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Meet Paul English of Paul English Music

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul English.

Paul, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
A native Texan, I grew up in the small town of Refugio on the Gulf Coast. My early interest in music was probably entirely the fault of my father, who was a jazz trombonist and high school band director. I was banging on a piano or organ before I could talk – “composing” my own music – much to the dismay of my not-so-tolerant sisters and their friends.

Adding to their misery, I began trumpet lessons at the age of 8. I sought comrades to my musical endeavors by putting together my own musical groups and composing and producing recorded “radio plays” in grade school. The interest in music grew and has remained the primary passion and focus of my life.

My family moved to San Antonio just before I turned 16, and the city offered me the opportunity to begin working as a professional musician and arranger, mostly for society bands, theatre groups or the occasional jazz combo.

After spending a few years in music school at the University of Miami in Florida as a jazz major and on the road as a sideman for various show bands and entertainers, I moved to Houston in 1977 to make a living there early on as a writer and producer of radio/TV jingles. But Houston’s unprecedented economic boom of the age brought with it a vibrant night scene with restaurants and clubs flourishing.

My music groups found ourselves surprisingly able to work every night of the week playing jazz and our own original music, and we helped establish a number of jazz venues in town. There were memorable evenings at Birdwatcher’s, Cody’s, Cezanne, the Warwick, the Magnolia Hotel and many other jazz sites. It was a great time for jazz in Houston.

But when the economy waned, the clubs were among the first casualties. I abandoned club work to return to school and concentrate my efforts as a composer. An opportunity to study at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University would offer me a chance to concentrate on serious composition under the tutelage of my mentor, Paul Cooper, as well as his esteemed colleagues, Ellsworth Milburn and George Burt.

After finishing a bachelor and a master of music composition at Rice, I returned to my former life as a professional jazz pianist, while also accepting commissions to compose for the chamber, symphonic and choral groups as well individual performing artists, stage and film. Aside from performing and composing, I cherish to an opportunity to teach when I can and have been fortunate to serve on the music faculties of Texas Tech University, Sam Houston State University, Houston Community College and San Jacinto College.

Current endeavors include writing and performing my own music with my crossover groups PICO (Paul’s Improvising Chamber Orchestra), PIVO (Paul’s Improvising Vocal Orchestra), the Paul English Jazz Quartet and various collaborative concert presentations. As of June 2018, my jazz quartet is performing weekend nights at the French Corner restaurant and I will be presenting my sacred work “The Gospel According to John Coltrane” for SATB choir, jazz quartet and orator as part of an Arts for Tolerance concert in Houston on November 17, 2018.

Has it been a smooth road?
Ha! The road of passion is never smooth! The actual definition and etymology of the word present enough evidence of this. As a composer and musician and almost always self-employed there is the never-ending challenge of making a living with the pursuits I love. It ain’t never easy.

Aside from the financial spectre, there is also the lingering doubt that by pursuing music I have not been doing anything of any real value that would help others or contribute to society. Could I not have been a doctor or an engineer or a social worker…? This bumpy road of doubt has taken its toll on many musicians and artists through the ages. “Of what worth is what I do?” And inevitably, “Of what worth am I?”

I am fortunate, I have had opportunities that others have not had. And I have managed to keep things pretty balanced – at least so far!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Music. This is what I do. Composing, performing, recording, teaching. The great Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a man’s life is that man’s commitment to excellence. “I try to live by that. I don’t know how much I am set apart from others, but you can be sure that at the end of the day I have given it all I have.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Houston is a great place for anyone who wants to succeed at anything. There are few rules that tell you can’t do anything you want to do here. There is an opportunity. At the same time, there is often a great challenge here. And that is a good thing. If anything were easy, everyone could do it. It may seem like a dichotomy, but the very existence of the formidable challenges in Houston is also what makes it a great city of opportunity.

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Image Credit:
Michael Hart, Steve Satterwhite

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