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.