AJ SMITH (Lead Vocals, Piano, Guitar, Violin, Mandolin, & Banjo)
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist AJ Smith is the recent Songwriters Hall of Fame / NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar of the Year. The last year has been extremely formative for his songwriting and performance abilities as he has been studying under GRAMMY-winning composer Herschel Garfein and GRAMMY-winning songwriting legend Phil Galdston. AJ has also studied or worked with award-winning songwriter Alex Forbes, BMI's own Billy Seidman, master songwriter/producer Barry Eastmond, and the lovely songwriter/artist Jonatha Brooke.
As a solo musician, AJ established his abilities to amaze audiences when he improvised an entirely new song in front of 1,200 students in order to win Best Solo Performance at NYU's UltraViolet Live Talent Competition in 2011 (considered one of the premiere talent contests in the U.S. made famous by the fact that Lady Gaga placed 3rd when she attended NYU). Using a keyboard, loop station, laptop, & electric guitar, AJ pieced together a song based on genre specifications voted upon by audience members and with lyrics improvised around three words as decided by the judges. The end result had elements of rock, rap, electronic, dance, and blues music which have now come together more fully into the individual style that makes AJ's music his own.
While a Young Associate to the National Symphony Orchestra for his performance abilities on the violin, AJ is also classically trained on the piano and has impressed audiences in several notable venues including: The Kennedy Center (Concert Hall), Strathmore Music Hall, George Mason Patriot Center, Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, and the White House as a solo musician or part of a larger ensemble. His love for music does not stop with two instruments, however, as AJ's abilities on acoustic & electric guitar, electric bass, and mandolin have garnered him quite the reputation as a performer and studio musician.
AJ will graduate from New York University in December of 2012 and plans to continue studying in the Songwriting Masters program at NYU through December 2013 to further sharpen his tools and be the best musician & songwriter he can possibly be.
XANDER GREEN (Keyboards, Back-up Vocals)
Xander Green is a composer on the cutting edge of contemporary musical theater. He also writes concert music, film scores, pop, country, and art songs. Currently, he is writing the music and lyrics for a new musical, 'All You Can Eat.' 'All You Can Eat' was workshopped at the Calhoun School’s Mary Lea Johnson Performing Art Center, and was directed by Jess McLeod of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Xander also studies with GRAMMY-winning composer Herschel Garfein and recently attended a prestigious musical theater workshop where he had the opportunity to work with and receive instruction from none other than the world-renowned Jason Robert Brown. As an instrumentalist and arranger, Xander's presence on stage and in the studio is invaluable as an extremely experienced keyboards performer and harmonization expert.
LLOYD KIKOLER (Electric & Acoustic Bass)
Since picking up the bass at the age of 13 Lloyd Kikoler has become an extremely versatile musician comfortable on both upright and electric bass in a wide variety of playing styles ranging from jazz all the way to pop and rock music. He has had the privilege of studying with some of the best musicians New York City has to offer including Jeff Carney (bassist for Barbra Streisand and many others) and acclaimed jazz bassist Linda Oh. Lloyd is currently pursuing a degree in performance at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
TOM JORGENSEN (Drums, Percussion, Back-up Vocals)
Thomas "Tom" Jorgensen is an active and in-demand young percussionist in New York City. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Tom began his performing career in Omaha, Nebraska, where he lived for 7 years. Tom has performed and worked with top musicians and ensembles including The Mike Vax Big Band, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Stefon Harris, Eric Marienthal, Marvin Stamm, Jimmy Haslip, Amy London, Charli Persip, Billy Harper, Chris Vadala, The Matt Wilson Quartet, and many others. Tom has performed in such venues as The Rose Theatre and The Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, Nebraska, also including Rockefeller Center, The Triad Theatre, Smalls Jazz Club, and several other venues in New York City. Currently, Tom lives in New York City attending college at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He is pursuing his undergraduate degree in Jazz Drum Set Performance and studies privately with master drummer Michael Carvin.
I started this song a couple of weeks ago while I was up in New York for a songwriting workshop at NYU. The show we played in Reston was coming up and I needed to have another "Indie" song along the lines of "Kings & Crowns" but was struggling to find a topic to write about.
I had recently read a lot of Ray Bradbury short stories, one of which was entitled, "The Fog Horn" (If you've listened to the song, you'll hear my tribute in the lyrics to the title of this story). In the tale, there is a man who finds himself in a lighthouse on the day where once every year, in response to the fog horn that warns ships of the rocky shores, a monster swims up from the depths. This monster is seemingly confused because it bellows out a sound that mirrors the fog horn as if in conversation. Upon realizing that the lighthouse is not a mate, he destroys it and swims away, never to be heard from again.
As I read this story, I couldn't help but think of 52-Hertz, the real-life whale who has a similar communication problem because he sings in a completely different frequency and at an entirely different rate than all other whales. Essentially, 52-Hertz speaks a language that none can understand and so he is doomed to swim about in complete and utter loneliness.
These thoughts led me to think a great deal about what it would mean to truly be alone, to be completely misunderstood. We all feel this way from time to time, but few have ever really experienced the pain of total and real loneliness - that is, to be the last one of one's kind.
It was in this moment that I decided to write a tale of a monster who, too, was misunderstood. Not because he was actually "monstrous" but merely different. How would we react? Would we persecute him just because we didn't understand him and found him to be a threat? In many ways, the story I envisioned has ties to many martyrs, but I decided to write from the point of view of the jeering crowd. In that sense, the song becomes anthemic and the chorus is positive & catchy so as to invite you to sing along, to invite you to put this monster to death.
Take a listen and I hope you enjoy, AJ
An entirely different type of show than usual, AJ Smith will be performing a live solo set in Great Falls. Using a piano, guitar, keyboard, loop station, and iPhone, you will get the chance to witness firsthand AJ's compositional process and why the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist was awarded Best Solo Performance in the UltraViolet Live Talent Competition and Songwriting Scholar of the Year from the Songwriters Hall of Fame & NYU Steinhardt.
We hope you can join us on August 2, 2012 from 8-10pm for a truly unique experience. Learn more about AJ at the links below:
When: Thursday, August 2nd (8-10pm) Where: Johnny's Place @ 1025 Seneca Rd. Great Falls, VA Tickets: FREE