Long Bio

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I was born into a family of musicians. Born and raised in Oberlin, Ohio, I grew up surrounded by music. My father, Steven Plank, is a professor of musicology at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, as well as a trumpeter, organist, and choral conductor. My mother, Katherine Plank, is also an organist and choral director. Music was a language spoken in the Plank household, and I grew up hearing everything from Monteverdi to Miles Davis to Brian Wilson on the family stereo.

I began studying music by taking piano lessons starting in the second grade. Around this time, during visits to his grandparent’s house, I heard the amazing music of Duke Ellington thanks to my grandfather, an ardent Ellington enthusiast. Hearing the Jimmy Blanton/Duke Ellington duets in grade school made a huge impression, and seeing pictures of the bass on old record jackets made me want to play the double bass.

In the fifth grade I started playing the double bass. I participated in the Oberlin Conservatory’s “String Preparatory Program” directed by Joanne Erwin, and began a lifelong relationship with the double bass. Erwin proved to be a profound influence, instilling the study of classical technique and also encouraging improvisation and appreciation for jazz music. This open-minded approach to the double bass has been an important part of my musical identity throughout my life.

During a visit to Oberlin, my uncle, Mark Plank, a drummer, gave me a recording of the Village Vanguard sessions of the Bill Evans trio featuring Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Hearing LaFaro proved to be a profound moment for me, turning the interest in the bass from a somewhat passive hobby to a full-blown obsession, taking precedence over nearly every other aspect of my teenage life.

In middle school and high school, I played in the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. It was during this time that I had the very good fortune to study with the bassist and composer Dave Morgan and later with Kevin Switalksi of the Cleveland Orchestra. Studying with Dave Morgan was of immense help, and also instilled a love for writing music and playing new music. As a very young musician, I assumed that part of being a musician was writing music. This is a belief that has stuck with me for many years.

My first gigs began in the eighth grade when I would sub for conservatory jazz bass majors in little gigs around Oberlin, as well as opening for bands that would play in the town square (Tappan Square, Oberlin, OH) in the summertime. I began playing gigs in the Cleveland area with guitarist Dan Dockrill in the summer of 1997, two years before I could drive. Dockrill, an enthusiastic and free-spirited guitarist would pick me up and drive me to and from little duo gigs all over northern Ohio.

When I could drive, I began subbing for Dave Morgan and eventually began getting called for other gigs throughout the Cleveland/Akron area. While Morgan was out of the country playing concerts, I subbed for him for a month in the Jazz Unit, a very exciting big band that played Monday nights at the Bop Stop on W. 6th street in Cleveland for many years. Playing with these veteran musicians was an exciting challenge and was the first time that I worked with legendary Cleveland musicians like Jack Schantz, Bob Fraser, Howie Smith, Chas Baker, Rock Whermann, and many others.

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My association with the Bop Stop began with subbing in the Jazz Unit and continues to this day. In the late 90’s I could often be found playing the Saturday night jam session at the Bop Stop with musicians like Ron Busch, Jack Schantz, Sean Jones, Mike Murray, Greg Bandy, and Matt Perko. In the early 2000’s, I had the immense honor of playing in Dan Wall and Carol Veto’s band every Sunday evening for 6 months (give or take) at the Bop Stop. Playing in this setting with Dan and Carol, as well as with my good friend Matt Perko on drums, proved to be an incredible learning experience.

Around this time I became very interested in Buddhism and meditation. I took a gig playing in the pit for a touring production of Grease, a show that featured Frankie Avalon and Chubby Checker. But, my life unfolded in such a way that took me to Boulder, CO to be a student at Naropa University, the only Buddhist University in the United States. I wound up studying and writing poetry, along with repairing bicycles and playing basketball. I also became more and more interested in Buddhist practice, and made the decision to leave Naropa after a year and moved into the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, where I spent a lot of time on retreat as a yogi, and eventually was hired on as a cook.

After a few years at IMS, I began to study in the Soto Zen tradition with Rev. Eishin Ikeda at Pioneer Valley Zendo in Charlemont, MA. I had my jukai (lay ordination) ceremony at the zendo and shortly thereafter returned to Oberlin where I would stay for a nearly a decade. During this time I went back to school (mostly to get that monkey off my back!) and obtained an Associate Degree in science from Lorain County Community College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Cleveland State University.

During this period of time, I seldom performed as a musician. I held down various jobs (house painter, bicycle mechanic, guitar teacher, and even a job with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources), but eventually it was made clear to me that I was happiest and best suited to be a bassist, a calling that I am honored to pursue.

Currently I serve as bassist for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and the Sam Blakeslee Large Group, and can also be seen performing in duo with guitarist Daniel Lippel.

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Highlights of my musical career include:

  • World premiere of Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer’s Le Pouvoir de l’Amour (composed in 1743) in 2002 at Oberlin College
  • World premiere of Randall Woolf and Robin Stranahan’s ‘pop-up’ opera Frozen Community, produced by Real Time Opera in 2013
  • Performing with microtonal improviser Joe Maneri and Leland Davis at the Beachland Ballroom (Cleveland, 2002)
  • Performing with Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, and Carmen Castaldi in concerts at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple and the Bop Stop (2015/2016)

Lastly, as a freelance bassist I have had the immense pleasure and honor of performing with a vast range of inspiring musicians, ensembles, and bands. Here is a list of some of my favorites:

  • Dee Alexander
  • Carl Allen
  • Tim Armacost
  • Frankie Avalon
  • Cynthia Kaay Bennett
  • Wayne Bergeron
  • Dave Berkman
  • The Bits
  • Sam Blakeslee Large Group
  • Daniel Bruce
  • Ann Callaway
  • The Case Baroque Orchestra
  • Carmen Castaldi
  • Chubby Checker
  • Gerald Clayton
  • The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra
  • Alexis Cole
  • Kenny Davis
  • Leland Davis
  • Steve Davis
  • Roderick Dixon
  • Bill Dobbins
  • Robin Eubanks
  • Dominick Farinacci
  • The Fat Tuesday Big Band
  • John Fedchock
  • Bobby Ferrazza
  • J. Scott Franklin
  • Bob Fraser
  • Renell Gonsalves
  • Jamey Haddad
  • Jeff Hamilton
  • Andy Hunter
  • Joe Hunter
  • The Jack Cameras
  • The Jazz Unit
  • John Jennings
  • Bruce Johnstone
  • Kevin Jones
  • Sean Jones
  • Nancy Kelly
  • Mathias Kunzli
  • Ernie Krivda
  • Mary Larew
  • Mike Lee
  • Daniel Lippel
  • Joe Lovano
  • Joe Maneri
  • Rene Marie
  • Bob McKee
  • James Morrison
  • Michael Philip Mossman
  • Debra Nagy
  • Aurora Nealand
  • The Oberlin Baroque Orchestra
  • The Oberlin Opera
  • Oblique Orchestra
  • Karel Paukert
  • John Perrine
  • Matt Perko
  • Quincy Phillips
  • Bill Ransom
  • Real Time Opera
  • Nadav Remez
  • Paul Roth
  • Vanessa Rubin
  • Jim Rupp
  • Paul Samuels
  • Bobby Sanabria
  • Jack Schantz
  • Jon Seiger and the All Stars
  • Bobby Selvaggio
  • Janis Siegel
  • Judi Silvano
  • Howie Smith
  • Joshua Smith
  • Michael Stryker
  • Buddy Sullivan
  • Tierney Sutton
  • Tom Tallitsch
  • Curtis Taylor
  • Joe Tomino
  • Carol Veto
  • Brad Wagner
  • Dan Wall
  • Jackie Warren
  • Vaughn Weister
  • Rock Wehrmann
  • Dan Wilson
  • Randall Woolf
  • Ladia Yates

And many others!