My first piano was a lime-green upright that my parents found at the dump in our small New Hampshire town. Most of the upper register hammers and all of the ivory had been broken off and it was horribly out of tune. Still, I can remember sitting at that piano for many hours every day playing, composing, and most of all, releasing. By seventh grade, I could hear just about any song on the radio and sit down and play it from memory. I have no idea where this ability came from, but I credit my Mother, who could sing and play beautifully; and my Grandfather, for sitting me down at the keyboard when I was very young.
In High School and College, the piano was a way to become popular–everyone loved the music, and I could always fill a room with drink-wielding folks wanting to try their hand at some old Billy Joel or Elton John song. For me, though, privately, playing became my therapy. The piano has always been my “friend” when I needed someone to listen—and there is an interesting and intimate bond between us: I provide the emotion, tempered through my hands, and what comes out is a musical “image” of that same emotion. Through the years, I have experienced many triumphs and tragedies in life. My music has reflected that, always. I am not confined to love songs if love has done me wrong. I am not confined to darkness when my life is in the light. Music, like the wind, must be free to explore each and every crack and crevice of the mountain over which it blows. It has no boundaries, and thus cannot, and must not be contained. Likewise, I don’t believe that music can be “taught” without a love for playing it. Sure, anyone can learn the notes, but like a foreign language, only the passionate speaker will make an art of speaking it–where the rest of us will just thump the keys. Music is an inward expedition into self. The melodies are just a by-product of the hike. True expression through music comes from linking the hands, the mind, and the heart. Once joined, the player needs only to open the valve, and delight in what comes next. My son once asked me if he would ever be able to play like me—I told him, “You already can.”
I have been a soldier all of my adult life. I’ve spent nearly 3 years deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. For most of my military career, I have been an aviator. Flying is a wonderful experience and the ability to change my attitude in any direction in space amazes me. Like music, though, the hand directs the flight controls. New flight students, probably out of fear and utter confusion, use a death-grip on the controls. The veteran instructor pilot will be quick to show them (to their utter amazement) that the aircraft performs marvelously with the just the tip of one finger. This is the same with music. When the player relaxes, and merely lays her hands on the keys, musical art, like graceful flying, will result.
I became an attorney in 2008. Like so many of us, I suppose I was looking for my identity. Though passing the Bar Exam was one of the more difficult goals I’ve accomplished, I don’t regret the decision to go to law school. The ability to think analytically has added balance to my psyche and I have a sense of completeness in regards to my education and professional development. I actually have a little firm in north Florida and I still take a few cases now and then. But in my heart, I am and always will be a musician.
My family and friends are the only assets in my life that are irreplaceable. My wife and I have known each other since we were 11 growing up in New Hampshire. We “dated” briefly in the 6th grade, but she dumped me for my excess of geek and my lack of cool. Though it took me over 20 years to find her again, we now have a connection that is absolutely sacred. My son is amazing. He is a perfect photocopy of me (complete with all ups and downs) and though I strive to write great music, he is my life’s masterpiece. My three brothers complete a circle in my life that gives me a sense of wholeness. Sharing hiking trips with them or just sitting around (when we get the rare chance to all be together) is one of my favorite pastimes. My Mother is my absolute hero. Like my Late Grandfather, she has invested her entire self into our family. She is my counsel and my friend. I am absolutely everything that I am because of my Mother. My few close friends are a great source of inspiration and drive, and they have been a guiding compass as I have navigated the last decades of my life.
I wrote Longing for Home (Songs from War) during a year-long deployment with the Army for the war in Iraq. Each song tells a story through a soldier’s eyes—and I hope they will become “pictures” for your ears. Pictures that reveal the incredible and unselfish love that soldiers have for their families, and their homelands—as they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for both. Pictures that reveal soldiers are not only warriors, but also poets, and romantics, and artists. Pictures that tell of a time of no more war—when we all come home. So, as you listen, close your eyes, and “see” in your heart what until now you could only imagine—from the fear of a soldier running across the battlefield, the seemingly endless march of time away from home, the brief rise and fall of a desert rainstorm, the promise to return made to a loved-one—to the exhilaration of homecoming with the last few steps of a son into a mother’s arms.
Coming Home will be the final chapter in my “Letters from War” collection. and was written while I was deployed to Kuwait/Afghanistan in 2012. It celebrates the touching reunions that we see when Soldiers are rejoined with their families. It also pays tribute to those Soldiers that return home wounded; and to those who make the ultimate sacrfice and return in flag-draped coffins. For the second time, I had the opportunity to work with Grammy winning Producer Will Ackerman at Imaginary Road Studio along with some of the finest instrumental players in the world.
It is my honor to share these musical images with you here. I hope that you will listen and “see”, always. I hope that you enjoy my music, and that it takes you to a special place in your heart. I truly believe music is one of those unique forces that can change the world. It’s up to us to listen–Peter