Since coming to the Bay Area, Paul has had great success as both a musician and entrepreneur. His is a lifetime of experience in the music field; playing duets on the piano with his father at age 3, lessons at 5, active in various bands throughout High School then receiving a degree in music from The Lionel Hampton School of Music.
Paul began playing piano at Nordstrom in 1986 and soon was managing the piano department at the San Francisco Centre. His ability to bridge the gap between artists and corporate decision makers lead to the creation of a Music Director position where he oversaw all aspects of this unique division throughout California and Arizona. His high standards and commitment to customer service has been the foundation for his success in maintaining accounts with major hotels, event planners and private clients.
In 2012 Paul completed Waldorf Teacher training and received a Masters in Waldorf Education in 2013. This experience has enriched his life by looking at children and life through a different set of lens. Becoming a full time teacher is not the goal but he does enjoy substituting at various Waldorf Schools and helping out with his son's education at the Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm.
Paul’s wife Terry is an artist and her work can be found at www.terrysauve.com. They and their son David live in Sebastopol.
What you just read is the typical bio but there's more to the story, of course there always is. The truth is that I'm one of the luckiest guys I know and I try not to forget it. In June of 1986 I was hired to play piano at the Nordstrom in Marin County. Up until May of that year I had been working in the family business in a small town in Idaho. We owned a machine shop and I worked behind the counter waiting on loggers, farmers and mill workers. I probably still had grease under my nails when I auditioned for that job. I was hired on the spot since they needed someone to play that afternoon. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! I was wearing an old sports jacket that had belonged to my Dad in the 1950's. He had died suddenly in June the year before and I know he was by my side all the way. I noticed the piano in the store a couple days prior when I went there to buy some dress shoes for the purpose of interviews yet to come. Interestingly I never had to go for another interview after that but the shoes got lots of use. Within days I landed two more jobs playing in Marin restaurants and my real education took off.
Nordstrom turned out to be not just a great company to work for but a place to develop a style and repertoire and people loved the piano players. We played 6 hour shifts and I worked 4-5 days a week, often filling in for others since my schedule was wide open. On the weekends I was playing in Mill Valley and out at Stinson Beach. I was truly "green behind the ears" and so many people helped guide my path. Remember that just a couple months before I was toiling out my life in Idaho and didn't even know about Marin and now I was playing piano, making a living there? How does that happen? Again I'm one of the luckiest guys I know.
In two short years I was asked to transfer to the new Nordstrom that was being built in San Francisco. This store was to be the grandest department store anywhere and no expense was spared. At the time of it's opening in 1988 nothing could compare to it's circular escalators, wine bar, pub, two more full restaurants and a spa. The men's department was filled everywhere with priceless antiques and that's where the 9' Steinway Grand was placed, right on the edge of the dept. near the top of the 2nd floor escalator. I was given the job of not just playing but managing the players as well. I think we had to have at least 10 -12 players to cover the 9am - 9pm play time. I have to mention that these players taught me so much, most of them had been playing in SF for years and they had it going on. In the 80's there were still pianos being played in most of the hotels and dozens of restaurants and private clubs. This continued through much of the 90's but then there seemed to be sudden death of all things wonderful and musical...but that's another story. So I was able to hire great players who had years of experience. It also gave me the opportunity to hire new, young players who had just moved to the city in search of opportunities. If you played well customers would often take your card and call you for events. I had the great fortune of having caterers and event planners take my card and I still get calls from some of them to this day. How lucky am I?
Working in that store was a job I looked forward to coming to everyday, in fact I would sometimes work 6 days a week since I lived just up the hill on Nob Hill. Thousands of customers would roll off the escalators everyday and pass by the piano. I often joke that I never traveled the world but that the world came to me - rolling off that escalator. You name them, they came to that store. Movie stars, politicians, Saudi Princes, sports celebrities, plus all the very colorful characters that made San Francisco such an interesting place. And the real cool thing was that many of them liked to sit in the leather high back chairs near the piano to wait for someone or to simply enjoy the veiw and the music.
I'll end this with one more story about working there, believe me I could go on and on, and maybe will someday. Before the store opened to the public they had a gala event in the store for the SF Opera. This was the Nordstrom families way of introducing the store to SF society, dignitaries etc. The top floor was converted into a dinner club setting and the Peter Duchin Orchestra from NYC was playing. It goes without saying that this was a big deal and everybody who was anybody was there - all the movers and shakers. I was stationed at the piano on the 2nd floor when the guests arrived through the elevators on the 1st floor. The guests then came up the escalator to the 2nd floor and passed the piano on their way up to the 3rd and 4th floors. Since I hadn't lived here but a couple years I didn't yet know many of the faces, but I was nervous as can be as I played and they paraded by. And then I saw him...Herb Caen... the famous columnist who's daily 3 dot column in the San Francisco Chronicle was the first news most people had been turning to in the morning for decades. He invented words and sayings like beatnik and hippie, that became part of the social fabric not just in SF but throughout the country. He was a big fan of music and didn't mince words if he didn't like someone. Apparently he wasn't a fan of Miles Davis when Miles played frequently in SF during the late 50's and 60's. He knew more about SF and it's goings on than anybody...period! And there he was leaving the flow of people and walking toward me at the piano...panic! My new tuxedo immediately became drenched as he came nearer. He was a kind and gentle looking man and he smiled and simply asked, "What's New?" Thankfully I realized he wasn't asking how I was but was requesting a song by that title. How clever of him to request that song for that particular moment in that "new" store. But did I know the song? After all there are a lot of songs and I had only been doing this for a couple of years. Again...I'm a very lucky guy.
I had an small accumulation of songs in a black binder placed inconspicuously on the left side of the lower music rack and I knew the song to be in there...in fact it was the last song. I literally could not speak so I simply nodded my head and tried my best to give him a casual confident smile as Mr. Caen turned around to rejoin the stream of guests. I quickly opened the binder, threw the pages to the last and hit the first notes, that to those familiar with the tune, sing out..."Whats New?" He turned around, looked at me, smiled and gave me a "thumbs up" then disappeared in the stream of black tie and formal gowns. Herb Caen gave me...a hay seed from Idaho...a "thumbs up". No one could have heard the song over the din of people but he did and I did and we shared a moment of music together. Of course I didn't make it into his column the next day but the evening certainly did. I'll never forget how much confidence his small acknowledgement gave me. I felt I had arrived and was granted entry to the City by the gate keeper himself.
What a lucky guy I am!