Jerry Folta began playing tenor saxophone in fourth grade. He remembers well his first solo in church when a kindly church lady leaned down after the service and said to him, “I love how you made all those mistakes and kept on going”.
Jerry didn’t quite fully make his school basketball team in 7th grade. Or in 8th grade. Or freshman year in high school. Sophomore year, when he got cut from the team during tryouts yet again he said to himself, “I think I’ll go play on the trampoline.” So began his trampoline career.
In middle school Jerry heard “Things I’d Like To Say” by ‘The New Colony Six’ on the radio – his first, possibly all-time, favorite song. He scoured bargain record bins in stores far and wide looking for the out-of-print record. One day he drove over an hour to the largest used record store in the Chicago area in likely his last chance to find the song. He made his way to the ‘New Colony Six’ section and with trembling hands picked through dozens of New Colony Six albums one by one. Turning past the final album cover he discovered one last, deeply scratched record with no sleeve or jacket. He scanned the song titles and there it was – ‘Things I’d Like To Say’. Excitedly he paid for the precious album and received a plain white sleeve and matching album cover to put the record in.
Once home he used a small screwdriver to carefully smooth out the deep scratches in the part of the record containing the song. Taping a stack of pennies on the record player arm to keep the needle from skipping out of the scratches he was finally able to record the entire song on a cassette tape – pops, clicks and all.
Years later the Internet had arrived. Jerry ran a search, click-clicked, and a couple days later the ‘Best of the New Colony Six’ CD arrived in his mailbox including a pristine digital copy of “Things I’d Like To Say”. “This Internet thing just might last”, he thought. View the aTrampolinist version of ‘Things I’d Like To Say’.
In high school Jerry and his teammates enjoyed running comments from gymnastics coach, Jon Boulton. One day Boulton paused his critique of Jerry’s attempt at throwing a trampoline routine long enough to say, “Folta, I love yelling at you – you just stand there and take it.” Jerry replied, “I know you’ll get tired, eventually.”
“Folta, why don’t you rest up for a couple weeks then quit.” offered Boulton one day. A third comment was, “Folta, you’re just a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Whether observation, prediction or prophecy this insightful characterization was one Jerry took to heart. Once he became pretty good at something he would often let it go and start learning something else.
Jerry appreciated the rare occasions when he encountered technology beautifully designed and produced. He was seventeen when he was first to arrive at a party one night hosted by friends Val and Bob. There in the small apartment his eyes rested upon a Teac A-3440 4-channel reel to reel analog tape recorder. It was to become his third technology love after the classic Ping golf putter and Marantz 2270 stereo receiver. Beautiful music unknown to him filled the room. He asked Bob who the artist was and Bob replied, “Me.” Bob explained he sang the melody on track one, harmony on track two, played guitar on track three, then played bass guitar on track four. Jerry felt this the most amazing thing he had ever seen and said to himself, “I want to do that someday.“
About a year later Jerry began his first career as a computer geek – a total of seven years as a mainframe computer operator, Cobol programmer, systems analyst and computer facility manager. It was during this initial experience in an office environment that he first placed his fingers on his next great technology love – the IBM Selectric II electric typewriter.
Jerry finished second in both the 1974 and 1975 NJCAA national meets ‘Eights and Nines Miami’ on the gymnastics team at the College of DuPage in Illinois to become a two time All-American trampolinist.
In 1976 Jerry and teammate/last best friend Marc Schludt ‘Bear’ traveled with the Virginia-based ‘Circus Kingdom’ as acrobats. “Marvelous Mark McGurk” (Marc) and “Jumpin’ G” (Jerry) followed by creating ‘Bactibac’ – a fire-eating/juggling/trampoline act they performed throughout the Tampa area. View ‘Bactibac Video Clips’.
After finishing college Jerry moved to Tampa where he sang in several Dr. Robert Summers-led community Master Chorales at the University of South Florida (USF) where “Dr. Bob” also led the annual USF Madrigal Dinners. Totally enamored by the beauty of the Madrigal music created by these talented singers, Jerry offered to exchange his juggling/fire-eating/tumbling talents to the show if Dr. Bob would permit him to sing with the group. Dr. Bob agreed and Jerry came off the dais in the middle of singing with the Madrigal ensemble each night to juggle clubs for King Henry and his court. Marc would heckle him from the otherwise distinguished audience before they dropped the ruse and Marc joined him onstage to perform the juggling and fire-eating acts from Bactibac.
In 1981 Jerry began two years of music theory, solfeggio and ear training at Hillsborouth Community College in Florida. He wanted to be ready if someday came such that he was able to pursue his music dream in earnest.
In 1983 Jerry moved to New York City to pursue what would become a 20-plus year career in executive sales providing information technology to Wall Street and beyond ‘Fork in the Road’. He estimates he met approximately 25,000 people during his time as a “sales schmackel” (as one long-time customer/friend dubbed him).
In the mid-1980s Jerry discovered the musical theater stage off-off-Broadway at St. Bart’s Playhouse in New York City. In the extraordinary theatrical environment created by the beloved and incomparable Tom Briggs, Artistic Director, he once again used his circus skills to wangle his way onstage despite an otherwise lack of theatrical skills. He happily joined the St. Bart’s Players in productions of a dozen well-known shows like ‘Gypsy’, ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’.
While renovating a Brooklyn brownstone in the late 1980s Jerry spent many happy hours with his next great technology love – the Shopsmith Mark V 510 – the Swiss army knife of power tools. He used the Shopsmith to build two kitchens and three bathrooms from raw oak lumber including all cabinetry/moldings/etc. He spent four years performing the work required to turn the barely livable house into a finished home. His efforts were rewarded when he set a price per square foot record for the borough of Brooklyn when the two-family house sold in 1996.
The process he developed for this house gut-rehab project – from big idea, to visualizing the completion of the different projects required, to sketching out a plan, to working and re-working a task flowchart, to detailed engineering plans, to execution down to the smallest detail – was the model he would use to “build” his music years later.
In 1994 his daughter ‘The Summer Rose’ was born. Jerry felt incredibly blessed to have the most beautiful woman-child in the whole wide world as his daughter. In 1996 his son ‘You Amuse Me, Lad’ followed. Jerry couldn’t believe it. The most beautiful man-child in the whole wide world was his child, too. What must be the odds, he pondered, the two most beautiful babies in the whole wide world would be born in the same family?
In 1993 Jerry began working 80-100 hours per week for companies like Cisco Systems and Bobby Johnson‘s Foundry Networks. More hunter than farmer he opened major accounts like Goldman Sachs, MetLife, Cantor Fitzgerald, NYC Board of Education, JP Morgan Chase, McKinsey & Co., Saks Fifth Ave, Unilever and New York Times among many others. He managed to find time to bounce but he did not play the guitar for nearly nine years.
While at Foundry, Jerry built a sales and systems engineering team starting from solo act to a total of 26 people and opened the Northeast U.S. from near-zero revenue to an annualized ~$22M. The company went public in 1999 during the dot.com years and the stock options granted him when he joined the company for $0.33 exploded to a high of $212.00 before roller-coastering to a low of $4.25. Jerry emerged with a new appreciation for the concept of stock valuation as well as sufficient stock sales such that even after the government took their 50%+ (What? Huh?) and his ex-wife-to-be took 60% of the remainder (Wait. What?) he was still able to retire from business the end of 2002 at the age of 46. Somehow, inexplicably he felt, the moment had arrived he could pursue his someday music dream full time.
In 2002 Jerry began study with renowned guitarist, Hanan Harchol, after a chance opportunity to hear Harchol play left Jerry fascinated with his guitar “touch” – to this day the best he has ever heard. Harchol agreed to give Jerry lessons and after Jerry convinced Harchol he wanted to learn to play properly Harchol said, “Ok, but we’ll need to spend the first two years overhauling your right hand.” Over the next two years Harchol patiently adjusted the myriad ways Jerry found to position his hand incorrectly until effective right hand technique was ingrained. Jerry studied with Harchol for over ten years.
That year Jerry also began repeating his two years of music theory study – this time at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. With someday at hand he wanted to clean the rust off his now decades-old music theory training in preparation for the pursuit of his music dream.
Jerry was 47 when he took his first voice lesson at Rutgers University. He remembers well his first beginner singing recital a couple years later when he followed a seven year old playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on violin on the program. As he nervously watched the seven year old struggle through the song he wondered, “What the hell am I doing here!”
As peer to a seven year old beginner musician Jerry endeavored to become proficient in what he considered the most elusive skill he ever attempted to learn – classical voice technique. He studied a total of eleven years at Rutgers – primarily with Wagnerian tenor, Michael Ashby.
Lift the soft palate, open the pharynx, let the larynx tip, expand the diaphragm, breath into/support from the abdominal girdle, set the correct tongue shape and position for each vowel, go low to sing high, cover the tone above the passaggio, find the chiaroscuro, the appoggio, the ring. Each of these instructions and more were invariably met by Jerry’s best blank look. Still he worked to translate each of them into a sensation inside the body and somehow get it all working together. Confoundingly, if the singing sounded rich and resonant on the inside it meant it sounded small, pinched and unpleasant on the outside. If it felt small and unimpressive on the inside it could sound rich and pleasing on the outside (maybe eventually). He often thought during voice lessons, “Michael is not getting paid enough to have to listen to this!”
Jerry came to believe top classical singers were same as world class athletes – the difference being the physicality of the singer took place on the inside of the body.
During this time Jerry spent four years at the Juilliard School of Music Evening Division in NYC studying Vocal Performance with Joyce McLean, Music Composition with Conrad Cummings, Alexander Technique with Tom Vasiliades and Music Production with Milica Paranosic – incredibly gifted, accomplished and nurturing people/artists/teachers all. He sang in Italian, German, French and English in recital at Juilliard which tickled him no end because, well, he was a trampolinist. Jerry will always be deeply grateful for the experience of participating in the incredibly rich Juilliard culture during that time.
In an effort to bring a bit more feeling to his singing Jerry also studied Meisner Technique with the legendary James Price at ‘The Acting Studio’ in NYC. The feelings he had to dredge up to act the wrenching scene (selected by the acting instructor for him and his acting partner) of betrayal and love lost over the course of the class, however, left him relieved when the last day of class arrived and he knew he would no longer be required to experience the pain and rage required to act the scene. He and his partner finished running the scene the final time to polite applause. Emotionally disoriented by the experience he wondered as he sat down, “How do actors do this all the time?!”
Along the way Jerry studied Avid/Digidesign Pro Tools recording studio software at ProMedia Training in NYC with Terron Darby. He achieved certification as a ‘Pro Tools Operator’ and it was here that Darby helped Jerry design his personal portable music recording studio and Jerry’s next technology love began – the patch panel. Jerry learned to appreciate the benefits of the the patch panel he came to know in the data centers he visited selling information technology but his appreciation for its benefits deepened during the time he used it to develop his music.
The improvements to trampoline technology made up for the effects of aging physicality such that Jerry was able to continue throwing a trampoline routine competitive with his college days for 36 years. Several months after his 50th birthday, however, he met with his knee surgeon following his fifth arthroscopic knee surgery. He sobbed in the car on his way home in the realization his trampolining days were over. Even in the temporary insanity of the loss he was grateful for his days as an active trampolinist – he’d had a good run. View an aTrampolinist ‘Trampoline Routine’. Gain additional perspective on what it means to be aTrampolinist by viewing ‘Pizza Song’.
Jerry began the aTrampolinist music project in late 2002 envisioning Pavarotti, Segovia, Mozart and whoever was the world’s greatest recording engineer sitting together at a table watching him perform. He imagined the four all-time greats listening for awhile then saying at the same time, “Not bad.” Pavarotti would be talking about his singing, Segovia about his guitar playing, Mozart about his composing/arranging and the recording engineer about his sound.
No serious classical guitarist would distract themself by trying to sing well at the same time. No serious classical singer would distract themself trying to play guitar well while they sing. No serious classical composer would distract themself by taking the time away from composing necessary to sing or play an instrument well, etc. As a trampolinist, and jack-of-all-trades, his idea was to try and do all these things together.
The ‘Guitar/Voice Covers’ you find here are original arrangements of songs from a variety of genres. The common theme is they are all songs Jerry loves.
The ‘Guitar Voice Originals’ are original songs primarily inspired by the rare moments in life we never forget that change our lives forever. They were created using a combination of traditional music theory, the music structure presented in two books by composer Paul Hindemith, and a personal composition process developed over two years that included finalizing all the technical attributes of each song (lyrics/time signatures/key signatures/chord progressions/verses/choruses/bridges/peaks/keys/key changes/accents/dynamics/cadences/tempos/prosodies/rubatos/silences/etc.) before composing the first note.
‘Christmas Guitar’ consists of 22 favorite Christmas carols. Jerry originally wrote the arrangements as exercises to help overhaul his right hand guitar technique but the simple beauty of the Christmas music inspired him to develop the carols into a third album.
Finally, Jerry is delighted to present aTrampolinist.com for your consideration. Thank you for visiting aTrampolinist.com!
Update – September 1, 2019:
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May, 2009. With healthy living and good fortune I’ve been able to enjoy a relatively normal life during the past ten years. In February I was told my cancer had metastacized and entered my lower spine. Recently the doctors said it’s also gone to my bladder, liver and lymph nodes.
As of a couple months ago my situation has evolved to where I am now a Stage 4 prostate cancer veteran, I was near-paralyzed for seven weeks in a bed in my living room along the way, and now I’m living under hospice care in a sub-acute facility here in New Jersey – near my home, with the expectation that I will be helped here to the end of this life and ahead to whatever is next.
The good news is I am now otherwise in good health and in good spirits and I actually like it here. The people are great, they take care of my food, laundry, daily cleaning, health needs, welcoming visitors – even cutting my hair in the salon which is eleven steps from my door (I counted).
I would like to thank all of you that wrote, called and/or emailed me once news of my new situation became known a few months ago. It’s been awhile but thank you – thank you – thank you! I haven’t said anything up to now for reasons I’ll explain shortly but every time one of you reached out to me it made me happy. Thank you.
With my situation what it is I needed to focus on “getting my affairs in order”. With a complex financial structure this meant a tremendous amount of effort/work/education/calls/meetings/etc. to avoid leaving a nightmare to my 83 year old mother and 23 and 25 year old children’s lives for years to come if I didn’t get things cleaned up. This is now about 90% complete.
This has freed me to move into a new stage of this possibly final life adventure which is spending more time with friends.
In addition to enjoying your company I’m also:
A. Trying to spend as much time as possible with my family.
B. Working through the issues with my Estate Plan – still complex and time-consuming but I’m over the hump.
C. Monitoring my bloodwork, sodium levels, etc., with the docs.
D. Working with my physical therapist, homeopath, alt-med-neurologist/nutritionist, chiropractor, Chinese medicine/acupuncturist and AMA-MD here in hospice, etc., in an effort to find my “Miracle Cure”.
E. Spending time with other friends, too.
F. Re-designing www.aTrampolinist.com (Version 3) just in case my prayers are answered and I get a “Miracle Outcome”.
G. Preparing my children come what may.
H. Getting as much rest as possible . . . and . . .
I. Taking quiet time each day to remember and appreciate I am a spirit made in the image of God and an inhabitant of an earthly vessel composed of flesh and bones – not some dead, fictionalized property and/or a willing victim of an inland pirate operating a foreign vessel in dry dock.
Hope to see you soon.
Click on Name for more about the aTrampolinist.com contributor
Central NJ Physical Therapy (Couldn’t have done it without her!)
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