tyler-trabandPublished in the July-August 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Read this list to see if imaginary background music plays: Vacations. Zoos. Oil. Breasts. Motorcycles. Hospitals. Wisconsin. Neutrinos.

Musician Tyler Traband examined and created sound to fit these subjects, and more. Composing background music for movies and commercials is his art. This artist has as much music in his being as there are birds in the air and fish in Lake Michigan (near his birthplace).

Traband’s life is about sound—and animals. He understands that music supports communication. Read about him here and put some music on … he’d like that!

Q. How did you learn the language of music?
A. As a child, I was always humming, singing, making up rhythms and exploring musical ideas in my head. I whistled all the time! I was always doing music activities at school. In college, I realized how loud the voice inside my body and soul was speaking to me. There, I learned about the language of music, and found others with the same passion.

Q. What was your favorite project?
A. My favorites change often! “Chasing the Ghost Particle,” the IMAX film about neutrinos I just scored, is toward the top of my list. Its music ranges from classical to pop, orchestral themes to electronica—appropriate for giant black holes with synth sound effects right into crazy, gooey sound designs complete with bubbly space noises and explosions.

Q. Musicians need good support systems. To whom are you grateful?
A. All artists need support and encouragement, and I worry about the future. I got to sing or play nearly every day in school. How are tomorrow’s musicians going to learn? I believe in the arts. When we learn to draw, dance, play or sing, we are gaining so much more than just that skill. Leadership, critical thinking, group skills and listening are all enhanced. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Joan Wildman was a huge inspiration. She is an amazing jazz pianist and theoretician. Her passion for the language of music is what got me hooked. I think of her each time I sit down to practice. She helped me understand how to communicate with other musicians.

Q. Connect the dots between music and dogs for us—I understand that you are planning to adopt one.
A. We are in negotiations. My wife, Sara, has been researching and likes the English Golden. We both grew up with dogs. Sara had an Old English and I had a St. Bernard and a Basenji, as well as many generations of great cats.

When I was in high school, every time I pulled out the trumpet our dog Tasha (who was part Samoyed) howled along with me. She sang along with the piano, as well.

We’ve had tropical fish, hermit crabs, huge bullfrog tadpoles, a school of baby bullheads (until we released them) and two giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches. My son wants a leopard gecko.

From 2005 to 2010, Traband composed and recorded the commercial broadcast music for the Milwaukee County Zoo. “I still have the track from the year the zoo introduced flamingos on my iPod, and when it pops on I always smile,” he said. He visits the zoo often with his children. “We know some of the scientists and caregivers, and have close ties with the aviary personnel,” he added.

That makes sense—birdsong is great background music!

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Published in the Nov-Dec 2013 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Sean Callery’s original music is woven through the following films and television shows:
Documentary, “Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche,” 2011
TV movie, “24: Redemption,” 2008
Anchor Bay Films’ “Small Time,” April 2014
Fox’s “24: Live Another Day,” a reboot of the network’s popular franchise
Showtime’s award-winning drama “Homeland”
CBS’ hit Sherlock Holmes-inspired drama series “Elementary” (second season)
“Bones,” the ninth season of Fox’s longest-running procedural drama
Reelz’s “The Kennedys”

Before you meet composer Sean Callery, who is making news in the world of music, here’s a word that might be new to you: electroacoustic. In six syllables is the definition of music made possible by the combination of electricity and sound—sounds produced by humans with musical instruments combined with charged particles produced by machines.

The first known use of electroacoustic music as an art form—taped music (music recorded on a machine), electronic music (pure sound, as in a sine wave) and computer-generated music (sound design that is based on digital programming)—was in the 1940s when taped music was placed into music written for an orchestra.

Callery was born several years after computers found their musicality, but his career was born of the marriage of electricity and sound vibration. He’s been recognized as an artist who understands electroacoustics and brings it to the public in compositions that support popular television shows and films. He said he didn’t start out to combine natural sounds with “machine sounds,” but his goal is always to find a unique musical contribution to the story, for television and film.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Callery studied classical piano during childhood. As a teenager, he educated himself in various musical styles and began playing jazz piano on weekends in local nightclubs. He studied composition and earned a degree in piano performance in 1987 from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Right after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles.

Callery has written the scores for three films and for TV shows such as “24,” “Homeland,” “Elementary” and “Bones.” In 2007 at the Fimucité International Film Music festival on the Canary Islands, in Spain, Callery got to conduct The Tenerife Orchestra and Choir performing a musical suite from the “24” series. He describes it as a “pinnacle experience.” The sound of the choir above the strings in this piece “denotes freedom, mourning, rebirth.” These large themes in sound can be heard at this link: youtube.com/watch?v=_nb6r7xDGzg

MyLIFE: What are some of your favorite sounds in nature and in technology? Any least favorite sounds?
Callery: I grew up in Rhode Island near the ocean, and I love the sounds of water—especially the breaking waves. As an infant, [I had] a lung problem [that] necessitated steam treatments, and I love the sound of steam. As for a least favorite sound, I don’t know if I have one but when I experience low frequencies (below 60 hertz) at very loud levels, I feel nauseous.

composer-sean-callery-2MyLIFE: Is it easier to compose for a television series or a movie?
Callery: The creative process is similar for each—I learn the story, see the picture and put myself into it, to hear it. What differs is timing. For a film, it can take a year or more due to the two or three hours it can take to film a scene that may get cut and re-cut to fit timing, while a TV series has regular deadlines and a methodical flow. What’s interesting is that people are watching TV series in a different way now. Instead of watching each episode over time, they bunch them together and watch marathon-style. It’s called “binge watching.” It is interesting to contemplate how this type of concentrated viewing behavior changes the way the music is received.

MyLIFE: You’ve won three Emmys out of 13 nominations. What does that kind of recognition feel like to you?
Callery: It is extraordinary to be nominated because the Emmys are based on judgment from my peers. The very first nomination, however, will always be probably the most special.

MyLIFE: Do you have an opinion about how music will continue to evolve?
Callery: As long as humans have beating hearts they will have things to communicate, and they’ll be creating music for a long time. The traditional and classical musical forms will continue to co-exist with those of a more experimental and nonorganic nature, and each will grow. There are always fears that technological advances will corrupt the prior time-honored tradition of art and its execution. Years ago people thought we would never have live orchestras on television shows again. However, there are more live orchestral performances on TV now than there were 10 years ago.

MyLIFE: Tell us something new about your life/music/career/philosophy.
Callery: There are two things. One is that if I was not a musician, I would be a cartoonist! The other is that I’ve always been drawn to the term “beginner’s mind.” I’ve worked with music students at a New York university and it’s great to see the creativity that arises from the minds of young students. To me, it represents both curiosity and reciprocity—learning and helping other people is the recipe for long-term happiness.

Every Tuesday morning, Callery plays piano and sings with a Dixieland group in the neighborhood where he lives with his wife, Debbie. They met at the art show of a sculptor and have been married 14 years. “She tutors students from some of the overcrowded schools here in Los Angeles,” he said, “and she is an inspiration to me.”

Published in the May-June 2013 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Property Wars airs on Thursdays on Discovery Channel. Check your provider’s listings for show times.
Property Wars airs on Thursdays on Discovery Channel. Check your provider’s listings for show times.

Discovery Channel’s Property Wars brought reality television to Phoenix. Arizona leads in foreclosures nationwide. Behind the foreclosure numbers and the headlines are real people who have suffered greatly as a result of the economic crisis. For others, however, the situation has presented a golden opportunity. In the case of Property Wars, potential buyers face off in “bidder” rivalries as homes go on the auction block. The show is similar to A&E’s hit reality series Storage Wars.

With the high number of foreclosed homes in Phoenix, the buyers on Property Wars take considerable risks when buying foreclosed houses without ever stepping inside them—you see, they buy and flip auctioned homes all over the Valley. Instead of bidding a couple hundred or a few thousand dollars on a locker (as people do on Storage Wars), these guys are betting hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time, and the bidding wars get very intense.

There are six primary bidders on the show: Doug Hopkins, a Mesa native known as the “King of the East Valley”; John Ray, a longtime player in the Phoenix real estate scene; business partners Steve Simons and Ed Rosenberg, who are from Los Angeles and are looking to make a name for themselves in the Phoenix real estate market; and last but not least, Scott Menaged and Lou Amoroso—the “in-your-face” duo, who bring the big bucks from New York.

caught up with Valley native Jace Johnson, who is John Ray’s business partner. Johnson brings a lot of humor to the show, and having a sense of humor can help to mitigate the negative ramifications that Johnson admits can happen in the real estate market. “[I]f you are not positive each and every day, you will certainly fail,” he said. Being in the industry plays a big role in being successful on the show. Johnson credits his knowledge, experience and expertise as contributing factors to keeping him and Ray on top of the other bidding teams.

Another key factor to the duo’s success is having grown up in the Valley. “The other bidders that are from various other areas are still going to get great deals; however, based on sheer numbers of properties that come to sale, knowing the Valley and growing up here does give me the advantage of knowing all the great pocket areas,” Johnson noted.

When discussing the housing market and what he believes will happen in the next five years, Johnson said he sees at least a 10 percent increase in home sales this year alone. “The Feds are continuing to keep rates low. It would seem very unlikely for them to increase them at a high rate over the next five years. With supply continuing to be limited and demand staying constant, we are going to see housing prices rise. Until they can figure out how to turn off the sun here in Arizona, we are always going to have people moving here at a high rate,” he remarked.

Although foreclosures may not always be so glamorous, Johnson does credit the show for casting a positive light on Arizona. “It shows that our market has done a great job of recovering and allowed a lot of new homeowners to get some great prices on properties. This was a correction that needed to happen nationwide.”


Published in the Mar-Apr 2013 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Consider the human voice. If it could be measured in more than volume, the next best available unit might be horsepower. Horsepower? Well, meet Chelsea Bain. Her voice is a rising star in the world of country music, and it has some horsepower behind it.

Bain was raised in Phoenix, where she says, “I grew up riding horses and singing.” And that’s where the power of the horse first came into play in the life of this songbird. She’s been making a name for herself singing at events in the NASCAR circuit. That’s right: more horsepower.

It will be worth your while to take a look at this YouTube video (youtube.com/watch?v=ktPrQCEYxGQ) Bain made about making a video to get to know her voice and presence before you read how she answered the interview questions below.

MyLIFE: You’re in your early twenties. What have been your creative influences?
Bain: When I was about 12 years old I was presented with the opportunity to show horses. I fell in love with it and have been competing ever since. That took over my life throughout high school. Once I was out of high school, I became determined that it was time to pursue my music career, something I’d dreamt of since before I can remember. It’s been a long road and a lot of obstacles have slowed it up, but I have pushed on through with the support of my family and friends.

MyLIFE: What is your first memory of music?
Bain: I can first just remember singing for my family, ALL THE TIME. Being in the car with me was probably pretty funny when I was a little girl—I couldn’t help but sing every song.

MyLIFE: You’re known as a country/western artist. Do you write lyrics?
Bain: I grew up singing classically actually, but I always knew I wanted to sing country because it’s my roots; that’s what I was raised with. I love lots of different music though. Rock is one that I really grew to love. I have written since I was a little girl. Some of the songs on the album I co-wrote, and some will have come from other writers.

MyLIFE: How did you get involved with the NASCAR circuit?
Bain: My manager had a connection with Coca-Cola, and when they saw me perform they invited me to tour and play their stage at the races.

MyLIFE: How do you envision your career in music? If you were to picture yourself at the age of 80, what would you like to be able to see while looking back at yourself over the years?
Bain: I would like to be proud of what I have put out into the world. I hope to be happy and have seen a lot of things, a lot of venues. Most of all, I want to create a long history of good music and a good influence on others.

MyLIFE: What’s unique about you?
Bain: I grew up with the boys … it took a while for my “girly” side to come out. I rode dirt bikes, skateboarded, snowboarded, wakeboarded and wanted to only hang out with my older brothers. I am still capable of letting that side run free, but I love fashion and makeup now. I’ve learned to embrace both sides of my personality.

Talent, especially the one for singing, takes a lot of energy. And where it comes from remains a mystery. But it also takes energy for both sides of a personality to come together. It’s a good thing Chelsea Bain has so much horsepower.

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Published in the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of MyLIFE magazine


Whatever inspired Aristotle to say, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” may have been ancient Greece’s equivalent to the music made by The Piano Guys.

Music is math-based, so let’s write an equation: Jon Schmidt + Steven Sharp Nelson = The Piano Guys. One plus one is two, right? Well, in the case of this group, the math doesn’t match the lyrics of the story! While there is only one literal “piano guy,” there are actually five “Piano Guys” in all. The two musicians in the group (Schmidt—the pianist, and Nelson, a cellist) include three more on their team: Paul Anderson (producer/videographer), Tel Stewart (videographer/editor) and Al van der Beek (music studio technician).

The Piano Guys have a take on music that is a bit different. The two musicians match different songs or compositions together in very creative ways. Think of Vivaldi’s music marrying the soundtrack from “The Bourne Identity.” Think Coldplay’s “Paradise” under the influence of Africa. Think cellos on “Star Wars.” These musicians have taken the concept of addition to an entirely new level—perhaps an entirely new playing field!

Since we’re all about math, let’s explore the power of one. Jon Schmidt got started with music when he was in junior high school. “I was very inspired by Billy Joel,” he said. Joel had just put out his first album at the time. “I tried to learn some of his songs, and it helped me realize how to play by ear and how to compose. And that was probably one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life—to have something positive to consume [my] time … and then actually turn it into a professional career. I started writing songs, putting out CDs … and people started buying them and before I knew it, I had a thousand people showing up to hear me play the piano. I was selling tickets and making some good money in college.”

Here are more numbers that The Piano Guys like: 1,917,979 and 20,720. Their version of “Bring Him Home” (from “Les Misérables”) had 1,917,979 views and 20,720 likes on YouTube at press time.

Schmidt answered some questions about The Piano Guys for MyLIFE magazine.

MyLIFE: You met Steven Sharp Nelson when he was 15 years old. Tell us about your 20-year friendship.
Schmidt: He was 15 years old when I first heard of him. I’m actually 10 years older. He was playing backup cello for a local artist at a benefit concert we were doing, and I was impressed. I asked him to play a tune on my set. Pretty soon, we were doing all my shows together. He does something that nobody else does—the way he plays his cello. He’ll hit it like a percussion instrument. He’ll pull out a tape drum and be playing along that way. And then he has electric cellos … with extra strings on them. It’s amazing—he’s a one-man symphony at the end of the day. Pianists and guys that do what I do are a dime a dozen, but when I had the chance to join together with Steven and we became a team [with Anderson, Stewart and van der Beek], all of a sudden we had something that was one of a kind—and it’s been a real cool ride.

MyLIFE: Congratulations on your debut album, released in October. Your sound is a blend of classical music and pop. Did that happen by accident or is that how you planned it?
Schmidt: My parents are German immigrants and I was raised on classical music—but then being introduced to Billy Joel, who is a rock pianist—I was able to bring those two elements into my life, to have them in the music that I wrote and I arranged. It’s the same for Steve—he’s very classically oriented and he also grew up listening to the music on the radio. Then Al van der Beek—he produced his own albums—his genre was more hip/hop. So we have all these things coming together as we write.

MyLIFE: What kind of feedback do you get on your music?
Schmidt: Every time we release a song, we get thousands of comments. One of my favorite ones is from people who tell us that their kids introduced them to our music. That’s something that’s really cool to hear.

MyLIFE: What things outside of music are important to you? To the group?
Schmidt: We are all family guys—and that is number one for us. We’re all a little bit older. In fact, when we signed with Sony, we told them that we don’t want a record deal unless we can put our families first. We feel that is the greatest source of our inspiration. If we can keep the important things in play, then we write our best music—then we give our best performance. We feel like we’ve experienced a lot of miracles—and you know, we really rely heavily upon our faith.

MyLIFE: You mentioned something special about one of your listeners. What is that story?
Schmidt: We did a music arrangement for “Bring Him Home” and we dedicated it to families of troops and people that have families serving overseas. We got a YouTube comment that came in from a guy serving in Afghanistan that said something like, ‘when I listen to this, it just really strengthens me—and I listen to it often—and it’s something that I share with my family—and they listen to it.’ Just to hear him say that brought him strength is amazing.

Return now to Aristotle and his observation about sums and parts and the concept of the whole. Now check out the music of The Piano Guys and the team’s cinematography that matches the mood in this rendition of “Code Name Vivaldi” at youtube.com/watch?v=09RUuTAM2H0. Think urban landscape, espionage, speeding trains: in sound! There, now. It could make you wonder if the great philosopher might wish he were alive today, so he could listen too.