Soundtracks

Meet four members creating music from stage to studio

By Darrick Meneken, Content Director

Music surrounds us. It’s the first thing we hear when the morning alarm clock sounds. It sets the mood as we travel to work. And in the gym … well, who wants to power through their next workout without their favorite playlist? In honor of all that music means to us, we caught up with four WAC members in the business. Their personal stories are as unique as music itself.

Reginald Pinckney

Reginald Pinckney grew up in a poor neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida. Former residents recall a slaughterhouse and a garbage incinerator on the same block as the elementary school. “Survival was the name of the game,” Reginald says. “Families did whatever they could to get by.”

Reginald’s parents sold bootlegged whiskey and ran an “after-hours joint” behind the family home. Reginald sang along with the jukebox for a nickel per song. “From Otis Redding to Billie
Holiday, I learned every ‘45’ on the box,” he recalls.

He sang anywhere he could, including church. For him, music was fun, but it was also an escape. The Florida of Reginald’s youth struggled through desegregation. In third grade, Reginald’s mother walked him by picketers attempting to stop school integration. “They were hitting the kids with picket signs,” Reginald says.

Through the difficulties, Reginald kept singing. He also learned to play the saxophone. He graduated high school with a partial music scholarship to Florida A&M. Financially, it wasn’t enough, so Reginald joined the Air Force.

He spent four years in the service, then worked for an insurance company in Alaska and San Diego. When the company dissolved, Reginald packed a suitcase and his voice and headed for Paris. A detour led him to the Czech Republic. “The trio happened by chance,” he says. “My first piano player was British and my bass player was a minister. We gigged around Prague.”

The Reginald Pinckney Trio eventually toured throughout Eastern Europe, with Reginald’s soulful voice leading. He never did move to Paris. “I fell in love with the Czech Republic,” he says.

In 1997, Reginald returned to Jacksonville, but the one-time child jukebox singer had long since outgrown his hometown. A friend recommended Seattle, and Reginald packed his bags. Soon afterward, he landed a consulting position and joined the WAC for networking.

He released his first album in 2004 followed by “Reginald Live” in 2017. He hopes to put out a third album in 2020. “The new one is about lessons learned,” he says. “It’s an aching in my heart that I’ve wanted to do for some time now.”

Learn more about Reginald’s music and listen to sample tracks at reginaldpinckney.com.

Abe Claiborne

Abe Claiborne found his music career out of the spotlight. During more than 20 years in the industry, he has worked with the likes of Universal Music Group and Geffen Records. Abe is currently a partner at Seattle-based 2 Doors Management. We asked him to tell us about life in the music biz and how he uses the WAC.

Q. How did you get your start in the music industry?

A. My first job in high school was at a record store, but my real break was in college at North Carolina. I was working at the college radio station when I got a call from a music promoter. He was looking for someone to give his artist some airtime and an on-air interview. It turned out to be Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes from TLC. Afterward, I was asked to help promote other artists around campus. That eventually turned into a part-time position with PolyGram.

Q. Who has been your most important influence?

A. My mother. She played Motown in the house and sang in the church choir. Growing up in the Carolinas, I also hung out with an eclectic group of friends. They are the ones that solidified music as a passion for me.

Q. What are you working on right now?

A. A lot of things, actually. A music licensing project for Fremont Street in Las Vegas, consulting with a few early-
stage start-ups and artists, and building a music app to help meet the business needs of restaurants and bars that want to use local music in their establishments.

Q. Any craziest moments you can share?

A. I once had to run and get makeup for Robert Smith from The Cure before a show. He had a really specific shade that was only at one store about 20 miles away. Thousands of people were waiting on me to bring it back.

Q. How do you use the WAC?

A. I use it a lot to work and work out. I hold most of my meetings there. Also, my son loves swimming on the 6th Floor.

Q. What skills are most important in your work?

A. Patience. Also, an understanding of people, a strong work ethic, and foresight. Music is an emotional product, and the music business is full of creative people. You have to be able to work with them and not impede the creative process and be an advocate for them in business where they might not have the knowledge you do. In essence, artists need all the same things any new business does, just structured differently.

Q. What are some of the most exciting things you see happening on the Seattle music scene right now?

A. The Seattle music scene is very vibrant. The most exciting thing is the diversity of the talent. The hip hop and electronic scene have some excellent musicians. And the rock heritage here is still going strong. But the best thing is that Seattle still has a unique sound, unlike what I hear everywhere else. There is a fierce independent streak that tends to set Seattle music apart. 

Follow 2 Doors Management on Instagram @2doorsmgmt.

Elizabeth Phelps & Matthew Decker

Violinist Elizabeth Phelps has a passion for playing baroque music on period instruments. “One of my violins uses gut strings and no chin rest or shoulder rest,” the Connecticut native says. Since moving to Seattle in 2018, Elizabeth has filled in at the Seattle Symphony; played with local groups, including the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, and the Byrd Ensemble; and participated in the Salish Sea Early Music Festival. The week-long tour included nine performances on local islands as well as shows in Seattle and Vancouver. “It was an incredible way to see the great beauty of the Pacific Northwest,” Elizabeth says.

Eight years ago, she wasn’t sure she would play violin ever again. A nerve impingement in her neck disabled both her hands. Three months of intense physical therapy followed. “I was lucky,” she says. The scare led Elizabeth to five years of Pilates. “I knew I had to start exercising regularly to get stronger and protect myself,” she says.

Now she routinely attends group fitness classes and lifts weights at the WAC. “I love the calm of the women’s floor,” she

says. “I feel no judgment about whatever I’m doing. It’s a very safe space.” Her partner, Matthew Decker, is timpanist and a percussionist for the Seattle Symphony. “It’s always an adventure to find just the right cymbal or stick or tambourine that is going to bring life to the symphony,” Matthew says.

Matthew grew up in Indiana and studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He and Elizabeth met while working at the North Carolina Symphony. While Elizabeth leans baroque, Matthew’s personal passion includes ragtime xylophone.

Perhaps more than any other in the symphony, percussion instruments are a manual labor. “It’s important to stay in shape,” Matthew says. “Being able to work out so close to Benaroya Hall has been amazing for me. It makes it a lot easier with cymbal playing, when you’re literally throwing around 12 to 15 pounds of metal for entire movements
of a symphony.”

Go behind the scenes with Elizabeth and Matthew at libbyphelps.com/media and wac.net/timpani.

As published in the March/April 2020 issue of WAC Magazine

—Posted February 26, 2020

 

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