Also Posted on 'Pets, Kids, & Heartbeats' Theme Page
"When asked how I became a professional in what I love most – music -- I always want to respond by saying in the 70s I met Rachel, my wife (though initially we could have cared less about each other). I mention my wife first because you will see she had the most important impact on me in terms of my professional development.
Actually, professionally I started out in IT work. Music was always a part of my life, like getting up every day, but who pays you for that? My earliest musical memory is of my grandfather, Jozef Samelczak, playing his own organ variations on Bach’s preludes at a Roman-Catholic church in Kalisz. My family lived in Warsaw, but still I felt grandfather’s influence and learned the basics of music in classes. First loving classical and instrumental music like grandfather, then continuing on my own path of music discovery.
When I was eight, I became obsessed with my Atari system. Not only playing the games, but also exploring what I could do with Atari as a computer, composing on it, and I learned how to use a synthesizer. By the time I was a teen I was an IT geek. In the 70s there were no computer classes. I was self-taught and able to go out and get paid IT work. That became my living and career focus. But on the side my greatest pleasure was always music.
There were many landmarks in my self-directed journey. My father was a pilot and my mother a stewardess. We got to travel cheaply around the world, and even if I wasn't noticing, I was being exposed to so many types of music new to me. When I was twelve I heard Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 2 and my music world expanded enormously. I started learning guitar to blues-rock and Latin-jazz (Eric Clapton, Gary Moore, Carlos Santana). The milestone was a discovery of the music of Andreas Vollenweider, the Swiss harpist, whose mix of contemporary and world music was a true epiphany to me. It changed the way I thought about sounds, multi-cultural influences and how to use music to imagine places, stories and feelings through sound.
As I was beginning my self-directed exploration of world music at the age of twelve, I met Rachel, my future wife. Frankly, Rachel and I could have cared less about each other. Our families knew each other and that was the only reason that brought us together. It wasn’t until a decade later when Rachel moved to the capital seeking work that we decided to spend some time together on our own. We reminded each other of our families, so it was easy to be together. After a while though it was obvious we had more in common that we initially thought.....
In addition, Rachel had a side passion that was as important to her as music, my side passion, was to me -- she was a flamenco dancer. We married. At the time I was working in a boring IT job. Rachel become a flight attendant for a national airline. Rachel and I loved traveling. We decided we wanted to move to another country. We had loved New Zealand when we visited. But in Poland it had no embassy. We had never been to Australia, but it was close to New Zealand and it had an embassy in Poland. We moved from Poland to Melbourne, Australia in 2002 as permanent residents.
My first job in Melbourne was working in a factory line assembling kitchen cabinets. Then I started getting IT work. Rachel was working some crappy survival job and looking for a better one. I knew she missed dance, so I said, why don’t you take a dance course at the Dance Factory , one of the best dance schools in Australia.
With that exposure, my wife suddenly decided that instead of focusing on getting
the best survival job, she wanted to professionally pursue dance and study choreography.
While my wife looked for a college for herself, unbeknownst to me she was also looking for a music college for me. It was my wife who said, why don’t you enroll at the Victorian College of the Arts at Melbourne University. She told me VCA is top in world ranking when it comes to arts and innovation. I said I didn't want to (due to my fear of failure), but my wife insisted I not forfeit music to focus on survival in our new country. Somehow, Rachel knew we would both make it.
Like I knew her, she knew me well enough to realize that being a cable guy or an IT technician is not what defines my soul. She knew I needed music to survive. Not to survive financially but to survive as a human being – as a soul that needs an expressive outlet to exist in this world. Despite having to work crappy jobs to pay for the tuition, we both understood that apart from money there was much more at stake in terms of our sanity and inner development.
We are not the jobs we get; we can be what we aim to be. I don’t know if I was alone, that I could have believed in myself. I think by my believing in Rachel, and she believing in me, we both learned to believe in ourselves.
I finished my Bachelor (Hons.) of Music Composition, and later topped it with the Masters of Fine Arts in Music Composition. Now I teach and do gigs and compose for dancers and film, and eke out a living doing what I love, though that is not always easy especially now. But I am authentically me.
by Piotr (Peter) Nowotnik
w / assistance from Trayce