Cornelius Boots is a woodwind composer-performer, bamboo shakuhachi master, breathing ambassador and educator.
Active internationally since 1990, his love affair with reeds and bamboo began at age 9. He is currently exploring and creating elemental nature hymns & anthems through a completely unique style of advanced, expressive woodwind performance that can be called rustic classical or bamboo gospel. Boots is a relentless pioneer and recovering perfectionist who aims to be a fun-loving, professional woodwind wizard, and inspiring shakuhachi performer.
A top student of Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould, Cornelius’ shakuhachi name is 深禅 (Shinzen) deep Zen and he is a licensed shihan (master) in the dynamic Zen lineage of Watazumido. After a 30-year career of high-caliber jazz, classical, rock and experimental music activities on multiple woodwinds (including three music degrees from the renowned Jacobs School of Music, BM Clarinet ’97, BS Audio ’97, MM Jazz Studies ’99), Boots has now positioned himself at the crossroads of personal expression and divine revelation and only plays bamboo (jinashi) shakuhachi and its baritone brother, Taimu.
“…an aural whirlwind.”
“Very beautiful and inspiring.”
–Chris Adler, Drummer for Lamb of God
“All the frequencies I respond to.”
“…outstanding virtuosity… not afraid to venture into wild and uncharted territory.”
–Peter Phippen, Grammy Nominee, World Flute Specialist, Recording Artist, Educator, and Producer
Previously, Boots was the founder and leader of Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet and Sabbaticus Rex (easy listening for dinosaurs). He has contributed to film scores and collaborative projects, released over 20 albums as a leader and created dozens of original scores and instructional materials for his private lesson studio, including in shakuhachi calligraphic notation, a series of 27 etudes (mukyoku 無曲) for Taimu shakuhachi. He has won composition awards (International Clarinet Association, 1st Place, 2013; International Songwriting Competition, 2nd Place, 2006) and received grants and commissions from Chamber Music America and The Doris Duke Foundation, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, Areon Flutes, Crescent Duo and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Boots has performed concerts in Japan, festivals in Switzerland, Italy, Prague, San Francisco and Chicago and given lecture-performances at Esalen, S.A.N.D., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, UCLA, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Sanshinji Temple, University of Memphis, University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), University of Southern Oregon and beyond.
His two recent albums, Mountain Hermit’s Secret Wisdom (2013) and Holy Flute (Shakuhachi Unleashed Vol. I) (2017), reveal the yin and yang energies infusing his pioneering approach to this ancient bamboo meditation instrument, featuring virtuosic new solo compositions, rock, blues and metal cover song arrangements (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Danzig, and more), and basic honkyoku 本曲 on large flutes recorded in a cave in Nevada County, California.
Cornelius is a Vandoren performing artist, a Mujitsu Shakuhachi and Chikuzen Studios affiliate, and a member of the International Shakuhachi Society, the World Flute Society, Chamber Music America, New Music USA and Save the Redwoods. He is currently (since 2014) enrolled in the Masters of Divinity program at Buddha Dharma University where he also teaches a course on the Taoist rascal-sage Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi), The Way of Zhuangzi.
A 2011 photo on the Vandoren website: that’s a REED!
Everyone begins somewhere. I was lucky enough to have a stable, loving home where I had the chance to begin music training on the clarinet in 4th grade which was 1983. Here I am practicing on the Christmas holiday in Yardley, Pennsylvania where I grew up, read Stephen King, obsessed over The Twilight Zone and listened to mind-warping albums non-stop such as Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat, Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother, and Monty Python’s The Final Ripoff. And lots of Jethro Tull.
LUDO is Cornelius’ cat. He was adopted from the streets of Chicago in October 2001.
Ludo clearly approves of my girlfriend slash life partner slash spiritual advisor, Felicia. Felicia is actually Doctor Felicia–founder of the non-profit Systems Thinking Marin–with a PhD in Mythological Studies and a Sustainable Business MBA. Together the 3 of us live an artist-philosopher lifestyle in a barn in Forest Knolls, where we also enjoy putting 95% dark chocolate in our oatmeal and watching lizards shed their skin and tease Ludo through the screen.