Vince Madison has been the President of DMATA since May 2013. With no limitation on term limits in office, and no other member wishing to step up to the task, Vince has been the rock that has kept DAMTA going for 8 years. Developing a website for the organization was very important to Vince. He wanted a site that would be robust in being a resource for parents and students to locate a teacher. He came to the members with many proposals that were very pricey and finally decided to do it himself. Anyone who has taken on this task for your own studio knows that there are some easy quick applications, but something as complicated as what he wanted for DAMTA was quite a task. He spent the time researching and working, and has developed a wonderful website for the teachers of DAMTA.
Vince saw another need to enhance the program delivery for meetings. The group meets at Classic Pianos, a venue that provides wonderful pianos for the performance portions of the meetings. However, there was a need to provide a robust technical system to assist presenters in delivering Internet material, Powerpoint, and program slides. Vince researched the possibilities and provided recommendations for purchase. DAMTA programs are greatly enhanced with this equipment.
Vince will step down this May, 2021 and shares with the members: “I am grateful to all my DAMTA colleagues for their friendship and enlightenment. I am looking forward to seeing new blood in DAMTA and seeing how piano teaching evolves in the future!”
Here is Vince’s story: I began my career as a guitarist. At about 13 years old I started playing guitar. I studied with several teachers from 7th grade through high school. I studied jazz and classical guitar and had a rock band that I played with at school dances. I also started writing songs in my teens.
Toward the end of my junior year, my dad sat me down and pointed out that soon I would be graduating high school and would need to find a career so I could pick an appropriate college. Then he gave me the advice that changed my life. He said, “I don’t care what you do. You can become a doctor or dig ditches. But whatever you choose to do, make sure you love it. Because you will be doing it for 8 hours a day the rest of your life. If you don’t love it, you’ll be miserable!”
This seemed like excellent advice. I looked around at all the things I did. I was good in school, always near the top of my class. But when I thought of spending my life doing chemistry or math or history, I knew none of those were for me. The only thing I really loved to do was music. So that was the day I decided to become a musician. I had been attending Regis High School from 9th to 11th grade. A fantastic school academically but no music department (unless you call 6 guys showing up at 7am, trying to have some kind of band, a department!) I switched to Wheat Ridge High School where they had an outstanding music program for my senior year. And because the academics at Regis were so advanced, I only had to take two non-music courses my senior year. The rest of the time was music, music, music!
I got a scholarship to DU, half academic and half music scholarship to play in the jazz band on guitar. I was excited to go to DU, because I had taken a few lessons with their jazz guitar teacher (Ozzie Carlson) and wanted to learn more.
But when I arrived in the fall, he had been fired! Instead, they had hired a very fine classical guitar teacher. So I studied with him.
I played guitar that first year in the jazz band, but in the fall of my sophomore year the jazz band director (Gene Rush) had a proposition for me. There were too many guitarists at DU, but no one really playing jazz piano. They knew I played some piano (I grew up with one in my house and spent a good deal of time on it figuring out Beatles and Carol King songs and studying harmony.)
So Gene asked if I would consider switching to piano. He would teach me if I did. And he was an amazing teacher and musician. My major was music composition, and I knew practically every great composer was a pianist, so I made the leap. It was a little intimidating going to school with classmates playing Beethoven while I was learning how to properly finger scales. But I did it and graduated from D.U. magna cum laude with a music composition degree.
Out of college I started making a living playing in bands. First was a funk band with 3 black female singers. Then I joined a popular local jazz group called the Billy Miles Band (Billy Miles was not an actual person, but the name sounded cool.)
I wanted to write songs. I wasn’t a great singer, but felt I had a real talent for melodies. So I headed to New York to try to break into the music business.
When I got to New York I studied privately under Julliard instructor Bertha Melnik. I also spent a couple of years playing in various area bands. One gig which really helped me grow was a house gig in New Jersey where we did everything from Jazz standards to disco hits 6 nights a week! (This was the early 80’s). It was just piano bass and drums and a singer. So I had to learn to make things sound full!
After a few years of playing in bands and writing songs during the day, I got a break. A friend of mine introduced me to Gavin Christopher (who wrote the song “Once You Get Started” for Rufus and Chaka Kahn). He had just gotten a gig to produce an album for Grand Master Flash. He needed a keyboard player and synthesizer programmer. I had recently purchased an Oberhiem System; a state of the art synthesizer, drum machine and sequencer. We were a good fit! I quit the band I was in so I could be free to do studio work.
We did the Grandmaster Flash album (entitled “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done) which went on to some acclaim in hip-hop circles.
That led to more studio opportunities. I did quite a few sessions for Tommy Boy Records. I also did some session work for Elektra and Polygram. My work at that point was for rap and R&B artists, playing keyboard parts and programming synthesizers.
But through all this I still had the writing bug. I felt it was my greatest talent, but just couldn’t get the opportunity to break into the song writing world in NY.
I left New York and joined a band that was supposed to be a Late Night type band for a young aspiring TV host. That fizzled, but the band did have steady work in the casinos of Tahoe, Reno and Las Vegas. So I did that for 2 or 3 years hoping to get some kind of songwriting break, and writing dozens of songs, but nothing took off. I came back to Denver to re-group. Now it was the early 90’s. I started a duo, myself and a female singer. We played weddings and corporate events until about 1998.
Around that same time I started teaching for the 1st time. A friend of mine was a pianist who was moving to Nashville. He had some students up at Evergreen Music (now non-existent!) and asked if I would take over for him. I decided to give it a shot and started to teach up in Evergreen Colorado 3 afternoons a week!
I also did some studio work in Denver. A producer I worked with told me that I really should have a CD if for no other reason, than as an audio resume. I traded some studio work for studio time and recorded my first CD, “Nine Daughters”. It was solo acoustic piano. All original. It’s on the streaming services to this day if you want to hear it.
Shortly after recording “Nine Daughters” I met my wife, Marianna. She was very encouraging and supportive of my music. One day we were walking through the Westminster Mall (now non-existent!) and we saw a guy playing New Age Music on an EWI (electronic wind instrument). He was selling CDs of his music. I listened to him and thought “I can do better than that!” A few months later, with my wife’s help. Firefly Records was born. I recorded my 2nd album, “Dreamland”. The sound was piano and orchestra. I played all the parts on keyboards. By now technology had reached the point where electronic versions of acoustic instruments were quite convincing.
With Nine Daughters and Dreamland in hand, I started playing in shopping malls around Denver. And I started selling my own music! I quickly found out that I got much more attention playing of a real grand piano. And that Denver didn’t have enough malls to support this endeavor.
So we moved out to LA where my wife had a contract programming software and I started playing in the malls. Lots of malls and my sales went up dramatically! Then I got a relationship with Yamaha that allowed me to get a piano delivered to wherever I was performing for the cost of moving the piano. That allowed me to start travelling all over the country. I played in L.A, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Texas. (My wife is from Texas. They love piano in Texas. I sold tons of CDs there!)
During 1998-2006 I recorded 5 more albums and continued to market them in the malls. Here’s the catalog: Nine Daughters (1995) Dreamland (1998) Vince Madison Christmas (1999) Paradise Found (2000) Autumn Road (2001) Perfect Hearts (2003) Spice of Life (2005)
Most were the New Age piano and orchestra style. But my last, “Spice of Life”, was my most successful. It had a smooth jazz style. It was played on a number of jazz stations and ended up being a favorite on the Weather Channel! Sounds funny, but I got a couple of decent royalty checks! If you are curious, everything can be streamed on Spotify, YouTube etc. Last week I asked Alexa to play “Spice of Life by Vince Madison” and she did! By the time I was done, I’d sold over 80,000 CDs and most importantly had finally realized my dream of actually making a living selling my own music. With the advent of iTunes however, my business model became obsolete. Suddenly people were no longer willing to buy an album if they heard a song they liked. They wanted to just buy one song.
So I came back to Denver and started getting piano students. I’d still go out occasionally to sell CDs but found that I really enjoyed teaching. I got my 1st students in Stapleton. I decided to offer in home lessons. It’s been wonderful ever since. I have families I started with kids who were 6 then, who are now in college. I’ve built up a good studio over the years, averaging about 50 students a week. I was very pleased to find that I love working with kids and seem to have a good temperament for teaching both kids and adults. Perhaps it’s because I started piano later in life, I have a lot of patience for the struggles of beginners. I joined DAMTA around 2008. Since I didn’t come up the traditional piano lessons route, I really had a lot to learn about teaching piano. I can’t tell you how many useful lessons I’ve taken away from DAMTA presentations. Being in DAMTA has really enabled me to become a more effective teacher! And after all these years I still play and teach guitar as well!