JOHN OF ALL TRADES
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
Musician, psychotherapist, priest.
Lake Forest native John Moulder, 61, is all of the above—the equivalent, career-wise, of either an adept circus performer spinning way too many plates on poles or an ace juggler chucking and catching more than a few clubs.
“My three worlds,” says Moulder, who also teaches music in his basement in Skokie and at Northwestern University and Roosevelt University.
“They all suit me.”
In spades. The guitarist/composer also works as an assistant director at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being in Chicago, as a therapist at Heritage Professional Associates in Hinsdale, and as an assistant priest at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in the Chicago neighborhood Edgewater.
Count on plenty to congregate March 31 (8 p.m.) at Studio5 in Evanston for Moulder’s eight-piece “Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit,” featuring musical portraits of diverse figures—the late jazz saxophonist/bandleader/ composer John Coltrane, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, and the late Trappist monk/ theologian/writer Thomas Merton—who have influenced Moulder.
The eight pieces (musicians): guitar (Moulder), saxophone (John Wojciechowski), trumpet (Tito Carrillo), vibes (Thaddeus Tukes), piano (Jim Trompeter, bass (Clark Sommers, percussion (Kalyan Pathak), and drums (Paul Wertico).
The narrative music work was originally commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago for a featured 2014 performance in the “Made in Chicago” concert series in Millennium Park.
“It’s kind of a sacred concert,” Moulder says, referring to the concerts, composed by Duke Ellington and held in churches and cathedrals from 1965-1973, that combined elements of jazz, classical music, gospel, and blues. “It’s my musical exploration of inspiring figures, people guided by their soulfulness.”
The “Journey to the East” segment devoted to Merton in “Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit” is three-pronged—the Trappist monk’s interfaith pilgrimage to homelands of Eastern religions; his early, unexpected death in Samut Prakan, Thailand (accidental electrocution, at age 53 in 1968); and his musical exploration.
“We first performed ‘Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit’ at smaller places, like art centers, the year before the ‘Made in Chicago’ appearance, so our event at Studio5 will mark the 10th anniversary of the work,” says Moulder, who presented his first sacred concert, “Trinity,” at the 2006 Chicago Jazz Festival. “I’m excited it’ll be there because it’s such a great venue, with wonderful acoustics and a warm, distinctive environment.”
Studio5 is an intimate performing arts center that also boasts excellent sight lines and comfortable seating.
About the only thing the house on Dempster Street is missing is a bad seat.
Co-founders Steve Rashid, an Emmy Award-winning composer, and Bea Rashid, a dance educator, choreographer, and theater director, opened the welcoming space in 2016— expanding Dance Center Evanston to include Studio5 as a performing arts venue presenting professional dance and music events among other forms of entertainment.
It functions as the Dance Center’s fifth studio in the day and is converted to venue and event space by dusk.
Moulder chose hoops for his major cardiovascular activity during his middle and high school years. The guard liked to run and dribble and shoot basketballs.
But music, particularly guitar, netted the future Lake Forest High School jazz band member and never released him. He began composing in grade school. Moulder’s late mother, Echo (who lived to 100), played the piano and encouraged young John to pursue music. Former LFHS music teacher Rich Matthews, who taught classical jazz, inspired and motivated Moulder (LFHS, Class of 1979) constantly.
“A lovely person and a fine musician,” Moulder says.
The couple that lived across the street from the Moulder family, Scott and Rita Meland?
“Rita,” Moulder recalls, “sparked my interest in composing.”
Moulder was only 16 when he started teaching guitar at home, with his charges strumming and learning and improving in the dining room. At 18 he began performing professionally with bands at clubs and private parties.
“I was exposed to a wide variety of music early in life,” says Moulder, who has been married to his husband, Joe, since 2017. “The 1960s and 1970s were years when a lot of people learned how to play the guitar. I liked the piano. The guitar?
“It kind of landed in my lap.”
Moulder played nothing but the acoustic guitar before discovering the electric guitar in his junior year at LFHS.
Moulder attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, majoring in psychology. Four years after graduating, he answered the call to the ministry, enrolling at the University of St. Mary of the Lake seminary in Mundelein.
He earned master’s degrees in music and in counseling at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, respectively.
Moulder, a former music teacher at Benedictine University in Lisle, is a lecturer in the Jazz Studies department at NU and an adjunct faculty member at Roosevelt University. The ages of the music students who take private lessons in his Skokie basement range from 21 to 70.
Moulder teaches guitar, improvisation, composition, and jazz studies down there.
“It is so full of life, so expressive of life,” Moulder says of music. “A lot of times it opens hearts and lifts spirits to elements of inner selves that are otherwise inaccessible. Making music is an exercise in creativity, a refined art form, a spontaneous composition.
“And it has the power to transport you to another time. I love music.”
Studio5, 847-328-6683, is located at 1934 Dempster Street in Evanston. For more information, and for ticket information to John Moulder’s “Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit,” visit studio5.dance.