Today we’d like to introduce you to Samuel Wexler.
Hi Samuel! Can you tell us about your story? How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are today?
My calling to be a violinist and composer found me at 9 years old, when a man came to my 3rd grade music class, played the violin for us, and offered group lessons. The sound of the violin instantly sparked something deep in my heart, and I just had to know what it felt like to play it! My mom says that I often came home asking to join some activity or another, but usually forgot about it quickly, but with the violin class, I continued to ask about it. Because of my persistence, they put me in the class and I immediately fell in love with the instrument! I had a pure joy for playing and would practice for hours without any prompting. My mom loves to tell the story of when she came down to where I had been practicing for hours and asked if I might want to take a little break and play some video games (which was normally a restricted treat for special occasions) but I was totally absorbed in practicing and just wanted to keep playing violin! After only about a year playing I became inspired to compose my own music and hand wrote what I called “my first composure,” titled “Breath of Life.” For most of my formative years, violin and karate were my primary pillars of identity and gave me focal points in which to channel my abundant energy. I had no idea about the specifics of what “being a pro violinist” would look like, but no other career path apart from music ever even occurred to me. When I was 15, however, after reaching a moderate level of ability, I stagnated in my progress, lost interest and barely played violin for a year. Still drawn to music, I began playing percussion instead, which I found much more engaging at the time.
For my 16th birthday my dad took me to see the world famous violinist, Itzhak Perlman, in concert, and my concept of how much you can do with a violin was blown wide open! I remember feeling his presence as he closed his eyes and played the Beethoven violin concerto. All his attention seemed turned inward to the feeling and sound of the music, like a black hole of attention that I couldn’t help but also be drawn into. I felt deeply inspired, and started playing violin again! I discovered how to listen actively and deeply to classical music, and fell in love with it for the first time. I would spend hours listening to the classical music radio station, soaking up every note. When home alone (or when my family allowed) I would turn on every radio in the house and tune them all to the classical station, so that I could move freely throughout the whole house and stay immersed in the music. I didn’t want to miss a single note! My passion for the violin re-ignited, and I began to practice more diligently than ever before. I would often stay up late and practice down in the basement of my house until 4 or 5 a.m. feeling a unique peace and connection to the divine. I made tremendous progress in those final three years of high school, auditioned with fiery passion to university music programs, and was fortunate to receive a good music scholarship at Colorado State University.
During college I continued developing my classical chops, and also began to improvise in other styles of music. I discovered a new passion in spontaneous creation, and on Nov. 6, 2009 I played my first show with a local electronic music duo. The fusion of violin with electronica was relatively novel at the time, and everyone including myself found it very compelling. It was such a breath of fresh air to play for a rowdy audience who had come just to enjoy the music, not to critique it in the way that many in the classical world tend to. I’ll never forget the feeling of playing to a packed venue on a huge sound system, and hearing them chant “MORE VIOLIN!” The experience launched me into a new phase of my career and renewed my hope of being able to make a life in music.
From 2010 onwards I found myself in a natural process of networking, and began to collaborate with more and more electronic music producers. Shows and festivals that began with me booked to play with one artist on the lineup often ended in spontaneous collabs with many! When the inspiration hit me, I’d grab my violin and stand ready just off stage. The artist would usually see me, smile big, and enthusiastically wave me over to join in! Over time I developed a reputation of being able to jump in with most anyone. My career grew organically, and I played in many festivals in the U.S. and abroad, including Envision, Arise, Sonic Bloom, Lucidity and more. I also started self-studying music production and a variety of other instruments.
I loved collaborating with other artists, but wanted to develop more of my own voice, and have more artistic autonomy, so in 2014 I started my live looping project, in which I record and arrange many layers of sound live in front of the audience. This amazing way of making music can get pretty technical, and requires a lot of concentration, so it was a big challenge at first, but I immediately felt like it was the perfect fit for me. It’s a limitless world of possibilities in which I continue to evolve, and I love that absolutely anything can happen live. The audience’s energy plays a huge part in creating the music, which is largely improvised. Because I layer many of my own sounds to play simultaneously, the name “Samueltaneous” seemed like a clever and fun name for the project, but I recently switched to the more straightforward “Samuel Wexler (Live Looping),” after realizing that very few people get the pun, and NOBODY knows how to spell it! Haha
Throughout the years, I have taken interest in different genres from around the world. Traveling and living abroad has been a huge part of my life’s inspiration, and absorbing our world’s many rich musical traditions feels like a natural extension of this passion. I love how versatile the violin can be, and take great joy in exploring its enormous range of musical possibilities. In 2015 I connected with two French musicians in Tulum, Mexico, and spent two half-year seasons playing a lot of gypsy jazz with them. Getting seasoned with such upbeat and technically demanding improv music really helped raise my level of musical flow, harmonic understanding, and confidence. When I lived in Beijing, China in 2017-’18, I collaborated with artists from all around the world. A few years back I had the opportunity to dive into the rich world of Indian classical music and perform with the Indian Embassy at the FIL Festival in Guadalajara. At the beginning of 2022 I took a 5 week trip to Guinea to study African percussion and dance. Such intense periods of immersion in new worlds and sounds have defined seasons of my life and broadened my personal and musical horizons.
About a year and a half ago, I got inspired to get into the studio and create my first original major work, “KAN,” all by myself. I didn’t want to settle for “pretty good,” and committed to creating music of the highest quality on all levels. I put the utmost care into every part of the process: acoustic treatment, gear selection, recording technique, mixing, mastering, performance, etc. I built my first real recording studio, placed every microphone, played every instrument with my own two hands (and feet, and voice!) and mixed it to personally create absolutely every sound you hear! I started the process with some loose musical ideas, and allowed the music to take me on a ride from there, forming itself into a dynamic musical journey of 6 movements, 1 hour 45 minutes total. When I finished the music and heard the final product, I felt I had finally brought something timeless and beautiful into the world! In many ways the music is a reflection of my dynamic life story, infused with sounds from around the world. After over a decade of developing my production, composition and multi-instrumental skills, it’s so rewarding to feel that I’ve finally created something truly special! I knew the music deserved stellar artwork to compliment it, so I hired two of Colorado’s finest visionary artists, Morgan Mandala & Randal Roberts, to listen carefully to the music and paint what they heard. They listened to the character of each movement and the feeling of the music overall, and painted for six months before delivering the stunning final product to me, absolutely loaded with meaning! In the same way that the music is one continuous journey in six distinct movements, they also painted six canvases put together to form one larger image. Each canvas represents a movement and the six put together look absolutely spectacular! The artwork and music work together to pull you into a luminous new world, full of wonder and inspiration!
The entire six movement journey is currently available only on bandcamp, and the first two movements are available wherever you like to listen! The third movement “Tocando las Estrellas” (my personal favorite) comes out on all platforms on Friday, September 9, 2022, and the fourth, EDM inspired movement, “Rhythm of the Jungle” will be available everywhere on October 7, 2022. High quality prints of the amazing artwork are also available for purchase!
We all know life is full of challenges. What were some of your struggles along the way?
I feel I have been very blessed on my journey with opportunities and support, but have still struggled a lot along the way with self-doubt, ego, scattered attention, poor follow through, lack of artistic autonomy, steep learning curves, music business and more.
For most of my life I feel I had a deep sense of insecurity and constantly looked for ways of reassuring myself that I was enough. This made me bounce between self-doubt and arrogance. Neither of those extremes are good for steady progress or mental health. Shortly after beginning my violin studies at age 9, I realized that I was advancing much more quickly than the other students, and a seed of comparison to others crept into my relationship with the violin. I still played with joy, but to some small degree my desire to play became contaminated with the desire to be better than others or impress people. This seed eventually grew into ego, and led me to stagnate in my progress until I eventually realized, at age 15, that I was no longer the best of the violin students my age; many of my peers were playing better than me! This helped light a fire under me to practice like never before, but the practice infused with fear was never as good as the practice infused with love. Over time I’ve been able to reconnect with the deep feeling that the violin is a part of my calling, and that being technically better or worse than anyone is totally irrelevant! I connect to the pure love I have for music, practice to deepen my relationship with it, and perform to transmit something authentic.
My high school violin teacher discouraged me from trying to make a career in music, telling me how difficult it was to make a good living and support a family as a musician. When finishing high school and heading to university I struggled to decide if I should study music or not. At that point in time nothing enlivened me like music, so with my sister Shaina’s encouragement, I decided to go for it and pursue my plan A. Even with my renewed dedication to the violin, the competitive and critical nature of the classical music world made burn out a constant risk. At various points in my training, I noticed that I was starting to lose my passion and had to learn to dig deep and fight to keep that fire burning inside me. For example, I noticed in college that I would often say “I need to go practice,” and feel it like a weight on my shoulders. One day it occurred to me that I didn’t NEED to do anything, that I was the one who chose to study violin because I love it! I changed my inner dialogue and started to say “I WANT to go practice.” That felt better to me, and helped me put in the practice with a feeling of joy, rather than obligation.
Having an artistic and creative mind is a double edged sword. Thinking outside the box has always come naturally to me, but it has not always been convenient for finishing work that requires in-the-box thinking! I have always been very easily distracted, constantly lost in thought, and taking much longer to complete linear processes than other people. I have felt like my mind is swarming with fragmented thoughts buzzing around, and that I lose sight of my short and long term goals often without realizing it. For years I managed to deliver my part of collaboration projects, since they provided an external framework to work in, but I started and unintentionally abandoned many personal projects which originally displayed much potential. Year after year I resolved to finish my first original solo album and year after year I got to the end of the year and wondered how I had failed to meet the goal again! This perpetuated a vicious cycle of crippling self doubt. Even while working on my recently completed “KAN” sound journey, I got discouraged many times, but was determined to see the project through to completion no matter what. I just kept getting into the studio and putting in the time. Many days I felt like I was spinning my wheels, going nowhere, but every now and then I got traction and things would start coming together in beautiful and often unexpected ways! Sticking with it to completion was a massive breakthrough in my life, and has transformed my confidence like nothing else could!
We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in, and what are you known for?
I specialize in heart-felt violin, cinematic soundscapes, dynamic sonic journeys, expressive strings, multi-instrumental recording, organic genre fusion, and improvisation.
In recent years the main project I perform is my solo violin/multi-instrumental live-looping project. With this project, I start each performance with nothing pre-recorded, and use various instruments, effects, and a looper pedal to create and layer every sound live in front of the audience.The performance is like a blank musical canvas, painted with a unique blend of sounds every iteration, and I love that absolutely anything can happen! It’s invigorating, and it helps me get out of my mind and play from my heart. The project has room for constant evolution, and there’s nothing quite like sharing an authentic moment of spontaneous musical creation with an attentive audience!
I also record/produce and mix my original music in my studio, which allows for pristine audio quality and more dynamic musical arrangements. Personally doing every part of the process allows for even greater artistic liberty and the ability to allow the music to develop organically. It also means I retain full rights to all my work, and can license them however I want. My compositions are special in how they transform from one thing to the next, drawing from many genres, yet all with cohesive transitions and a compelling larger story arc. My music is naturally very heartfelt and passionate, and most people comment that it makes them feel as if they are in a movie.
Throughout the years, I’ve probably become best known for being able to jump in and improvise on the fly with musicians of various styles, even if I’ve never heard them before. Much of my professional life to this point has been based upon being sensitive enough to weave just the right violin lines through any type of music and elevate it to the next level. I really enjoy doing this because it helps me ground in the present moment, and I often discover new sides of my musicality as I play. I never know what will come out beforehand, and every musician draws out something different from me. I love doing this both live and in the studio. No matter what form it takes, I think people listen to hear something unique and heartfelt.
Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
I feel that being open and receptive to new life experiences has been the essential ingredient for finding my way. My most life changing experiences have come as a complete surprise to me, and I would have missed them had I stayed in my comfort zone. Many times I have felt inspired to take a leap, and my mind has gotten scared and tried to talk me out of it. Every time I have looked beyond the fear and trusted my intuition, amazing things have awaited me on the other side. Listen to that still voice deep in your heart and that deep pull in your gut. Meet life openly, and be honest with yourself about who and what truly resonates. Be an authentic person, give your best, and put love into everything you do; you’ll naturally find those aligned with your path.
- Original Soundtrack price for Film and Television varies by project.
- $100-$200 per track for Session Violin Recording
- $100/hr Online Private Lessons
- Performance fees vary by event.
- Original music varies by album/project.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: http://samuelwexler.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/samuel_wexler/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamuelWexlerMusic/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SamuelWexler
- SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/samuelwexler
- Other: https://samuelwexler.bandcamp.com/
Osiris Heyerdahl Feria
Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara