Jeffrey A. Gill - Musical Biography
I was born in California the same year that Disneyland opened for business - but I imagine to somewhat less fanfare. As a little kid I remember loving the music played in cartoons on Saturday mornings. Seriously, that was some amazing music! To this day it still surprises me whenever I hear that awesome jazz piano that was played on Mr. Rogers' neighborhood! Poor kids nowadays, all they have is Goofy and the Hotdog Dance!
At the tender age of 8 years old I begged my Mom to let me take piano lessons. The deal was, she said I could have the lessons if I was willing to go across the street every day and practice at the neighbors' house. No problem! I started taking classical piano lessons from a really nice little old lady in Antioch named Mrs. Parmenter and began preparing for my very first recital - where I eventually brought the house down (actually the Fremont Elementary School cafeteria) with a stirring rendition of a piece titled "Dangerous Journey"!
In 1964 the Beatles hit America and like a million other kids my age I instantly wanted to play in a band and become a rock star. Fortunately, I lived near an incredible musician named Larry Murphy who taught music lessons at Webb's Music Center in downtown Antioch. Mr. Murphy taught my friends and I how to play Rock-n-Roll and for about the next ten years I played drums and piano in various bands - for every kind of low-budget event you can think of. We played a pizza parlor "where they served fun and also pizza", school dances, house parties, out in the country on Ginnochio's Ranch, etc. - you name it we played it! The pay was minimal to say the least, but that didn't matter because we got to play together and we learned how to perform and please an audience.
During these years I also played percussion in school band. It's funny but when I think back to my school days in junior high, I am still secretly proud of the fact that as an 8th grader I was chosen "Percussion Section Leader" over all of the arrogant 9th graders. The following year as a freshman myself, I was chosen as the "Best Overall Musician" for the school - which was the first time (and maybe only time) a drummer had received that top honor in East County. Later on as a senior in high school I was again honored to receive the "Most Dedicated Musician" award.
After graduating high school I attended Los Medanos College where I studied under John Maltester and played drums (and occasionally piano) in the award-winning LMC jazz band. After graduating from LMC I headed south to California State University Northridge (CSUN), which at the time was considered one of the top college music program in the state of California. After an intense series of "jury" auditions I was humbled to be chosen over perhaps 50 other top college musicians as the "Principal Percussionist " for the University Wind Ensemble. In 1978 I finished all classes necessary for a BA degree in music - and will get that diploma just as soon as I play my 30 minute senior recital!
In 1978 after college and marriage to my little Dutch beauty Maureneke, I began playing music professionally. I must say over the years I have been blessed to play with some truly great musicians including: Curtis Ohlson (Ray Charles, Buddy Rich), Brett Bloomfield (Doobie Brothers, Starship), Larry Murphy (Mel Tillis, Dolly Parton), Mark Russo (Yellow Jackets, Doobie Brothers, etc.), Mick Mestek (Tower Of Power), etc. In addition to playing with these many excellent musicians it has also been my distinct pleasure to play at many exceptional Bay Area venues including: The Dean Lesher Performing Arts Center in Walnut Creek, The Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Tilden Park in Berkeley, The Grand Island Mansion on the Delta, The Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, Disneyland in Southern California, etc., etc.
Most of my late 30's and early 40's were spent playing drums at Golden Hill's Community Church in Brentwood. I have to say there is nothing better than giving your time and talents with people you love for the glory of God. Honestly, I have always enjoyed playing freebie gigs where I donated my time to play for a good cause, but playing in church serving the creator of the universe really is at a whole other level!
When I was around 50 years old I switched my focus from drums to the piano and I spent most of my time playing standard american jazz. I played a lot doing background music for fine dinning and other special occasions. In addition to playing gigs as a solo pianist, I also enjoyed playing in several different band configurations including a standard jazz trio with guys like Vinnie Angelo on Drums and Ramiro Amador on bass,. I also very much enjoyed playing in a Keyboard/Sax Duo format where I was most often paired with either saxophonist Malcolm Hunter or saxophonist Greg Albright. Both of these guys can really blow and are a pleasure to play with.
In 2010 my wife and I rented a Uhaul, packed up our life and moved down to Orange County in Southern California to be near our ever-expanding family. At last count that family includes four sons, four daughter in-laws, seven grandchildren, four dogs, a cat and a bunch of chickens - seriously, a whole herd of chickens! living with #3 son near Sacramento, California. After fifty plus years of living in one place it was VERY difficult for me to move but as Pastor Rick Warren says, "There is no growth without change..."