Keyboardist-composer-arranger-producer Timothy Wenzel has established himself as one of the top new age music artists with a string of outstanding contemporary instrumental albums that received extensive airplay globally and high chart action. He reaffirms that status with a new album, Running Away, featuring his piano and synthesizer playing plus Josie Quick on violin, Jill Haley on English horn and oboe, and Jeff Haynes on percussion.
Wenzel, a former successful research scientist, uses his music to explore 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 his piano parts with the sounds of a wide variety of other instruments (including, on Running Away, flute, guitars, strings, bass and more). 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 also has become proficient as an arranger and producer, and he often brings in other musicians to assist with his vision. On Running Away he is joined by several special guests — violinist Josie Quick who plays on nine tracks (she also appeared on his last two recordings), Jill Haley on English horn and oboe (on five tunes) and percussionist Jeff Haynes (on six songs). Quick is a member of the progressive groups Perpetual Motion, The Coyote Poets of the Universe and the Frontera String Quartet. Haley is one of the early pioneers of new age music with numerous renowned solo and collaborative recordings to her credit. Haynes has played with hundreds of top acts in the genres of new age (Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy), pop (Joni Mitchell) and jazz (Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson).
Running Away 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), Distant Horseman (extending thoughts about life to include the entire universe) and What We Hold Dear (music capturing meaningful people, places and moments). He also has 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. Much of his music can be heard at streaming channel sites such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music.
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. What We Hold Dear went to #2 and Distant Horseman was the #3 album on the ZMR Chart. His last recording, What We Hold Dear, was named by ZMR one of the Top 5 “Best Contemporary Albums” of the year. It also was #1, #2 or #3 on many monthly New Age Music Charts including Got Radio’s New Age Nuance Channel, Montana Public Radio, WAWL, WESS, KCMJ, KYGT, WHYR, WKNH, WMNR, WVUD, WWSP and KZUM.
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.
“The title track on my Running Away album was inspired by a fantasy that I think many people have,” explains Wenzel, “the idea of starting a new life, escaping from problems and all your stresses, maybe slipping away to another part of the world and creating a different life, just leaving everything behind. The great thing about art, such as music, is that it can facilitate mental escapism and daydreams.”
Wenzel says Running Away is not a concept album, but “a collection of musical ideas that I feel compliment one another.” However, the theme of going to some other place is not only in the “Running Away” title tune, but is echoed in “Breaking Free” and “Traveling Light.” Wenzel explains that “Breaking Free” is about “changing your life for the better, getting away from what binds you, making a plan for change and then following through with it.” The piece “Traveling Light” reflects “the feeling of not being burdened by too much baggage whether it’s suitcases or the emotional stuff we tote around.”
Many of Wenzel’s albums have pieces about dancing on them. This recording is no exception. “Dancing in the Darkness,” he says, “can be about a couple dancing privately away from the lights and crowd, but in the North where I live we also talk about how the Northern Lights, the aurora borealis, dance across the sky at night.” Another song, “Gazelle Dance,” is Wenzel’s tribute to gazelles and antelopes because their breath-taking bounding reminds him of the way professional dancers can soar. Wenzel also was inspired by people for “A Bit About You” (“when we first meet someone we usually ask them to tell us about themselves”), “A Friend of Mine” (“When musicians get together to make music, they often become friends”) and “Past Presence” (“It can be kind of spooky when you get the feeling that someone from a past era has joined you”).
Wenzel composed “Dream of Summer” after feeling a warm wind blowing one morning. A dream of a fantastical festive parade from long ago caused him to write “Magical Pageant,” and the idea for “Coronial Rain” came from viewing a NASA video about the sun spewing plasma into its atmosphere and then it raining back onto the star’s surface. Obviously Wenzel enjoys thinking about many things. “The song ‘Makes You Wonder’ came about because I am often asking why something is. I have much curiosity.”
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 successes in the world of 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 that led to a major discovery. 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.”
Wenzel says, “On Running Away I enjoyed working with the musicians Jill Haley, Jeff Haynes and Josie Quick, as well as my engineer and co-producer Corin Nelsen, because everyone brought their own special talents, energy and inspiration to the project. The result truly is a team effort with the sum total well beyond the individual parts.”