I created California Fife Music to document and share my woodwind music with Californians and the rest of the world. I have been playing fife and Scottish flute since age 11, when I started in New England. The regimental fife and drum music I play comes from the European military tradition. The fife (or in Old English: “fyfe”) was played for a variety of reasons, two of which were to (1) provide encouragement for the troops out on the march on in the field, and (2) control the formations maneuvers of the troops in combat.
Nevertheless, the fife was usually played with the drum. However, it sounds great by itself. Much of what I play are English and early American marches from the 18th Century, which includes French, Scottish, Irish, German, and Swiss compositions, among others. I also play contemporary folk music of the American Frontier and pioneering ventures of the 19th Century, and of course music from the American Civil War.
Ingenious Arrangements from the 18th Century Come Alive Again
My public concerts are an opportunity to play my music for all to hear, which also serves as practice for myself. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy the added benefit of advertising my services and ventures, along with accepting donations from those who appreciate my music.
I have been playing for over 20 years, and used to play in Boston Common along with areas in Boston’s Back Bay. When I was in law school, I used to go out to the bridge (where the swan boats pass under) to play my fife after class—even in the snowing New England weather.
The Psychological Effect
Fife music has a powerful effect on the human psyche. It can alter moods, lift the spirit, or illicit a sense of calm, as well as stimulate cognitive function depending on the type of tune played.
Often when I am playing at a public location, such as in Boston or a San Diego park, people tell me they heard me from far off, and followed the music to my location. The overall feedback I receive is that my fife music stimulates positive feelings, made their day, or just sounded beautiful and pretty to listen to.
The historians and ‘patriots’ know it is Colonial music of early American heritage. A common piece I get requested to play is “Garryowen,” an Irish tune for a quickstep dance. It was popular among British, Canadian, and American military formations, as well as a central piece of General George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Calvary Regiment.
My music is unique and sophisticated, which is one reason I enjoy it so much. Not only do I get a natural high of endorphins to my brain—affecting my overall mood—but the special spirit of these woodwind tunes are ancient. They date back to the days of America’s founding, and long before in the days of European military conquests. There is something eerie about the sound, which almost has a spiritual context that brings back memories of times past, invoking DNA memories of my ancestors.
I also meet plenty of people during these gigs. I have developed friendships, arranged business contracts, and met young women to whom I’ve dated. I have always said that if you have gift, if you have something to contribute to this world that ignites the spark of humanity that we all share—then use it!
Life is rich when we be our true authentic selves. Part of this creative venture is to help encourage others to dig deep and be the truly awesome individuals that they are.