My love affair with books and writing started when I was an infant. My mom read constantly to my brother Pete and me, and the magic of the sound of language became as deeply part of me as breathing.
Imagine a young kid, lying on a soft carpet in his parents’ library in bright sunlight reading — lost in a wonder of words and adventure. My parents’ library was heavy on historical novels – Thomas Costain, Samuel Shellagbarger, C.S. Forester, Rafael Sabatini, Kenneth Roberts — it was a feast. I remember the library as really big room; I’d find it smaller, now, I guess, but in terms of imagination, it was as big as the world, and much more enjoyable, in fact, than school.
So no surprise, I guess, that I majored in English at Colgate, earned a M.A, in American Literature from The Bread Loaf School of English, and a Ph.D. from Princeton in Renaissance Literature. I taught English at The Pingry School and humanities and theater at Newark Academy for 20 exciting years. In many rich ways, my students were my teachers.
After leaving teaching in 1981, I spent the next 30-plus years as a management consultant with my own company, specializing in global leadership development and sales strategies for multinational corporations. In the process I had the extraordinary pleasure of working with managers and executives from most of Western Europe, Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central and South Africa, Canada, Mexico, South America, Turkey and Australia. They too, taught me more than I taught them about the empowering freedom of seeking to live more meaningful and productive lives.
I divide my time now between traveling with JoAnn and friends, writing and working on the 1750’s farmhouse in New Jersey that JoAnn and I, have been restoring for decades (in an act of love or madness). We raised goats for 17 years, protected our garden from the depredations of deer and infestations of groundhogs, and watched the river flow timelessly by our home. Sheltered in what amounts to a time warp back into the 18th century, our home has been a gift we have been happy to share with friends for decades.
We spend summers at our house on Raspberry Island in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, sailing, hiking, kayaking, hanging out with friends or just relaxing. Another gift to share. (That part’s all love). The header on my home page is part of what I get to look at every morning when I wake up. No surprise that this is where I’ve done some of my most satisfying writing. It’s easier to find the openness within your inner world when your outer world is wide and free.
I grew up in a musical family. Both my mom and dad were piano players. Mom was classically trained, dad learned by ear and played a great rag-time piano. My older brother Ted and sister Pat were also in love with music. We sang at home all the time. Gershwin, Kern – all the songwriters my parents loved, and dad’s collection of early 1900s vaudeville tunes. I remember being surprised to learn as a teenager that not every family sang Gilbert and Sullivan quartettes washing dishes after dinner. So not a surprise when my parents gave my twin brother Pete and me ukeleles when we were perhaps five years old
We started performing shortly after and haven’t stopped since. Asking me “What kind of music have you performed?” is a bit like asking me “What kind of books do you write?” My first church choir was the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church (Plainfield NJ) youth choir around 1950. My last church choir performance hasn’t happened yet.
Throw in a slew of oratorios from Bach to Persechetti (I stopped counting the number of Messiahs and Faure Requiems I’ve performed), opera performances (baritones always get to sing the fools and drunks – or maybe that’s just me), early music on recorders and krummhorns with JoAnn and the Crescent Consort, Gilbert and Sullivan (of course) , bluegrass and folk music with my long-time Colgate buddy Dock Murdock, and four-part male acapella performances with the Colgate 13 in college and now, over 50 years later, with the Vintage Colgate 13. Early on you figure out that music is just another gift to be shared and enjoyed.
I have two terrific daughters, Mary Behr and Jenny Wilson, a wonderful son-in-law, Jordan Wilson (of the Nathaniel Wilson sail maker family) and two delightful grandchildren, Maggie and Finn Wilson.
All told, I’m a very lucky guy.