Happy Monday to all of you out there! I recently asked Neil Patton for an interview, and he graciously said yes. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Mr. Patton is a contemporary piano composer. His website is: www.neilpatton.net. I have been playing through his Hammer and Wire piano sheet music on piano, and I highly recommend the sheet music and CD to all of you out there. Enjoy the interview!
1. A little background…
I was born and raised in Eugene, OR, where I still live with my own family. I started piano lessons when I was five years old, going next door to study with a wonderful teacher who started me on composing right away. In the Fourth Grade, I moved to another teacher with whom I studied through high school. I hated practicing, and I was somewhat tired of playing classical music, or what I called “dead-people’s music”.
Sometime around the 7th grade, I discovered a songbook for my favorite rock band at the time (Petra, if you must know), and I freaked out. I could play this stuff because of all my training. Suddenly I was practicing twice a day. My teacher, bless her, grabbed on and taught me the music in that book, then pointed out how Mozart and Bach used much of the same harmonic theory in their own music. The dead guys weren’t so bad anymore! From then on, I knew that music was my calling.
I went on to graduate with a major in music at the University of Oregon in 1994. I met my bride there (a wonderful flutist) and we’ve now been married almost 18 years. We have two great kids, too. I received a Graduate Certificate in Bible from Multnomah Biblical Seminary in 2000, as well. I teach piano in my private studio and at New Hope Christian College. I have also served part time as Pastor of Worship Arts at Emerald Bible Fellowship since 1995. In all my infinite free time, I perform around the community, as well as composing and recording my own music.
I released a rock/vocal CD in 1998 called Horizon
. Then I started my family, and recording was put on hold. In 2007, I finally released my first solo piano CD, Impromptu
, and had a wonderful time with it. I joined up with the Whisperings community of solo pianists (www.solopianoradio.com
) and began to perform and find a following for my music. I followed that up with another solo piano release in 2012, Hammer & Wire
, which was nominated for 2012 Whisperings Album of the Year, and Contemporary/Modern Album of the Year at SoloPiano.com
. More recently I became a member of Enlightened Piano Radio, as well (www.enlightenedpiano.com
2. How have you been able to use your talent for piano to fellowship with Christ?
As a worship pastor, I work weekly with music in a worship setting, both on piano and guitar. you would think that being a worship pastor and leader would make spending musical time with my God an easy thing. However, some weeks are better than others. I’m easily distracted, especially when there are many musical “balls in the air” during a worship service. Yet there are times when everything clicks, when the congregation is engaged and my work as a leader is done. I’m reminded how blessed I am to be an adopted child of God. In those times I don’t want to stop singing or playing!
Even when I was in high school, there were moments when playing music was a transcendent experience, whether it was Bach or one of my own pieces. Not all of these were necessarily worship experiences, as music on its own has the ability to transport me emotionally. However, there are other times when it is clear to me that God is playing through me and I feel like I’m simply His voice. What amazes me is when others are drawn to Christ through my music, even though most of my popular work has no lyrics. Very humbling.
3. What is the story behind your song “Aerial Geometry?”
Aerial Geometry is a fun one to play! I’m a bit of a frustrated guitarist, and I love finger-style guitar, particularly artists like Phil Keaggy, Michael Hedges, and Billy McLaughlin. They often play in alternate tunings, such as DADGAD, and play with a lot of percussion on the guitar, thumping the wood and slapping the strings to produce harmonics. One day, I got the idea to try and imitate the sound of a guitar tuned to DADGAD on the piano. I recorded my time improvising and then put it away. Maybe a year later, I found the recording and realized there were some good ideas in there. The middle section is the “guitar” part, complete with me smacking the piano. The resulting piece is one of my favorites, and is a crowd favorite at shows, too.
The title is somewhat of a tribute to Michael Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries album. The word “geometry” just seemed to fit the angular nature of the piece. If you google “Aerial Geometry,” you’ll often find some beautiful photography of landscapes from the air. (You’ll also find my video for the piece.)
4. Do you have any plans for upcoming album releases?
Many plans! I am currently working on my third solo piano release. There’s a chance it will be released by Christmas. I have also been (slowly) working on a new vocal album. When performing at coffee shops and churches, I usually blend vocal songs with my solo piano music. However, I don’t have much vocal material to sell at my merch table. I’m hoping to release that collection some time next year. In addition, I have composed a number of worship songs that we use in our church services, and I would like to collect them in a unique CD. Finally, my wife is a fabulous flutist, and I have gradually been composing pieces for us to perform together. Thus a collection of our music should appear sometime in the next few years.
5. Is there anything you would like us to pray for?
Now that you mention it, yes! I am fighting tendonitis and some other old injuries in my right arm. I am in physical therapy, and I am seeing some progress. However, it sometimes hurts to play piano, and I can barely play my guitar. Frustrating for a professional musician and teacher. Prayers for healing and for trust in God’s timing would be Much appreciated.