Joe’s Story

Joe is a Kawai Piano Artist

I quit my classical piano training at age eleven, seeking a more glamorous life as a professional athlete. I still hear my Father’s  words ringing clearly in my head “someday you’ll thank me” referring to the childhood piano training I so gladly abandoned. An eighth grade football knee injury eventually proved detrimental to my childhood dream. Oh well!
High school brought new experiences, forming the band LIXX with a couple buddies with rock star ambitions. I grew my hair, sported parachute pants, bought a synthesizer with my neighborhood lawn mowing cash, & jammed to 80′s tunes on LPs. Spending Friday nights at band practice and Saturdays gigging parties & dances, memories were definitely made!
Graduating high school in ’87 brought an element of retreat from the Chicago “big city” life… venturing out west with my mother & siblings to San Juan Island, Washington. Culture shock took hold, while nature and quiet times prevailed. My composing was born, as was my beautiful daughter Taylor. I endeavored to start my own recording studio & bought all the toys. Mellow Sounds Studio opened on San Juan Island in ’93, a popular haven for the island’s many singer-songwriters and folk music artists. My buddy & talented guitarist/songwriter Tom Henry taught me how to listen and mix and the islanders now had a place to record.
My first release was “Ancient Sky”  in ’94, an eclectic electronic blend of New Age piano, Native American influences (always a fav!) and even cutting edge rock instrumentals (starring Tom)… I was still wandering a bit musically, obviously! Engineering & producing other artists was relatively short lived, but a priceless experience. Realizing that a musical career would be forever limited on the island, I moved to Seattle in ’97.
At age 28, a trip back to Chicago to visit Dad lead me to meet my second cousin Joann Bongiorno, a classical piano virtuoso whom I had only heard stories about. I sat down at her Baldwin baby grand & something special happened. No, I didn’t perform magically for her (acoustic piano was a bit foreign to me at that time), but I was enamored by the power, simplicity, and enchanting sound of the instrument as a solo. From that day forward, my synthesizers began to acquire dust as I played my new Yamaha U1 upright acoustic piano. A few months later I focused in on an album project, rented a grand, crammed it into my basement and spent three weeks diligently practicing & recording. “At Peace” ~ solo piano was released in February 2001. The support for this CD was and still is surprising, if not stunning. I give great thanks to all who gave to it!
Life got busier, busier and busier. Taylor blossoming into a young lady, my career in the restaurant biz developing rapidly… life just seemed to get a bit more complicated each day. Retreats to the piano were much harder to come by. Compositions came together, but sometimes over periods of months. My ability to visualize and memorize carried me through these times, musically. I managed to abstain from reading or writing music with my sole intent being to improvise and create.
In 2002 I bought a baby grand, a Mahogany Kawai KG-2D. My 17 years in the restaurant business had brought me a handsome salary with a great company. The more I played & composed, I longed more & more for a new CD to hand to my family, friends, & handful of fans. My good friend and fellow pianist Joe Yamada put his home and glorious Kawai RX-7 concert grand at my disposal and I dove in head first. My second release “Destined”~ solo piano was released in April ‘04. It continues to receive heavy airplay at www.solopianoradio.com with “Just for You”, “Chasing the Wind” & “To Be Held” all hitting #1 on the listener charts! The success of this CD brought new & wonderful opportunities, including numerous concert performances for Solo Piano Radio as well as putting me in “high demand” status as a Seattle wedding pianist.In April of 2005 I was suddenly diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, an idiopathic syndrome which results in periodic vertigo, mind numbing tinnitus, substantial hearing loss and overall discomfort that can be debilitating, to say the least. This is not good news for musician… I have chronicled my battle with this Meniere’s right HERE. Please feel free to share my story (it ends well!) with anyone you know who may have it or anything similar. Now, back to “living the dream”… : )
In May, 2006 I bought my dream piano, my very own Kawai RX-7 concert grand, fulfilling my dream of recording and producing my music from home. A whole new set of music channeled through my fingertips and evolved into my third CD release, “Somewhere Within” – solo piano in August ’07. It quickly became an iTunes Top 100 New Age album & was nominated for Best Solo Piano CD of 2007 by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio & received a “Reviewer’s Pick” from Kathy Parsons of Mainly Piano. It too continues to receive radio airplay world-wide.
Later that year I made my “personal” studio available to all, opening Piano Haven Recording Studio in suburban Seattle. An opportunity to share my good fortune with other composers… and record they have! David Nevue, Philip Wesley, Chad Lawson, Louis Landon, Christine Brown, Greg Maroney & Steven Cravis, just to name a few…
My 4th solo piano CD, “Mesmerized” was released in December 2009. It was a quiet period in my life, a time where nature carried me through. It’s the mellowest of all my CDs, inspired by a midnight blue sky… The album cover was designed by Matt Strieby and was nominated for cover of the year in 2010 at ZMR.
On June 25th 2010, I “retired” from my 25 years in the restaurant biz to focus completely on my music. Some say I’m crazy, some say I’m their hero. All I can tell you is that I feel great & the music is flowing like never before.

“A Candlelight Christmas”
 was awarded Christmas & Holiday album of the Year (2010) at SoloPiano.com… what an honor! This was a much more difficult project than I expected. Taking tunes that “aren’t mine” & “making them mine” is something I’m not used to doing. It took alot more time and effort than I had planned, but I am extremely proud of it : ) This is Christmas music to unwind to… relieve yourself of holiday stress. Light a candle, pour a glass of wine…

I released, “Into the Wind” on Sept 19th, 2011. This album has some powerful, optimistic music, along with my signature mellow stuff. It too has been nominated for Whisperings Album of the year! Take a listen, all the sheet music is now available as well.
Forever More (released 10/8/12)  is my first “best of” album, a retrospective of all my favorite works. 10 of the 15 songs were re-recorded & I added one special brand new track to finish it off. take a listen!
In Nov. 2012 I moved  to Sedona, AZ… a place I have dreamed of living in for 25 years…. just another dream come true! I am broadcasting  some performances from home on the internet right here at my site. I am  also performing in-home concerts around the country. Is your home available? details on that right HERE.
The latest album, my 8th, was just released on Sept 16th, 2013 – Flight of a Dream. It was recorded on my brand new Shigeru Kawau SK7L concert grand and has already been nominated for Whisperings Solo Piano Radio album of the year, SoloPiano.com Contemporary Album of the Year & was chosen as a “Favorite of 2013″ by MainlyPiano.com. Life is good!
I always encourage you to drop me a note & say “Hi”…  Your comments, stories & input fuel my creativity : )
Wishing you peace & joy in music…
Oh & by the way, “Thank you Dad!”