“…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
“far left of center—beyond category”
–Ari Herstand, author of How to Make It in the New Music Business
Early Days and Training
Cornelius’ love affair with reeds–and later, bamboo–began at age 9. With an alter-ego as a drummer, he brings a percussive, driving spirit to all of his Western woodwinding, most notably the bass clarinet. In 1997 he completed the first of three music degrees from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music (BM Classical Clarinet), in addition to an audio degree (BS Audio Recording). In 1999 he completed a MM in Jazz Studies and in 2012, a shihan (master) from his shakuhachi teacher Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould.
Performance, Composition & Albums
Throughout Boots’ professional training he has pursued on-the-ground performance and composition experience through a long series of performing groups, and more recently, a robust solo repertoire. Since 1994 Boots has released 16 albums and composed and arranged 75 pieces for bass clarinet quartet, 74 pieces for solo shakuhachi, 29 pieces for mixed woodwind chamber groups and 34 works for rock, funk and mixed electric ensembles. His composition catalog is in excess of 200 works, and growing.
Cornelius believes in the presentation of an album as a complete work of art, not just a digital/audio download, and was deeply involved in the art direction and production of all of his albums, hiring art professionals as collaborators for many of them.
Shakuhachi & Taimu Composition & Influences
In 2015, Boots retired from Western woodwinds to focus exclusively on the shakuhachi bamboo flute and it’s baritone brother, Taimu. He is currently creating solo, cross-cultural new music, merging the threads of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Watazumi, and Son House, and many more. If you ever talk to Cornelius about his artistic influences, you know that he goes deep into each artists’ catalog. His level of reflection on their creations is profound, and he is then able to bring that to his own creative process in a sincerely reverential, conscious way.
Following in the no limits, panstylistic footsteps of his composition mentor—pedagogue and jazz legend David N. Baker—Boots’ diverse list of musical influences prominently features Ronnie James Dio, Eric Dolphy, Pink Floyd, Funkadelic, Fishbone and Etta James.
This results in an expressive style of woodwind performance that he sometimes calls “bamboo gospel,” “avant-garde meditation music,” “hermit blues,” and many other descriptors that cycle through.
Through it all, Cornelius’ main work is contributing to the repertoire and evolution of certain woodwinds, first bass clarinet (1994-2015), and now shakuhachi (2001-present). A top student of Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould, Cornelius’ shakuhachi name is 深禅 (Shinzen) deep Zen. He was licensed by Gould in 2013 as a shihan (master) in the dynamic Zen lineage of Watazumido.
Awards, International Performances, Affiliates & Film
Cornelius 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. He 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), Southern Oregon University and beyond.
Cornelius’ compositions or performances have been featured in the films Cicada Princess, Visions of Mustang, and Beard Club. In 2018, he was a World Shakuhachi Competition finalist, and featured at Sony PlayStation’s E3 (LA), World Bamboo Congress (Xalapa, Mexico) and the World Shakuhachi Festival (London). In 2019, Boots founded the Heavy Roots Shakuhachi Ensemble, the world’s first bass shakuhachi group, debuting at SF Music Day.
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.
In 2001, I was living in Chicago and was writing, performing and recording with my rock power trio magnesium. I heard a recording of shakuhachi and found a way to order a real bamboo shakuhachi through the store at the community music school I taught at. On April 7, 2001, my shakuhachi arrived and I had a wonderful time trying to get sounds on it and comparing what did come out to notes that the piano in my teaching studio could also play. Almost none of them matched, and I was only getting sounds about 1/3 of the time, so it quickly became evident that in order to create those rich, earthy meditative sounds I had heard on the recording, I was in for the “long haul” as they say. And that’s not even accounting for the 7 notes of the chromatic scale that were not accessible by either covering or uncovering the 5 holes on the flute.
It was a bamboo mystery, and I have been on the trail, picking up the scents and discovering clues for over 16 years now. I only wish that every human being could discover some topic, path or pursuit that could offer them even a fraction of the challenge, revelation and fulfillment that shakuhachi and Taimu have for me.
All hail the big breathing bamboo.
In 1983 in the 4th grade I picked clarinet as the instrument I wanted to learn. This was for 3 reasons: 1) they did not offer drums of any kind 2) the plastic square record they gave us as a sampler of each instrument featured low notes of the regular, as far as I remember, and those were very cool sounding 3) even though I had a mental affinity for choosing the violin (only because Sherlock Holmes played violin) my Grandpa convinced me that violins were scrapy and scratchy in the early phases and wouldn’t a wind instrument perhaps be a better selection?
All of these elements became very important aspects in my playing and eventually composing on and for the clarinet and bass clarinet. In fact, I became a baritone saxophone specialist because my interests in terms of style leaned more to the jazz side and treated symphonic/concert/marching band as just a training ground, and it was there that I played clarinet, not saxophone. I also began to play my first rock and funk gigs as a bari sax/vocalist modeled of course on the legendary exemplar of Angelo Moore from Fishbone. But when it came time to “go to college” and “choose a major,” clarinet seemed like a better choice due to its deeper history and actual presence in the 17th century and onwards.
Soon, the paths began to merge: my pull towards a bigger reed meant that I was soon the contrabass clarinetist (1992-1997) in the clarinet choir at music school, and eventually I became the top orchestral bass clarinetist no just at this large, competitive music school, but also within this geographic region, leading to a two year bass/3rd clarinet position in the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, with whom I got to perform Rite of Spring, American in Paris, Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, and many other chestnuts of the bass clarinet orchestral repertoire. Once I moved back over to jazz ensembles during my Masters degree program with David Baker, I was once again the baritone saxophonist in the top big band, but now had the bass clarinet on hand for about half of my solos.
Starting in 1994, my composing grew rapidly and enthusiastically out of my close mind-melding with first the contrabass and then the bass clarinet. Visit and peruse the Bass Clarinet Compositions pages for all the goods and follow the low reed sounds.
Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my music education began with heavy doses of funk and disco in rollerskating rinks, and also rock and pop from the radio. Lots of radio, and lots of Maxell XLII chrome cassettes filled with songs from the radio and LP’s and cassettes dubbed from friends. Until I watched documentaries about turntablists (hip-hop DJ’s who then delved into the virtuosic aspect of turning the turntable into an electronic instrument in-and-of-itself) I was unaware that many other kids were making what they call “pause tapes.” These were audio collages that you created by using the pause button on a tape machine and stringing together various sections of many sources onto a blank tape, thereby, in fact “composing.” I was making those alongside my brother and under the influence of older friends who turned me on to Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Talking Heads and the Moody Blues, adding a heavy dose of creative imagination to my previous diet of Billy Joel, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, the Beatles, Chuck Berry and other golden oldies from my mom’s vinyl collection.
As a young clarinetist and saxophonist, I delved deeper into some more obscure realms through Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Eddie Harris, John Coltrane and Frank Zappa. Around this time (middle school) I would also have to list Monty Python, Stephen King and the Twilight Zone as deep, formative influences that ensured a strong warp to my fertile, bright mind–a bias that I have yet to recover from. Understand that from my current point of view (2017), the intersection of Monty Python’s The Final Ripoff, Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat, Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, and the twists of reality presented by The Twilight Zone–both the 60’s and 80’s iterations of the TV show–now appears as an incredibly rare, unlikely high-water mark of supremely intelligent, artful imaginativeness. That I have been attempting to participate in a world that creates and values creations such as these while in fact living in a society that actually values things that can be measured, quantified, killed, dissected and analyzed–this has always created inner and outer friction and static. But since this is a relatively recent revelation, coming as it has with what they call “hindsight,” let us return to the progression which culminates on me actually composing music….to be continued…
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 Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color, 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.