Lots of people know me from my Miami-based band PALO! and from my music production work. But before I ever played a note of Cuban music or funk, I was lucky to have learned from so many great teachers. And they all share the same secret: the power of words.
I come from a family of teachers, so I guess it’s not surprising that in 2003 I became a professor of Music Business at Miami Dade College’s School of Entertainment & Design Technology. My mom, Norma, was an art teacher in Dade County for most of her adult life. Her encouragement of my early efforts gave me the momentum to pursue music. And she still knows the power of words.
My biggest influence, mentor, and role model was, and still is, my brother David Roitstein. He’s been supporting and facilitating my musical efforts since I was a kid. David is the chair of the Jazz Studies at CalArts, where he’s built an outstanding program that has produced many successful musicians. What I treasure most about my brother is how he always knows exactly what to say to make me feel good about what I’m doing. He’s a master of the power of words. And his vast musical gift and work ethic are motivational. Dave’s wife Rosy Sackstein and her extraordinary mom, Dr. Rosalina Sackstein, are great music educators and longtime examples for me.
John Casbarro, my first French horn instructor, introduced me to expression, music theory, and tone. My ninth grade band director, Brad Meyerdierks, took extra time to coach me on musicianship. When I attended Interlochen Arts Academy, many amazing educators contributed to my development; I couldn’t possibly list them all. But in particular, Dave Sporny, John Lindenau, and especially orchestra director Byron Hanson helped to shape the person and musician I was becoming. Byron always knew the right words to give me the confidence I needed. Many of his sayings still resonate. That is the power of words.
At the University of Miami, I had many great professors, but the biggest impact was from Jerry Peel, Vince Maggio, Ron Miller, and especially Whit Sidener.
Whit taught me in several classes and was the director of the Concert Jazz Band, of which I was a proud member. An impromptu compliment about my songwriting made me think I might have a future as a composer. The power of words showed the way.
Some of my best teachers are fellow musicians, colleagues, artists, clients, friends, and students. My students teach me every day. Sometimes they thank me or offer feedback about how they’re learning. The power of words reminds me: I must be doing something right.