Tony Shaloub/ Adrian Monk
The pilot episode of the detective show Monk called for Tony Shaloub (Monk) to play clarinet by his wife Trudy’s grave. Tony didn’t play clarinet, so they asked me to teach him how to hold a clarinet convincingly and wiggle his fingers to the synthesized clarinet track they were going to play. Tony’s clarinet hadn’t arrived when I got there, so he asked for mine. Spying a stack of cold tablets on the table, I nervously informed him that people don’t usually share reed instruments. But he was persuasive and I gave it to him. By the end of the first lesson, he was getting a sound — which isn’t easy to do. I gave him three lessons in total and he picked it up very quickly. When I saw the pilot a couple of years later, lo and behold Tony Shaloub was playing the clarinet himself. I think there should be a special Emmy for that. It’s a very touching scene.
I already spoke a fair bit of Cantonese before I signed up for the Asian tour of the King and I, but because we were going to China I spent hundreds of hours using MP3s and CDs to learn Mandarin.
When I got there, I was very disappointed to discover that nobody could understand me because I’d learned it all from recordings. While I was in China, though, my ability to speak Mandarin really improved because I used it all the time. After The King and I, I headed right back to China with 42nd Street. I was very proud to notice that I could get around very well in Mandarin. I could order food, give taxi drivers directions, help my fellow musicians with hotel arrangements, and once even had to resolve something at the police department because of an error with our work permits. One of my favourite things about travelling with musicals was the chance to learn some of the language.
I wrote Starbright (Star Brite) and Your Back Yard for my good friend, Lelani Marrell. We’ve been friends since we were teens and performed in several musicals together. We used to sunbathe nude in her back yard because it was very private, surrounded by tall trees. “Your Back Yard” celebrates that memory. ~ Tom
(Note: Starbright and Your Back Yard are on the playlist, below.)
When I was 30, I went to Hong Kong with singer Almeta Speaks, a Vancouver percussionist named Albert Saint Albert, and a bass player from Chicago. Almeta was to play a one night concert at the very large (about 15,000 seat) Kowloon Cultural Centre.
It must have been more affordable for the concert organizer to book us all on a package deal, so instead of just a couple of nights in Hong Kong, the three of us were able to stay for a week and enjoy ourselves as tourists. They put Almeta up in a classic, Hotel-Vancouver style place in Hong Kong, but the bass player, percussionist and I were given rooms in a brand new, very fancy 50-storey tower across the water in Kowloon.
It was my first experience of the very wealthy lifestyle some musicians have (as opposed to the kind of tours I was also familiar with, where the band is put up in a hotel on the outskirts of town). I was young, eager to explore the city, and wide-eyed. Unfortunately, I offered to carry the conga drums up a million stairs into the theatre and somehow sprained my ankle. So, for the whole week I hobbled around the city like an old man. But I still saw everything! Still one of my favourite memories. ~Tom
“In 2008 we put some video demos of our Golems physics constructor game on Youtube, with a clip of Tom’s music for background. Many of the comments were from people who watched the demos just to listen to the music. Which song is this? they’d ask. People seemed more interested in the background music than in the video itself.”Jacob Bayless, Golems team member
Tom wrote Sam I Am in honour of his eldest nephew.