Kenneth R. Anderson

My Musical Journey

My earliest memory of being interested in music is of listening to my mother play the piano. I can remember once sitting next to her when she played when I was around 5 and being fascinated by how a bunch of squiggly-looking marks on a piece of paper could be translated into the beautiful sounds that I was hearing. I guess I asked enough questions that my parents decided that I should have piano lessons. I started shortly after that, and continued until 3rd grade, when I quit. I don't remember why, exactly. When I was in 7th grade, I realized that I missed playing, and started lessons again. I took it fairly seriously, although I didn't always practice as much as I should have. I will never forget the day when I was in high school and my piano teacher asked me out of the blue if I had started thinking about what conservatory I wanted to attend. I had never thought about trying to have a career in music. I considered it, but decided that it wouldn't be the right thing for me, as much as I loved it. During this entire time, I also sang in choirs, both in church and in school. In high school, I was in a madrigal group, which I loved. In college, I took music theory, and continued piano lessons and choral singing, singing with the main college choir and a chamber choir. One of my treasured memories is of performing the Mozart piano sonata in F major in a student recital. My college had a Bosendorfer, and getting to play it pretty much spoiled me for every other piano!

After college, I didn't have time and energy to keep up my piano studies, although I continued singing in various kinds of choirs on and continued to play the piano myself. I also got into guitar and picked up an acoustic guitar and started to teach myself. I've never gotten very good, but I can strum chords and do some simple fingerstyle playing. I went through a pretty long dry spell starting in the late 1990s and continuing until a few years ago when I stumbled upon an a cappella group called PDX Vox.PDX Vox was started by a very special and talented woman named Marie Schumacher.PDX Vox does mostly pop and rock with forays into jazz standards, folk and world music. Since almost all of my background was in classical and church music, I really enjoyed singing more contemporary music. Marie has really encouraged me to explore all of my musical interests and skills, and as a result, I've started doing some arranging and composing. Through Marie and PDX Vox, I've also had the opportunity to lead a small group, teach a class in basic harmony and to lead a rehearsal. I've found that I really enjoy teaching, conducting and coaching and hope to do more of this. About a year ago, I was invited to join a small a cappella group called the Stumptown 7, consisting of former members of PDX Vox. I'm the lone bass/baritone in the group. I've been doing some small solos which is another new challenge for me. I don't have a great solo voice--I'm more of a solid ensemble singer-- but it has been a good experience to try soloing and it has pushed me to learn more about vocal technique and to learn to make the most of what I have. Stumptown 7 has started doing some low-key gigs - we sang at a retirement home last week, and next week we'll be the entertainment at a fund-raising event for the Columbia Land Trust.

Music and Computer Science: The Unexplored Connection

Over the years, I've noticed that a high percentage of people in computing-related professions seem to have musical talents and interests, and many other people have told me they've seen the same thing. I'm convinced there is some kind of connection between the two areas--that they must both involve some common cognitive abilities and skills. I once thought that it must have something to do with music notation being a symbolic language, but I'm not sure that's it exactly. For one thing, not all musicians can read music, and human languages are symbolic too, but not everyone who speaks a human language is good at learning computer programming languages. I did a quick Google search on this, and didn't find much, although I did come across a reference to a study that showed that taking piano lessons improved spatial reasoning skills in children. I suspect that the music/computing link may involve some sort of spatial thinking ability.

My A Cappella Arrangements

On-line resources for learning about more about music theory and harmony:

Ricci Adams' MusicTheory.net

This is a useful site for learning basic music theory concepts. One of the nice features are the online "trainers" which let you test your ability to read and hear intervals and chords. This is a great way to develop your ear training skills!