Mr. Music – Lenny Tepsich
What is it about music that has made it such an important part of your life?
Since I was a little kid music has always moved me and has been a source of great joy in my life. I love how music brings people together. It can be healing. I’ve seen firsthand, time and time again, how a song can get people to do things they otherwise couldn’t do. I’ve watched little kids who couldn’t speak actually sing with their classmates; and others afraid to interact with anyone, take the lead in an activity because of a song. Music is miraculous!
There are many different types of music: jazz, hip-hop, folk, country, pop. Can you describe your genre of music and what makes that genre what it is–like what makes rap, rap and how is it different from other music? Is it the way you use your voice or instrumentation?
It’s impossible to ID a specific genre. I love to sing and play many types of music. My roots are Serbian and Croatian. The ethnic music and instruments inherent to our culture are alive in what I do today. My preferences are many. I’ve always loved soul, R & B, funk, big band, country, bluegrass, and rock n roll. You can find any of these influences in the music I write and play. A song can be soulful when it’s sung and played from the heart. So maybe my genre is soulful!
Talk about the instruments you incorporate into your songs when you perform? What are your favorites?
These days I primarily play guitar and doumbek (or djembe). I absolutely love playing both. When performing with ethnic band Sviraj, my first instrument is the tamburitza Celo; not like a cello you are familiar with in a symphony. The Celo I play looks more like a guitar but functions like a cello in a symphony orchestra. That was my first instrument. I began playing at age 10. I wanted to be a bass player like my uncle and grandfather. The man who taught me insisted I play Celo first, “then you can play anything!”. He was right. Thanks to the Celo, the instruments I play include bass, guitar, piano, and the family of 5 different tamburitza instruments.
You don’t need an instrument to be musical. You can make music using everyday household objects like pots, pans, and rubber bands. What did you use to make music with when you were a kid?
I remember parading through the house with my brother and sisters. My favorite was the wooden spoon on a metal lid. Once I made a drum set in the basement. That’s the only place my mom would allow. It consisted of different sized buckets turned upside down. The snare drum was a metal box that my mom kept buttons in. I used the stakes from a croquet set as drumsticks. I also loved to play bass lines on my Celo while listening to 45’s on our record player.
Listen to Mr. Music perform on these songs: