Membership Spotlight:

James Kocher

I'll forgo the typical biographical anecdotes for this spotlight; I just don't have time to delve into how I was born in the back of a tour bus for Iggy Pop and the Stooges, or my youthful experiences living on a right-winged, Latvian Orthodox commune in northern Mexico. Indeed, there is no time to spend dwelling on the horrific three year stint as a pre-pubescent child laborer in an undisclosed location near the South China Sea painting faces on My Little Pony dolls. Nor do I wish to discuss the events of August 1985, which is also known as the "Summer of Self-Love." No, this spotlight will be of a different sort.

I guess a logical starting point would be the origins of my screen name, Zen Lunatic. Yes, I study Buddhism and Zen Buddhism in particular. Yes, I can be a little nutty. But the term itself is a reference to a Jack Kerouac novel, The Dharma Bums;

"…I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of 'em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures…."

I've been a lover of music all of my life. My first classical record, which I still have, is a well-worn, warped recording of music from Fantasia which featured "Dance of the Hours" on one side and "The Nutcracker Suite" on the other. Also, I, like many of my generation, was turned on to "classical" music via one of the biggest movies ever: Star Wars. To round out my collection, and perhaps my first journey into classical "fusion," was Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds. Each holds a special place in my heart.

As I matured, so did my tastes in music. I 'discovered' jazz while watching The Naked Lunch and was fascinated by the chaotic, dissonant sounds of the saxophone in the soundtrack. My introduction to world music came from Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to Last Temptation of Christ. Come to think of it, a lot of the music I listen to is associated with movies somehow.

Anyway, my collection today spans over 200 CDs ranging from blues, classical, opera, jazz, heavy metal, world music, goth, punk, alternative (alternative to what, I'll never know), and I think one polka CD. My main goal now is to share my love of music with my sons. My eldest, a wiry youth of almost four, knows Beethoven's 5th when he hears it, loves jazz, and will strip down to his underwear and sing "Christine Sixteen" and "Rock and Roll All Night" from KISS any chance he gets.

My first encounter with the cello was in third grade. A girl in my school had brought her cello to the cafeteria one day, and after seeing and hearing her play, I knew that that was the instrument for me. It's kind of like when you meet someone for the first time and know instantly that you'll be friends forever. When I got my chance, in sixth grade, to play, I knew this was true. And as with all friendships, we had our ups and downs. I played through high school and into college, with a brief hiatus to go to boot camp and training in the Navy. Our biggest down was a ten year period when, while going to college, I developed severe shoulder pain that impaired my playing. Coupled with the growing disillusionment of being a music major, I quit playing, vowing at the time to never play again.

But as time passes, the heart forgets previous transgressions of a friend, and only the memories of pleasantries remain. This was the case about 2 years ago, when I saw an audition for cello advertised for our local orchestra. The spark rekindled, I sought out my old friend. I looked into renting, but most of the stores in my area were out or carried cheap, student cellos. I knew I had to buy. Thanks to our lovely chat board, I was able to find an honest and trustworthy person who had a cello to sell. She arrived in my life last February, and with a little fine-tuning, she was ready to go.

The second time around in a relationship, one finds that one's goals have changed. Whereas before I was mostly interested in orchestral performances, my matured tastes in music have led me to purse a different path now. I am heavily inspired by "new direction" cellists such as David Darling, Abby Newton, and Claire Fitch. I enjoy the hearing the cello in such genres as ambient, electronic, and Celtic/world music. My desire now is to play in small, unique ensembles that explore these worlds, as well as jazz and folk. I've played in my first wedding this past January and have another scheduled for March. I'm glad that the cello and music are both a part of my life again, and hope to continue to enjoy the new direction my relationship with the cello has taken for many years to come.

Outside of music, I am the father of two wonderful boys and husband to an amazing woman who actually puts up with me! Vocationally, I teach prep reading and writing at a community college (part time) and design online courses for the Entomology department (full time).

I'm James Kocher, and I approve this membership spotlight.


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