Notre Dame and My Favorite Year

South Bend, Indiana 1989

Whenever I think back on the best times of my life, I always reminisce to my first year of graduate school at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I was accepted to study piano there towards my Master’s degree in music. It was 1989 and going to Notre Dame marked the first time that I lived more than thirty miles away from my family and childhood home. I vividly remember how the first few weeks were filled with homesickness, but also excitement at the cool new adventure on which I was embarking.

There was no on-campus housing available when I applied at Notre Dame, so the school provided me with a list of people who rented out one of their rooms to students. I was fortunate to have found a lovely woman who let me stay at her very smartly-decorated Victorian house. In addition to my landlady, I shared the house with another grad student from Germany and two cats.

Soon after I settled into my new surroundings and became accustomed to the rigorous graduate program at Notre Dame, I completely fell in love with everything about my experience; the school, the city, and my great, new living situation. All was right with the world.

[Disclosure: In Sojourn, my first album, I named one of the songs South Bend, Indiana, 1989, precisely because I felt the song captured the emotion of the joy and peace I experienced in my first year at Notre Dame].

I fondly remember those times back at that house at Notre Dame, and on those occasions when I had some extra time I would sit on the sofa in the living room with one of the cats on my lap, and I would listen to some of my landlady’s music in her wonderful collection.

It was searching through this collection of music that I came across a recording with the record label Windham Hill. This was the first time that I had ever heard any music from that label, other than George Winston. The recording was called  and I was taken aback by the beauty of the music. It quickly became one of my favorite recordings and to this day, it is still one of my favorites of all time!

While the entire recording contains many songs that to me are priceless gems, there was one selection that would always stop me in my tracks and put my mind into a trance-like state; it was called Greensleeves and was performed by the pianist, Liz Story.

When I would travel, I would play my cassette tape of A Winter’s Solstice in my car on repeat and listen to Greensleeves over and over (and over) again. Sometimes I would even play the song for the entire five-hour drive from Notre Dame back to my parent’s house in Ohio. 

In the end, despite the fact that I was studying the great masters of music in college, it was the music that the artists at Windham Hill and Liz Story created that spoke most deeply to my soul, and started me on a path to try to create music that would have the same effect on the listener as that Liz Story song; that of peace and tranquility.