I prepared to embark on a career in law. Years later, Mr. Carr and I found each other on Facebook. I was personally able to give Mr. Carr my deepest gratitude, honor, and appreciation for what he inspired me to be before he passed away.
Two weeks after Miss Saigon closed, I was in my 1st day of law school. Law school was a culture shock. I specialized in entertainment law and quickly found affinity for advocacy of music artists’ rights. As a second year law school student at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, I was fortunate to have authored Digital Compensation: Recording Artists’ Collective Fight for Just Compensation 31. SW. U. L. REV. 701 (2002) published in Southwestern University Entertainment Law Review journal.
But life unfolds in unexpected ways. Near the end of my last semester of law school I became ill. I lost my health insurance. I was so ill, I couldn’t even take the California bar as planned. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t want my partner to get swallowed up with this precarious situation. So, I called my brother in Florida and asked if I could live with him to get this all sorted out. I discovered I was HIV+. The next couple years were spent recapturing good health and getting myself back on my feet. Despite what I had accomplished in law school, my resume was all in performing arts with a small section in education describing my last 4 years in law school. Costs for taking the bar were expensive in Florida. So, I found work doing web design and graphic design work for special events in Florida. I found additional work teaching acting and voice to aspiring artists. I was also able to take a position as musical director and accompanist position for Annie: the Musical for a youth theatre group. Getting legal experience was also of the highest priority to me. Although my plans were underway to take the bar, my offers to volunteer at law firms were rejected. That was understandable given that I was a law school graduate still awaiting practical training. This all changed when I was finally hired by the Department of Children and Families as a paralegal. It was the best first step I could have ever asked for in my legal career because I was able to learn the nuts and bolts of law from the ground up, by being a paralegal for prosecutors. Fast forward 7 years later, DCF was a really good fit for me. I would have never expected that trial practice would be such a good fit, but it was a different sort of theatre that made it a natural segue from regular theatre. I was Division Chief by my last year there. For the next 4 years I joined a private child welfare agency as in house counsel and Director of QA/QI. The agency directly provided services to children in need of finding permanent loving homes and to parents who were also in need of rehabilitative services as parents.
Unfortunately, child welfare’s inherent daily crisis and stress would take its toll again on my health. So, I left. In this period of self healing, I reconnected with the arts. I wrote and designed the graphic art and photo eBook Creating Yourself to Be the Man that You Desire with Courage, Motivation, and Inspiration published in 2016. It depicts my thoughts, poetry, and process of self-healing after leaving the adversarial driven nature of being a trial lawyer.
I also wrote and designed the graphic arts and photo eBook: Thinking of You: For Your Man, Your Boo, or Simply Just You also published in 2016 as a tribute to love. Both books are available on iBook store. After that book, I founded Visionary Quest Records, which would embody a new facet of self-discovery – me as composer of music. Left with just myself and a piano, one’s creative energy will find its outlet of expression of somehow, some way. My music initially had its beginnings in dance but it has evolved to modern classical and cinematic genres. In March and April of 2019, in honor of his Father and Mother, I composed and produced original orchestral works to pave the way for my upcoming orchestral album Tears from My Eyes: Song from Soul released in March of 2019. These original musical works have been published with their full score and instrumental parts on Sheet Music Plus and Score Exchange. They can be found under the following titles: 1) Tears from My Eyes: Remember Your Feelings (For Orchestra); 2) Tears from My Eyes: Reflection and Contemplation (For Flute Choir); and 3) Tears from My Eyes: Mourning in the Rain (For Clarinet Choir). Lastly, in April 2019, Calvendo published the calendar version of Pooch ‘n’ Kitties, which served as the impetus for the book Pooch ‘n’ Kitties: When Gigi Met Mimi.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is Pooch ‘n’ Kitties: When Gigi Met Mimi. My pets have been such a source of healing for me. I was going through a hard chapter in my life a few years ago. During that period of healing, I discovered new dimensions of my creativity that had never been realized or expressed until these past few years. My creative energy is self-driven and so I felt compelled to memorialize my pets’ memories and the love they have shared with me because they have been such a source of inspiration, companionship and comfort, especially with this story in this book. The story is a true story. It has served as a valuable lesson to me that we only have one life to live. Cherish each day, each memory, and each feeling. I was blessed to have experienced this story about my poodle pooch Gigi and a feral kitten named Mimi. When this relationship of Gigi and Mimi emerged, I immediately began photographing and videotaping everything. With all of us growing older, I wanted to cherish the memories of my ‘kids’ before it was too late. I found that memorializing these memories with a fusion of the written word, art and photography was the perfect way to keep the memories and love of my Pooch ‘n’ Kitties alive forever.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Inspiration can come at a moment’s notice. Inspiration can come as an emotional response such as, joy, celebration, sadness or fury. The emotion rises to a threshold where it then must be expressed in writing or in music. When inspiration comes at a moment’s notice, I will do all that I can to stop what I am doing and to write whatever idea or musical expression needs to be written down. There is also inspiration that has undergone a deep long period of gestation before its creative birth. But when it comes down writing the written word or composing music, I will pull these inspirational moments into the late late hours of the night. My most creative and productive times to write are between 12am to 6am.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Authors that have moved me in some profound way include Carl Jung, Carl Sagan, Dalai Lama, Robert Hand, Karen Hamaker-Zondag. I am not sure that they have influenced how or what I have chosen to write about, but they have expanded my horizons in how I view the world.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a book directly related to the music industry for aspiring music artists. The book is about the impact playlists have made on the music industry not only to everyday listeners who seek playlists to reflect the mood or emotion of a given moment but also its impact on recording artists and how they make a living. The goal of the book is to be a resource and tool for recording artists to gain more knowledge about the many playlists that exist as well as the opportunities.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I am following Kindlepreneur.com’s map as best as possible. It appears to be the most comprehensive.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don’t prejudge yourself out of writing what you want to write about. Self-doubt can be one’s biggest obstacle. Yet, it is a self-created fiction that holds us hostage to what. Nothing. Self-doubt can rear its ugly head at every creative endeavor. When it does, take a moment to walk away, get a breath of fresh air, and come back and look at the totality of what you are creating. If it makes you cry or laugh or just makes you smile, know that it will do the same for someone else. You may come back with some constructive edits, but you will have a more fervent belief in what you are creating.
In music, there are listeners who will cherish a songwriter’s music and message. So long as it is played and shared, the music will find its listeners who will cherish its message. The same I believe goes for writing. There are readers will cherish an author’s story and message. So long as it is shared, the story will find its readers who will cherish its message. But before any of this can happen, one thing must happen first. The music and book must be written first. Nothing happens when nothing is written, but the world becomes your oyster once you create.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
When I was in college, I was nervous that I would have to end my undergrad studies prematurely. I confided in my dance professor. “If this happens, I don’t feel that I will be ready.” His response, “you’ll never feel you’re ready. The degree is an artificial barometer of readiness. If you had to go to that big audition for the big show today, you would step up and be ready to audition.” The key takeaway from this was that we’re all ready to do what we desire, to create what want to create, and to face the challenge of the moment when presented with that challenge. Learning is a lifelong ongoing process. We are ready when we want to be ready.
What are you reading now?
I am reading “The Secret Sauce For Placing Your Music In Television & Film: Advanced Digital Marketing Tactics to Help You Score Big” by Marc Fantano. It’s my next goal for my music to get it placed in film and TV.
What’s next for you as a writer?
(See What am I working on right now above)
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
How to Survive on a Deserted Island (Prepare to Survive) by Tim O’Shei
Planetary Transits (Life Cycles for Living) by Robert Hand
Ethics for the New Millennium by Dalai Lama XIV