Today we’d like to introduce you to John March.
John, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
I was born and raised in NYC, growing up in Manhattan during the 60’s and 70’s. My grandmother had been an opera singer in New York in the early 1900’s. My father was a freelance film and television director and I grew up surrounded by artists and musicians and filmmakers. (I remember going to Christmas parties with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and poker games at my house with my mom with Lucille Ball and Milton Berle.)
I started playing music at a young age and by the time I was 13 was pretty serious about wanting to play guitar professionally. I finished high school at sixteen and attended five different colleges on various scholarships, all in pursuit of more and more advanced approaches to being a better musician. At the end of 1980, I ended up moving to Boulder (after a series of odd circumstances happened while I was attending the Berklee College of Music and just about to graduate.) A friend of mine called and said great things were happening in Boulder and suggested I come there. I arrived in Colorado knowing just the one person who had invited me to come out. Within a few days of arriving, I was living at Allen Ginsberg’s house on Bluff and attending the Naropa Institute. In the early 1980s Boulder was an extraordinary place to be as a human being, an artist and an activist. It was filled with amazing teachers, a deep sense of community, and a vibrant music and art scene. I ended up graduating from Naropa in 1984 with a BA in music performance, it was still a very small school at the time (I believe I was a graduating class of one?). It was also during this time that I became a committed social and environmental activist.
In 1985, I went back to New York where I was trained at the Record Plant studio as a recording engineer by the late Colorado Legend Kooster McAllister. I also became one of the first freelance Synclavier programmers in the world. (At that time, it was the main digital audio workstation and was being used by many of the top artists and filmmakers of the day.) I worked as a session guitar player, recording engineer and producer. I was also apprenticed to the late Producer and engineer Bruce Nazarian, who I worked and trained with for almost five years. My life path and career had several distinct areas: as a musician, sideman and band leader and also as a technical problem solver for creative projects. I immersed myself in both worlds. The creative and expressive side of music and the demanding and problem-solving side of cutting edge technical work for audio and video. After working in New York City for a number of years, I had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and work at many of the great Studios there. I was the lead mixer for the Fox Family Channel and I had my own studio room at the legendary Westlake Audio Studios where I worked with Michael Jackson in preparation for the Dangerous Tour. I was also part of the Golden Globe nominated sound design team for the feature film Gettysburg, produced by Turner entertainment.
While I was in Los Angeles, I trained as a meditation facilitator in the Dharma Punx/Thervadan Buddhist tradition. I taught at the Musicians Institute, both recording and guitar playing, and I initiated the meditation for musicians program there. It was the other side of my creative life to be involved with and supporting social causes and working and studying with the contemplative communities. I worked with many non-profits and charitable organizations like the African Vulnerable Children’s project and also taught meditation to young people transitioning out of prison and drug programs. I designed, built and ran several recording studios and was a freelance producer/mixer/musician in Los Angeles for almost 25 years. I worked in Music and Postproduction as well as cutting edge tech in VR and Haptics design. My work took me to Tokyo, New York City, Paris, Rome, Sydney and Bali, where I headlined at the Hard Rock.
One of the projects that I got to work on while I was living in Los Angeles, and I am probably the most proud of, was a series of Records that I produced and mixed and played guitar on with a group of musicians in a band called the Zen Blues Quartet. Mike Finnigan on B3 and vocals, (Jimi Hendrix, Taj Mahal, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Etc…), Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, AWB and George Harrison), and Tim Scott (Jack Mack and the heart attack, TOP, Eric Clapton, etc…). This project was entirely an Art driven music project with amazing musicians and no agenda other than to make great music. It was a beautiful and powerful experience!
I returned to Boulder in 2012. It was a much-needed change after the Los Angeles scene for 25 years. Since I have been back here I have been really fortunate to participate in some great efforts and collaborations. As a musician and bandleader, I was the featured artist for KGNU’s 35th Anniversary Blues Legacy show, live broadcasting out of Cafe Sole. I have mixed and produced a number of CDs for local artists, most notably the recent project with Colorado pianist Bob Schlessinger and his collaboration with international Jazz guitarist Mike Stern. I was a leader of a band “The Boulder Blues Quartet” featuring some of Boulder’s best blues and jazz musicians. I was awarded a Pathways to Jazz Grant through the Boulder County Arts Alliance and produced a Jazz CD that was recently released to National critical acclaim. I have run several venues and I consulted and produced for a number of local music festivals. I produced the Jazz series “Jazz at the Wesley” focusing on creating a series that was entirely about providing a space to hear great music in an intimate setting. Over the last two years, I have written, produced and mixed almost 40 short-form documentaries and live concert recordings about Colorado musicians. I was honored and grateful to work for clients like AEG and Chuck Morris, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, Chris Daniels, Mark Oblinger and many other fine Colorado artists.
Now here we are in 2020, which is a challenging year for all of us, and I am looking forward to where the path will take me next. My hope is that we can all find good collaborative solutions. That we can find new ways to make art and tell stories in the most altruistic ways. That we all stay safe and healthy and that kindness finds a way to bring us all together.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’m not quite sure if I could describe the paths that I have chosen as being a “smooth Road” because I think it’s been a series of diverging off-road paths, each divergence with its own unique set of challenges.
When I was younger and living in New York City and working hard to develop my professional skills, my entire family over a ten year period all passed away from long-term chronic illnesses, and I was the caregiver for everyone. It was very challenging, but it also gave me a deep appreciation for life and an understanding of the fragile and impermanent nature of all the various aspects of how I live and work in the world.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I had a child with my partner at the time and we separated. I became a single dad and raised my son with her while I was working in Los Angeles. Raising a child is probably one of the most challenging and also rewarding things I’ve ever had to do. He is now a fine young artist and also my best friend.
When the economy collapsed around the housing market bubble, I lost two homes that I owned and my life savings and had to rebuild my life. I think that the adversity that comes from losing structure, losing family or finances or objects, teaches very valuable lessons. Starting over was valuable for me because it showed me that the resources that I have to draw on, work ethic and determination, the training that I have received and my skills and desire to be a service to the world can help me to move through very difficult transitions. I will say that my 40 years as a meditator and longtime Buddhist were also extremely helpful during difficult periods of time in my life. I was also fortunate to have strong mentors and counsel from wiser and more experienced people.
Not long after I arrived in Boulder to start over, I was working for a venue and during the floods of 2013, I was injured very badly, breaking both of my arms. I was told by the doctor in the emergency room that I would probably never play guitar again. Two weeks later, I was playing benefit concerts for people who had really been harmed during the flooding. I was in a lot of pain, but I don’t think I was in as much pain as the people who had lost everything, and I felt it was my responsibility to try and help people as best I could. That has been my perspective in general; that challenges and adversity have helped make me someone who is even more committed to compassionate interaction and Community Service, as both an artist and activist.
Something I tell my clients and students, that I believe in deeply, is that “Everything works out in the end, and if it is not working out, it is not the end.”
Please tell us about JM Media Services.
My company, JM Media Services, is a recent name/incarnation for a business that I’ve been running for 35+ years. It was originally “The Interactive Audio Group” or ZenAVguy or Zenguitarguy. It became easier to bring all those brands underneath one umbrella.
What I do basically is help to solve problems and find solutions. I help people, either other musicians or small businesses, artists or educational institutions, to help tell their stories. I do that through recording or mixing, or sound design, or producing and writing, or creating films and documentaries that help get stories that need to be told out into the world. I am known for being creative and meticulous, and my wife would say for being somewhat of a workaholic! I love working with production teams and other creatives to arrive at the best possible solution. I am proud to be able to help and support marginalized communities and being of real service to Social and environmental causes. (A CD that I recently produced and released into the world is generating revenue for three National charitable foundations to help support musicians being affected by COVID-19, reforesting the planet to offset climate change and continuing education for musicians.)
Currently, my main focus is on helping artists, businesses and Educators to migrate to live streaming and virtual content production through live streaming and utilizing tools like zoom and OBS to maximize their ability to get their stories out into the world in the most cost-effective way. I’m also focused on training young editors and producers and mixers to be able to go out into the world and to do this kind of work as long-term audio and video Craftsman. I work with a very fine young editor named Scott Rowland, who I have trained, and who is making his mark in the world.
I think what makes what we do and offer different is that the focus of our intention is the long-term. Long-term relationships with our clients that are based on really cost-effective solutions. My sense of success is based on the idea of genuine altruistic collaboration rather than worrying about margins or the bottom line. My focus is much more on the sacred nature of being of service, especially in a time where people are very stressed by all of the challenging Global circumstances. I am also working as a remote session guitar player for artists producing projects. I believe that it is by collaborating and supporting each other as a community that will allow us to move through and transcend the challenges being presented by Covid-19 and the pandemic.
“Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me a chance to do my best. ” ― Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I can answer that question in 2 ways:
Just for fun and assuming the question has to do with going back in time and being able to do things differently; I don’t think I would do anything differently if I had to start over. I think that I recognize the interconnected nature of time and experience. That everything has to have happened the way that it did in order for things to happen the way that they have and they will. I would not want to go back and change anything because I wouldn’t want to lose all of the precious places I have been and the things that I have learned from all of these experiences.
If the question is more about starting over now based on circumstance changing; I would have to say I’ve been there and done that, and what I’ve learned is that nothing ever really comes to an end, it just moves inexorably towards something new and different and most often unexpected.
- Website: https://zenavguy.
com/ – for technical services and https://zenguitarguy.com/ for Guitar and Music services
- CD’s for sale: https://zenguitarguy.bandcamp.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rocio De Prado Gonzalez