By Nancy Perry, Soprano in BCCO since 1998
I think I speak for the whole chorus when I say we adore Eric. He has won us over with his conducting and his warm-ups, not to mention the occasional bowtie. He’s a talented and exceptionally nice young man. I sat down with Eric to see what we could add to our understanding of this charming man.
If you go to Eric’s website, you might want to ask, as I did: Were you a child prodigy?
He has composed an impressive amount of music across several genres, winning many awards, suggesting he must have started very young. He said, modestly, he was not a prodigy, but he did know quite young that he would be a composer.
He attended a charter high school for the performing arts after moving to Phoenix from Ohio where he was born. The high school was academically rigorous as well as steeped in musical education; he learned to play “lots of instruments.”
He especially credits an assignment in his freshman year to compose variations on “Ode to Joy”. Others in his class found the assignment difficult, but Eric was inspired and composed many more variations than were expected. That was when he decided to be a composer.
Before age 8, in Columbus, Eric was not inspired by his first piano teacher. He was gratified, when the family moved to Phoenix, that he could continue with a teacher he still admires today.
After learning to play many instruments and completing his high school education, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, which claims the distinction of sending the highest number of students to study abroad.
Eric earned a fellowship to study harmony and counterpoint at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris. His work there with David Conte provided the link to San Francisco, a move Eric said had never entered his mind until the connection in Paris.
He earned a Master of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Conte. He is now the Director of the Conservatory Chorus.
Eric is also the Director of Music at Transfiguration Episcopal Church in San Mateo, which, he says, is one of his most enjoyable endeavors. He hopes church music, including conducting, playing the organ, and composing will always be part of his career in music.
He teaches music theory and ear training at the San Francisco Girls Chorus and still finds time to sing in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. And . . . his girlfriend is an opera singer named Ellen Leslie, who will be studying in Leipzig, Germany, next semester.
Eric’s father is a minister and his mother a nurse who cared for mothers with high-risk pregnancies. He has a sister, five years older, who is a chemical engineer. He grew up in awareness that vocations can be oriented toward service to others, and that awareness can be seen in Eric’s character.
His parents were divorced when Eric was a child and he remains close to both parents. Here’s a tidbit that caused us to laugh together in reference to one of Garrison Keillor’s radio skits — Eric calls his parents more than twice a week!
Eric’s commitment to composing can be seen in his disciplined approach; he devotes four hours a day to composing. He applies that self-discipline whether he feels the inspiration or not. Some days he takes a run, and he was pretty serious about bicycle riding until he broke his collarbone last year riding down California Street in San Francisco.
As to his work with our chorus, Eric said, “I am completely inspired whenever I get to work with BCCO. The chorus is comprised of people who truly want to be there and love to sing. Their attitude and love toward music is infectious. At the end of the day, working with folks who simply yet fervently love music is one of the most gratifying things I do.”
I polled a few chorus members as to what they thought Eric might do for fun and pretty unanimously people thought whatever else he did would be creative, artistic, or involved in designing something. When told this, Eric mentioned he had considered architecture as an alternate career. But here’s the last word — prepare to be impressed! Eric is, in his own words, a serious pizza chef. Now that’s something the chorus should definitely exploit, I mean explore further.