NEW WORK! Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 45

I am pleased to present my newest composition, which took a lot longer than I wanted to finish. It’s my first piano sonata and is in my favorite key of C minor. As is customary with a piano sonata, it has three movements and is 21 minutes long all total. I hope you enjoy  it!

I dedicate this piece to my dear friend and fellow composer, Jeffrey Brody.


There and never looking back again : How I went after my dream job

Way, way, way, way back in 1974 when I was nine years old, I started to really get into drawing things, objects I saw and things in my imagination. In fact I really loved drawing so much, I ordered one of those aptitude tests from the TV commercials. You know the one with the turtle, the parrot and the pirate. You draw whichever one you wanna draw and then send it in and they tell you if you can be an artist or not. Well I got a high score on it and I wanted to get more involved in doing artsy stuff. Well it wouldn’t happen until I was about twelve when I started taking oil painting lessons, got some of my work in competitions and won some awards. As time went on though, the computer age began and by the time I was fourteen, I had lost my focus on drawing and painting and switched to these fascinating machines.

It wasn’t long before I was programming my own games and things, and eventually got so good with computers I got a job supporting them. The years went by and about fourteen years into my career in Information Technology, the whole thing fell flat. I hated going to work everyday, hated dealing with users — especially the users that always had the same problem week after week. By the time all was said and done I was feeling like that guy in the old Dunkin Donuts commercial.

My last job was working as the liaison between the design department and the IT department at U.S. News and World Report magazine. During the 4+ years there I began to realize where my true passion was, as I watched the designers do their work. I realized that the boyhood love of art and design had been buried by the computer age and now it was digging its way back to the surface. One day while I was at work, I wrote my resignation letter, which I intended to present to my boss on December 15, 2007 and I began doing homework on which design school I wanted to attend. I heard a lot of good things about the Art Institutes so I started looking there. About a month after writing my resignation letter I was laid off with a really nice severance package. The next day I was enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. A lot of my coworkers thought my choice to change careers at that point in my life took some serious balls of steel. I was 42 years old. But I knew in my heart that life is too short to be stuck in a job you hate day in and day out! I needed to do what I wanted to do, no matter what it took!

When I graduated in March 2012, I was pretty sure there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to land a job. I had nothing to show anyone. So, I made a plan and it went like this:

  1. Go into business for myself – launch my own design studio.
  2. Get lots of clients and do some real world work.
  3. Build a portfolio with that client work.
  4. In 2-3 years kill off the studio and get a job.

Well it looked great on paper, and as it turned out — it worked out in reality. On June 1, 2012 I launched Pixelworx Idea Factory, my design studio. I began getting clients through friends and just talking to people. Then they told people about me and I got more clients. Within a year I was taking on medium to large corporate clients and ultimately became part of a startup in my second year as lead designer for a mobile app that has yet to launch (but it’s gonna launch).

In 2013 the biggest question floating in my head was: “What kind of design work do I really have a passion for?” I had dabbled in corporate identity, making logos, web design, and some user interface design. But it wasn’t until I started doing work for the startup that I discovered where my passion lay: UI/UX Design! Man I was having a ball doing that stuff and now I am feeling like I have come a long way in a short time but yet still have a ways to go.

In October 2014 I began looking for a job doing UI/UX. It was a brutal and gruesome trek up the most steep and inhospitable mountain I had ever experienced. Heck getting a job in IT was a cakewalk in comparison. I went on interview after bloody interview; never heard from 80% of them again and as we went into 2015 my spirit began to wane. I did two interviews with a company out in Colorado Springs called Church Community Builder and I had a good feeling about it. But then they flew me out there for this Cultural Fit Day and it turned out to be my undoing. I felt so nervous and unsure of myself, I just was sitting back in the chair and answering their questions as if I was a mindless robot. I liked the people, but I just felt wrong. When I got back to my hotel I was relieved it was over with and I knew deep down it was going to be another failure. Then I get a message from this guy named Nick with a company I had done some mobile UI design work for, he said that if this company in Colorado didn’t offer me the job, that I can fly back home knowing I have a job with his company. No interviews, no nothing – just based on my passion and my work, both of which he was well familiar with.

So in April 2015 I took the position as Lead Designer with Omnilert, an amazing company to work for with amazing people. I get to work from home, more or less set my own hours (as long as stuff gets done) and enjoy working with great people. Best of all I am doing everything from visual design to UI/UX to web design and even dabbled in some large format stuff. I love my job, I wake up everyday thanking God for this job and I put forth my 100% because I know I will get 100% back in respect and support. So the four and a half years of school was worth it, working my tail off and running my own business was worth it, and dealing with the horrible experiences of interviewing with people who wouldn’t just give me a chance to amaze them, was worth it. My boss appreciates me, has faith in my abilities and he gave me the chance I was asking for and hasn’t regretted his decision to bring me on board (at least that’s my hope).

Memories of an Incredible Sister

Ten years ago today my only sibling, my sister Kelly, was hit by a drunk driver and put into a persistent vegetative state due to severe head trauma – she passed away from a kidney infection on March 7, 2012. Today as I remember her, and the wonderful person she was, I wanted to share some of my fondest memories of her…

Kelly, like me, was adopted as an infant by our two awesome parents. So adoption was something we both shared. There were times we would talk to one another about finding our biological parents, but every time we would I’d ask, “Why? We have two incredibly loving and supportive parents. Why do we need to find our biological parents?” She just shook her head and shrugged. I felt like she wanted to know more than I did. In May of this year as fate would have it, I found my biological family and I couldn’t be happier.

One day Kelly and I were in the kitchen, she was making one of her favorite non-alcoholic drinks: KOOL-AID! She was stirring the mixture in a large Rubbermaid pitcher and singing in a strange voice as she did. She then took a spoon and took a taste to make sure it was mixed, she shuddered and told me it wasn’t ready yet. She continued to stir and then finally poured a glass full of the Kool-Aid. She downed the glass in a few gulps looked at me and let forth the deepest, most incredible, belch! No one I know could ever top my sister in a burping contest.

On July 24, 2004 my sister came down from New York City, where she lived at that time, because we had made plans to see KISS together at Nissan Pavilion. I had been sick as a dog a few days before this, so there was some concern I might not be able to go, but in her usual style my sister just hugged me and told me to “suck it up!” We went to the concert and I remember we were standing in line for refreshments and after Kelly got her beer, she drank it and looked at me with this scrunched up face, and said, “I waited in line that long for shitty beer?” I just laughed. We were fairly close to the stage and could see the KISS members very well. We stood there singing the songs together and it remains one of my most cherished memories of Kelly.

About a month later, I had to make a business trip up to New York City. My company put me up in the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan. My sister called me a few minutes after I got to my hotel and told me she would grab a cab and meet me outside in a half-hour. Thirty minutes later I stood outside at the front of the hotel and here comes this van cab flying up to the front door. Before the cab even stopped moving, my sister popped open the door and jumped out and into my arms. She kissed me and said, “Let’s go!” We got into the cab and headed down to Union Square. We went into a restaurant called the Union Square Cafe. It was a very upscale restaurant, and the food was amazing. I remember Kelly ordering some expensive wine and we enjoyed talking for a while. I covered the check and then we decided to walk back to her place in Chelsea. We walked and took our time as we talked about a number of things. That walk on that warm summer evening is another one of my most cherished memories. I truly enjoyed spending that evening with my sister.

In November 2002, Kelly joined us up in Tomkins Cove, NY for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a great time. Since she was going to be coming back to Virginia with us the next morning, she suggested I drive with her back to New York City and spend the night with her. So we drove down there and I parked my car (which was amazing since finding a parking place in NYC is impossible). We went out to a restaurant, I don’t recall the name of it, but it was like a bar and grill kind of place. We went back to her place and chilled for the evening, watching a movie on TV and then she inflated an air mattress that she had and that would be my bed for the night. We went to bed around 11pm, well more accurately my sister went to bed, I laid on the air mattress wide awake, the sounds of the city and being in a foreign place just was making it impossible to sleep. I have hypersensitive hearing, so I can hear things in greater volume and detail than most people. So I laid there and then suddenly I felt anxious and didn’t feel well. I got up and upchucked dinner into my sister’s toilet. At that time I was still having anxiety attacks which would hit me out of nowhere. So I drank some water and went back to bed. I didn’t fall asleep until sometime after 3am. Then I woke up again at 6, when we had planned to get up. I told my sister I didn’t sleep at all and she hugged me and said, “Okay, that means I get to drive first!” I was so thankful to have such a great sister who was compassionate and supportive. She drove the whole way back to Virginia instead of waking me up.

Sometime in the early 1990s, I can’t remember the exact date or year of this, my sister went out partying and drinking as she often did on Fridays and Saturdays. She went up to Baltimore that evening, partied and I assume club hopped, and then on the way home, she hit up another party in our town. There she just was hammered and then left to come home around 2am. On the way she stopped by Taco Bell (her favorite fast food place) and grabbed some bean burritos, no onions (she wasn’t fond of onions). Well several hours later, I woke up and walked down the hallway and into the hall bathroom, without turning the light on first. As I walked in I felt something under my feet that didn’t seem right. When I turned on the light, I was horrified to see the entire bathroom covered wall to wall in regurgitated Taco Bell. At some point in the early dawn hours, Kelly got up, ran into the bathroom and didn’t make it to the toilet, and puked all over the place. Then went back to bed. I nearly puked myself but there wasn’t anything in my stomach. I just ran down to the kitchen bathroom and took care of business, then went into my parents room and told my Mom what had gone down in the hall bathroom. It’s gross but it’s one of my fondest memories of my sister.

Thanksgiving Day 2002 again. Kelly and I were standing in the dining room of our Great Aunt Genevieve. They had just carved the turkey and had placed it on the table. We just were waiting for everything else to be taken care of before we sat down and ate. My sister absolutely loved the skin on the turkey and would spend time picking away at small bits of skin on the turkey. In fact, I have a photo of her reaching over to pick off some of the skin, as she made a crazy face. One of her dearest friends was a young girl named Rhiannon, Kelly talked about her all the time. Rhiannon was the first daughter of our cousin Cathy. The two of them enjoyed time with one another during Thanksgiving, picking at the turkey, grabbing some olives and just having fun. This is another one of my fondest memories of my sister.

I have a lot more memories of her, but I think that will do for now. Today I celebrate her life by remembering these things. Kelly was a loving, supportive, sister who would give you the shirt of her back. She loved to give more than to receive. In honor of this day I designed a poster featuring some of my favorite photos of Kelly. The blog I created on that fateful day ten years ago is still online as a memorial to her. And now I’d like to write a short letter to my sister – as if she were still with me,

Kelly, how are things? I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to write you this short letter to tell you how much I love you, how much I appreciate everything you did for me. For being my confidant, allowing me to entrust you with my inner most secrets and feelings. I thank you for being my counsellor, for giving me advice when I needed it most. And also for all the good times we had together. I can’t make anymore memories with you because now you are so far away. I hope to join you there someday. For now, I must stay here and just tell you I love you and that it won’t be long, we’ll meet again.

I love you,