Meet the crew
Our list of contributors will always be changing. Right now, these are the folks who are bringing you their thoughts on all these tasty tunes.
The big honchos
Thom Lieb, Publisher and Editor in Chief: A lifelong music lover, I began my professional writing career by doing album and concert reviews. While most of my writing in recent years has been about journalism, music has been a central focus of my life and a key topic in one of the courses I teach regularly at Towson University. In addition, I am a longtime audiophile and still spend most of my music budget on vinyl. This project grew out of my increasing frustration with hearing so much new music but listening to so little of it. I hoped that it would give me the discipline to do much more of the latter.
Mark Sullivan, Editor: Longtime music collector geek, I teach Mass Media and Society at Towson University and Modern Popular Culture at Walden University. I have also taught various courses on the history of popular music at the Smithsonian Institution. I continue to fritter away my time and money on music and other forms of popular culture. But now it’s for research purposes. Sure it is. I also write a blog of my own, Societe Anonyme Inc, built on the principle: “Just Because You Are Old Does Not Mean You Have to Listen to Old Music.”
Jim Laugelli, Associate Editor: I’ve been a music fan for as long as I can remember, but my musical journey began in earnest when I bought my first 45. That record, which by the way was “Reflections Of My Life” by Marmalade back in 1969, would not only begin my lifelong collection of records, it also signaled to me how powerful and important music could be. It has gotten me through the best and worst times, and it has inspired, excited and captivated me throughout my life. I can’t imagine my world without it. And while my collecting has ebbed and flowed, and my taste has shifted and shifted again many times, music has always maintained some sort of presence in my life. I have also participated in a few bands over the years. These days my creative efforts are focused on making art, but through it all, I always set aside time to sit down and listen up.
Kelly Salam, Design Consultant: I’m a mom, a wife, a designer and a photographer. Our home is constantly filled with music and art. That being said, music is not my forte. In fact, I’m often chastised for my lack of music knowledge. Lucky for you, I will be lending my opinion only on design.
Mike Beyer: I am a Chicago-based playwright who has written seven plays. In addition, I write for children and teen theater debate groups, and I belong to several music appreciation groups on Facebook and Yahoo! The first LP I ever purchased was Van Halen’s “Diver Down,” and the first concert I ever saw was Styx in the fall of 1983. I believe the Beatles are the greatest band of all time, and the Kinks may be the most underrated. The best concert I ever saw was Prince on his “Purple Rain” tour. Music has always been a part of my life, and I still enjoy discovering new music and re-discovering forgotten classics. The art of sitting down and listening up is fast disappearing into today’s short-attention span world, which is why I am so excited to be a part of this Web site.
Bruce Jenkins: Although discovering records and popular music rather later than many, I’ve spent the last several decades trying to catch up. This has resulted in a room full of music in various formats. Vinyl LPs, however, remain the objects closest to this 33 rpm heart. My tastes began emerging while working in a small retail shop in suburban Melbourne (Australia) in the early 70s, where extreme boredom with Top 40 sounds led to exploration… Jazz, Progressive, Fusion, Psychedelia, Electronic music, on it goes. The Vinyl Connection blog began in mid-2013 and attempts to shoehorn all those styles into a format that blends straight music writing (about un-straight music) with memoir stories of a music loving life.
Jazzmen Knoderer: My earliest childhood memories involve music. I grew up in a family of music lovers where the stereo took precedenceover television. You can hear music in the background of nearly every home video my dad recorded on his clunky RCA camcorder. We listened to so much music, I thought it was weird to visit someone’s house and hear silence – I assumed something bad happened or maybe everyone was in a foul mood. In my family, music meant mom had a great day at work. Music meant dad was on his way home with a bushel of steamed crabs. Music meant it was Wednesday and grandma didn’t need an excuse to throw an impromptu house party. Music meant happiness. I appreciate all genres and reject the idea of “guilty pleasure” listening. I welcome all auditory pleasure whether it’s The Beatles or Miley Cyrus. As the proud owner of a new U-Turn Audio turntable, I’m looking forward to starting my own vinyl collection and filling my home with the sounds of music, and of course happiness.
Steven Scribner: I’m an (amateur) composer and pianist, currently living in Seattle (I was born here, but spent some time in Japan, teaching English, and in the San Francisco Bay Area). Once, just out of college, I was called a communist for liking classical music (I’m not). I write a blog about music (soundscroll.blogspot.com), mostly about concerts I’ve attended (or played in). My own compositions fall into two genres: 1. Avant-garde extended pieces, often for performers improvising over pre-made electronic parts, and 2. Windham Hill-style piano solos. I’ve also just completed a science-fiction book, which I intend to publish.
Justin Custer: Music has always been and will always remain the central focus of my life. From the things I do, to the people I meet, and friends I make, music has been the reason. I met my wife while working in a record store in college. I started playing piano at age 6, guitar at 12, and formed my first garage band at 14. At first covering whatever we were listening to in the early ’90s, I started writing my own songs and by 16, and I had my first club show booked at the 8×10, a small rock venue in South Baltimore. I will never forget my first time playing on stage to a room of skeptical onlookers, playing songs I wrote, and winning them over to sincere applause. In and out of small-time bands for the past 20 years, I am still playing small venues in Baltimore City with an occasional “mini-tour,” consisting of 10 to 12 nights at poorly attended venues up and down the major cities of the East Coast, often coming home breaking even or maybe with a few bucks left in my pocket. I am often ask why why I continue to subject myself to this life style. Those people won’t understand. I do not play music to seek being successful. Of course, I want people to hear it, but fame isn’t my goal. I play music because I have to. I listen to music because I have to. It is all that I know.
Ron Dietz: I like to think of myself as pretty open-minded when it comes to music, but my passion is classical music. I hope that some of that can rub off on the readers of this site. Music has been a major factor in my life almost since the beginning. I have been an active music listener and enthusiast for more than half a century. I got bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. And I have long been involved in local choral groups, as a tenor soloist and as a director.
Lyndsi Jones: My mom’s favorite childhood memory to share of me happened when I was 3. I don’t remember it, but I’ve heard it enough times to repeat it. My oldest brother, who was 12 at the time, was in his room playing guitar and writing songs for a band he had just started. I may have only been three, but I loved asking him questions about music and listening to the ’90s punk rock he would spend hours listening to. So he was in his room, playing guitar, and my mom went to my room, where I was scribbling on a piece of paper, to ask what I was doing. My answer? Writing a song. They put me in voice lessons the following year. Music has always been a part of who I am, whether that has been through listening, writing, or playing. I may not always know technical terms or put what I’m thinking into words well, but I know what I like (although I’ll always have a soft spot for ’90s punk rock). That same brother and I write songs together today, and I hope it stays that way for many years to come.
Scot McNary: I grew up listening to Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and The Beach Boys, supplemented with ’70s AM radio. I’ve listened to music on 45s, 33 1/3 LPs, and 78s. Recorded and listened to music on 3- and 7-inch reel-to-reel portable tape decks, 8 track, and cassette tapes. Even listened to a wax cylinder once. CDs and DVDs have recently had their turn in the player. Nowadays, I listen almost exclusively to digitally streamed or hard-drive-hosted mp3s and FLAC out of convenience. To earn my bread, I teach research methodology and statistics at a local university. My musical tastes evolved like so: I ran away from C&W music straight to R&B, soul, and funk through high school, sliding into punk/metal afterwards. I splashed in the New Wave after it had already subsided, and then welcomed grunge with open flannel-covered arms in the ’90s. Lots of children’s songs in the ’00s. I have been in a mosh pit in front of the Butthole Surfers, and listened to Andreas Volleweider’s elfish harp-plucking. Although there’s not a lot I don’t like, there’s not much I really love. I have to sit down and listen up awhile to get that kind of feeling.
Amanda Shorr: I still recall getting my first CD player. It was a birthday present when I was in elementary school. I shrieked with excitement when I unwrapped that box. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My passion started as a toddler during weekly dance classes. I enjoyed moving to the melodies and rhythms. I began performing in the community youth musicals and taking piano lessons. In middle school, I joined band, chorus and show choir. I was accepted to the Freehold Regional Performing Arts Center for high school. As I got older, my taste in music expanded and I learned to appreciate all genres. I bought an iPod when I was 15, saw my first concert (Blink 182, Weezer and Taking Back Sunday) when I was 16, and I haven’t stopped going to them since. I can’t think of a single moment in my life that music was not a part of. Now as a young adult, I’ve found a second love of writing. People say to write what you know. Sit Down/Listen Up has given me the chance to do that.
Denise Tillman: My love for music started in elementary school. I’d sit around and write songs. I found writing lyrics to be a good bridge between expressing myself, writing poetry and storytelling. I was intrigued by lyricism because I was heavily into dance. Eventually, I joined the school band and paid more attention to instrumentation. I mostly listened to jazz, neo-soul and whatever music played at the fashion shows of New York and Paris Fashion Week. It wasn’t until 2003 when I started high school that I discovered there was so much more in the music world. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, I didn’t have to rely on digging through my grandparents vinyls and my parents CDs. Since I was older, I actually got to go out on my own and shop for music. I left the band for music production and choir classes. Music is truly an escape for me and I love to be connected to it in some way. Writing about music is new for me and something I’ve been meaning to get into. Sit Down/Listen Up is the carrot on the string to get me going toward that goal.
Steven Wilson: I am a Chicago based theater artist working as an actor, director and educator. I recently earned my MFA in directing from The University of Texas at Austin. I am a lover of music and most genres. There is nothing better then attending a live show. I feel fortunate to live in Chicago and have lived in Austin, TX which are two of the most music loving cities in the world. My all time favorite musical artist is David Bowie. My first 45 was Down Under by Men at Work. My first album was Private Eyes by Hall & Oates. My musical library ranges from Rock to Pop to Punk to Country to Hip Hop to Metal and most things in between. I have so many wonderful memories of live shows but if forced to pick a favorite, I’ll name two. The first is David Bowie live at The Roseland Ballroom (RIP) in New York City. It was a special show for members of his website. He did two sets. The first set was a performance of his brand new album (at the time), Heathen followed by his second set where he performed the album Low in its entirety. The second is Pink Floyd on The Momentary Lapse of Reason tour. Yeah, I know…no Waters…still…it was awesome! I also live on an island with the few select people that believe that album rules so there’ s that …
Carrie Wood: I spend most of my days writing about my other passions in life – comic books, video games, and baseball, to name a few – so I guess it made sense to fill in what free time I have with writing about music. As with most, I can’t remember a time in my life without music. I grew up with the likes of The Beatles and Buddy Holly in the house, thanks to my parents, which then got a healthy dose of trashy pop music in the late 1990s. And thanks to my own experience as a musician, I’ve maintained a good balance between classic rock and new pop ever since.