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Daily Inspiration: Meet John Coker

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Coker.

Hi John, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I grew up in a loving musical household, raised on the twin pillars of European Classical and Motown. When I was 12, my Art teacher showed our class The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine; I knew then I must be a musician. I became passionately obsessed.

This continued with focused vocational study in the European Classical tradition; how to write and perform symphonies, operas, chamber music, etc. I found my way to graduate school at a historic conservatory of music and had the pleasure to work and study with remarkable people, including closely with both a Pulitzer Prize winner and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant awardee.

In my second year of graduate school, while performing on stage with an orchestra, a freak incident occurred with a lighting rig. My brain was permanently altered, and I was diagnosed with PTSD from the experience and the events surrounding it. I was forced to wear dark glasses at all times due to new extreme light sensitivity and experienced a continuous migraine. I searched out the top specialists in this area; my condition – permanent.

In many ways, however, this is the most beautiful thing to have ever happened to me. I say this as this experience was the agent of great transformative change in my life. There’s a wonderful Greek word for it – “metanoia.”

I had been living my life for many years founded on fear. Complications from this stage light incident resulted in near-death experiences, which revealed that living a life based on fear is a waste. I knew I had to release fear and continually search honestly for the truth.

After years of deep meditation and therapy, I no longer suffer from PTSD – that diagnosis was officially updated to past-tense. Meditation and one of the top specialists in America bring serenity with chronic pain.

I am now entirely my own musician, making multi-dimensional music that’s been described as “genre-defying.” I write, sing, play all the instruments, and craft the results into unique sounds.

That is to say – I’m just a big kid playing in a big sandbox.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Goodness; many challenges. Most of all – working through PTSD, mental toxicity, dealing with chronic pain, bouncing around Johns Hopkins/Mayo Clinic/other health systems seeking treatment, having to wear sunglasses at all times, and continual financial hardship. My alma mater doesn’t feel entirely responsible for the incident that occurred, which was difficult to accept.

I have a truly wondrous wife, our fantastic cats, and my dear family/friends that are both keen listeners and always generous in their love.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I call what I do “Designer Music and Sound.” This is because I craft not only notes (the buckets into which we organize sounds – C, Eb, G#, etc.) but also timbres – that is, what’s inside those notes; why the same note played on a violin sounds different than that same note played on a xylophone, for example.

So – I sing and play all the instruments in these projects, then toy with the sounds in an artisanal manner. I prefer to be viewed as an artisan rather than an artist – a conduit, not a source.

I believe in crafting music that’s “genre-proof” – bringing many styles together, respectfully. We make far too big a deal of silly categories, creating imaginary brick walls that are all too often harmful to many cultures because we diminish one people’s music in establishing another people’s music as superior. All music is, in some form, art music. I write, perform, record, and produce/sound design music and sound for both solo recording projects and professional theatre productions (soundtracks for Shakespeare, other classics, and new works).

In addition to my voice, I primarily use double bass (kind of like a giant cello), all manner of guitars, piano/keyboards, and percussion. I’ve been called a “postmodern one-man band,” which I rather like.

My latest album is called Stoic and was released through Bentley Records earlier this year. You can find it wherever music is digitally sold or streamed. I’m finishing up another album called Folly – can’t wait to share it with everyone!

What makes you happy?
Simply being present – aligning with the now; “being.” I love being purposely idle with my wife, hanging with our cats, reading poetry, watching films, and listening to rain.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Kaitlin Muse, John Coker.

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