Timothy Wenzel: What We Hold Dear

“One of the most important lessons in life,” says keyboardist-composer Timothy Wenzel, “is to learn to concentrate on what we have rather than what we don’t have. As a reminder of that I titled my new album What We Hold Dear and each of the musical themes reflects various aspects of life that are especially meaningful to me.”

Wenzel goes on to explain, “As the album cover artwork shows, if after a natural disaster you have your arms around your family, you still have the most important things in your life. Everything is secondary to those whom I hold dear. Number one is the people I love. But moving down my own personal list, I also have strong love for music, nature, our world and the universe, spirituality, dreams, special places I have lived and traveled to, wonderful people I have come in to contact with, and the power of rivers, lakes and oceans.”

Timothy Wenzel is a former scientist who has become a leading new age music keyboardist over the past few years. He uses his music to explore both major universal concepts as well as philosophies, feelings and adventures that pertain to our daily lives. Musically Wenzel places the most emphasis on piano, which he has played all his life, but he also is a master synthesist and augments the piano parts with a wide variety of instrumental sounds including flute, woodwinds, harp, guitars, strings, bass, drums and percussion. Wenzel’s music has great appeal in the new age genre, especially because of the haunting melodies and dreamy arrangements that create a sense of peacefulness and relaxation.

Wenzel is joined on What We Hold Dear by several special guests — violinist Josie Quick who plays on 10 of the 12 tracks (she also appeared on his last recording), cellist Jordan Schug (who is on half of the tunes) and singer Sarah Joerz (who vocalizes wordlessly on one piece). Quick is a member of the progressive groups Perpetual Motion, The Coyote Poets of the Universe and the Frontera String Quartet. Schug, who has backed Richie Cole and Jon Hendricks in concert, plays jazz cello in a number of groups including The Wildcats, The Schug-Jellick Duo and the Detroit Jazz Legacy Ensemble.

What We Hold Dear follows Wenzel’s previous albums Mountains Take Wing (on which he explored earth and nature), A Coalescence of Dreams (centered on dreams and our personal journey), River Serene (a flowing river serves as an analogy for life), Summon the Wind (using the wind metaphor to explore life’s pervasive forces) and Distant Horseman (extending thoughts about life to include the entire universe). He also recently recorded a duet CD, Such a Long Time, with singer Anne Cozean. More information on Timothy Wenzel is available at his website (timothywenzel.com). All of his CDs and digital download tracks from those recordings are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.

His albums regularly receive airplay on hundreds of radio stations and channels around the world, and always race into the Top 10 on the international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 monthly airplay chart. Distant Horseman was the #3 album on the ZMR Chart and went #1 on numerous monthly New Age Music Charts: Got Radio’s New Age Nuance Channel, Our Place Radio Channel, Montana Public Radio, WAWL (Chattanooga, Tennessee), WFCF (St. Augustine, Florida), KRCB (Rohnert Park, California) and WVUD (Newark, Delaware).

There is always a visual element within Wenzel’s music which is often inspired by dreams, films, stories and nature scenery. In addition, for each tune he usually seeks out an appropriate piece of artwork which he makes available for viewing on his website. Wenzel also is an avid photographer.

Some of the music on What We Hold Dear was inspired by nature. Wenzel turned the idea of “Murmuration” into music (it is a collective term for starlings). “When thousands of starlings swirl in the air together as a unit, it is like a dance of nature.” Wenzel wrote “Appalachian Waters” about his time living in West Virginia (“I loved the beauty of nature there and the traditional mountain music.”). “Desert Dream” grew out of the feeling “of being in the Southwestern desert with a tribe long ago going through a deep mysterious spiritual rite.” The composition “On A Quiet Night” came from a thrilling night of photography when Wenzel went out into the country alone to capture the aurora borealis. Wenzel has often explored water themes which he returns to with “Turquoise Sky, Emerald Sea.” “Waves on the ocean can be very lulling and soothing, but this simple melody also affected me emotionally because it brought back memories of youth and falling in love.”

Other tunes on the recording explore the spirituality of our lives — “Ascension” (“My aspiration is to rise higher both spiritually and musically, to ascend beyond boundaries and limits.”), “Incantations” (“Spells and chants can lead to a powerful personal transformation especially when you get so enraptured and caught up in the vision that you go beyond your normal realm.”) and “Moon Dance” (“Humans have always looked up at the moon, felt its magic, and been inspired, even compelled, to dance happily through the night.”).

While the title tune, “What We Hold Dear,” musically summarizes what is most important to each of us, on other tunes Wenzel explores a variety of life’s meaningful moments. “Hypnotized” is a love song. “When you feel the hypnotic effect of love it is a remarkable kind of mesmerizing experience.” Wenzel taps into the sadness of being separated from family and friends in the piece “In A Little While” (“The sense of leaving, of displacement, and the yearning for reunion evokes strong emotions.”). For “A Spring Day in Autumn,” Wenzel fantasizes about “what if an older person suddenly was able to experience their youth again, but with the perspective that all of their years have given them.”

Wenzel spent his childhood in South Haven, Michigan, where he was born and raised. As a boy he divided his time between being outdoors enjoying nature, but also inside playing the piano. “There was always a piano in our house. It was built by my grandfather who worked in a piano factory.” Tim’s mother played piano and encouraged him to play. He started plunking on the keys when he was three and two years later was taking lessons. Wenzel says, “I was deeply into classical music at first, but later I started being influenced by rock’n’roll and what I heard on the radio.” Initially Wenzel enjoyed Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues, and later Fleetwood Mac and U2. As he got older he began to appreciate new age music (“George Winston and the whole rosters of the Windham Hill and Narada labels”) and Celtic sounds — Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, Enya and Sara McLachlan.

Music is Wenzel’s second fulltime career following an initial career in science. “Music and science have always been my two main passions. I see a correlation between them. Scientific exploration is full of creativity and is very much like writing a song. In both cases you start with an idea and then explore the possibilities of where it can lead.” He earned a BS degree in Chemistry at the University of Missouri, then his Masters and PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry at Cornell University. He first served as a post-doctoral researcher in organometallic chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. This led to a career in research science, first with Union Carbide in West Virginia, and then with Dow Chemical back in Michigan where he still lives. “I primarily worked in making polymers using catalysts. Polymers are a chemical compound of repeating structural units. My work was primarily in polyethylene using a new generation of catalysts to make different plastics. The highlight of my career was when they let me run with a far-out idea I had, and I headed a team that found a way to make two catalysts talk to each other. It is a powerful technique to make new types of polymers. It was a major discovery.”

Wenzel says, “Life is full of loss, but even when we lose people or things it helps us put life into perspective and teaches us that what is most important is what we still have. I hope the music on What We Hold Dear is not only entertaining, but also provokes some thoughts about what are actually the most important things in our lives.”