One of my favorite aspects of this thing called life is the myriad of interesting people that will cross our paths in a lifetime: so many diverse stories, so many colorful experiences, so much opportunity to share and learn. I especially love the seemingly “random” ways in which new people will show up in our lives, the chain of events that had to occur along each person’s journey in order for their paths to cross at a particular moment in time. One such person who has crossed my path along my journey is a talented and soulful musician named Todd Boston.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw Todd Boston perform. It was February of 2009 in San Francisco and I was attending my first ever workshop with John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. That workshop, which pulsed in harmony with Todd’s music, would be the first of many. Over the following two years and right up until the present, I have come to realize that Todd is extremely well-known within the Anusara yoga community, as well as in other yoga communities. As he will tell you himself, he has “accidentally” found himself somewhat of a niche in the yoga world. He performs at yoga and music festivals all over the country, and now the world, he frequently accompanies local yoga classes and he is committed to using his talent to make a difference to humanity, supporting several charities and causes that are very near and dear to him.
From my own experience, I can tell you that any yoga class becomes a richer and more nourishing experience when accompanied by Todd’s music. As you move through your poses to the mellifluous rhythm of his music, you cannot help but feel your soul bursting from the inside out, itching to express itself through your poses. This is a man who plays from the heart. To see and hear him play is to witness a human being who is touched with a divine talent, a man who has very clearly stepped into his true life’s purpose on this Earth. To experience Todd’s music is to be in the presence of Grace and beauty.
I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you Todd’s story, in his own words:
Jeannie: At what age did you first know you wanted to be a musician? Did you start with a particular instrument? Did your family and friends support you along this path?
Todd: I feel very fortunate that my mother and father encouraged me to play music from a young age. I began with piano starting around the age of seven, then experimented with drums and saxophone in school band. Around the age of twelve I got my first guitar and that was the beginning of a deep passion for music. I have always felt as though music chose me in some way, there was always an inner pull to create and make music from very early on. When life became quite confusing and sometimes painful at home, music was a friend, healer and teacher to me. Music has always been healing for me and so it just is a place I feel very comfortable being.
Jeannie: At what point did you commit yourself to the path of being a professional musician? How did you know that you were on the right path?
Todd: During high school I was pretty serious about music and practiced at least 2-8 hours everyday on the guitar but when I graduated I felt that I would go to college to get a “career.” During my time in college I noticed my mind was obsessed with music and was basically filtering all the information on how it applied to music in some way or another. It was then that I realized I was born to be a musician and that denying that would be denying some part of myself.
I played in bands through my twenties but struggled to make it without a day job. When I turned thirty years old I decided I was going to go out in the world and be a full-time musician, sink or swim. It was somewhat of a painful transition as I quit a job, ended a relationship, left the band I had been playing in for over five years, packed my van and moved to California. I am happy to say it was worth it! I have never looked back and fortunately since that day I have made a good living as a musician, as well as having accumulated many amazing life experiences.
Jeannie: I understand you are originally from the Philadelphia area. Tell us about the journey that brought you to San Francisco.
Todd: Yes, I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. I left for college and went to Massachusetts, and when I returned things had changed at home and I had changed inside. I was ready for something new so I went to visit my sister who had moved to Arizona. I left home and ended up spending ten years there and just loved the expansiveness of the land and the people and really grew to love living in the west. While living in Arizona I met a woman named Silvia Nakkach who has become a dear teacher and friend to me. She taught me some of the Ragas of India and I was hooked. She said, “You need to move to San Francisco and study with my teacher Ali Akbar Khan.”, and so I did just that. I was able to learn from him for a short time, before he passed away, on an Indian instrument called the Sarod. The world has lost a great musical master and teacher in his passing.
Todd Boston performing at John Friend workshop. (Photo by Mario Covic.)
Jeannie: How did you get involved with performing with yoga? With which types of yoga have you performed?
Todd: The relationship of playing in yoga classes just kind of happened. I had a friend who invited some of us to play for her class and we really enjoyed it. From that point on the invitations kept coming and it seemed that the style of music I play just worked well. I have played in all kinds of classes with many different teachers…Anusara, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Pre-Natal, Ying, Meditation, Kundalini as well different forms of expressive body movement and dance.
Jeannie: Do you practice yoga yourself? If so, what types and for how many years have you practiced?
Todd: I first began practicing yoga and meditation about ten years ago; I still feel like I am finding my practice and enjoy exploring different styles. I began by learning Vipassana, a form of Buddhist meditation, and made my way to different styles of Hatha yoga to help my body cope with the long hours practicing music and sitting in meditation. I love Anusara and have been enjoying Kundalini as well.
I recently traveled to India and re-read the Bhagavad Gita during my journeys there. When I think of yoga in the context of the way the Bhagavad Gita refers to it I realize it is a way of living life in union with our true self, connecting to creation in all we do, living selflessly free from the concept of duality, being our best and letting go of our attachments to results. Within that context all of a sudden the concept of yoga becomes a way of life that can apply to every aspect of our lives from breathing, to playing music to dying.
Photo by Mario Covic.
Jeannie: How would you describe the type/style of your music? Who are your musical influences?
Todd: I would call it World Acoustic Music heavily inspired by Nature and Life.
My musical influences are wide and varied…Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, the band Shakti with John Mcglaughlin and Zakir Hussein, Bela Fleck, R Carlo Nakai, Michael Hedges, Will Ackerman. I love American classic music like Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell as well as modern pop/rock, and old blues and jazz players like BB King, Robert Johnson, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. I am like most die hard music fans that just love great music.
Jeannie: Do you feel that your music has evolved since you’ve been performing your music with yoga? In what ways?
Todd: Very much…playing in yoga classes has given me a chance to really listen on a deeper level. Usually when you are “performing” you are delivering something, you have to put on a show and really grab the audience in some way…show ‘em what you got. I love performing in that context and still do but playing in yoga classes gives a different opportunity to truly support the audience in a selfless way. This is quite refreshing in fact and offers a chance to try and bury your ego, open up and receive what is needed and really listen to the teacher and the class. I have found bringing this sensitivity and approach back to the stage has served me well as a performer and in life in general.
Jeannie: How many albums have you produced? Tell us about your latest music project.
Todd: I have self-produced and released two albums: the first was Urban Nature Coming Home with my musical partner and friend Ramesh Kannan, and the other is my first solo album titled Alive. Last March I began working with the legendary Grammy-winning producer Will Ackerman who founded the record label Windham Hill. The project is called Touched by the Sun and is very inspiring for me. It is a collection of original compositions accompanied by a group of all star musicians. We have had five Grammy winners contribute to the album including Tony Levin the legendary bassist for Peter Gabriel. The music has really been taken to a high level and we plan to release in the spring of 2012.
Jeannie: What causes are most important to you and how have you used your music to support those causes?
Todd: I am dedicated to exploring how music can enrich people’s lives in everyday life as well as in therapeutic settings. For the past eight years I have been doing volunteer work sharing music in children’s hospitals, senior homes, schools, cancer treatment centers and wellness centers. I love this work as it really brings me back to the reality of helping the world one person at a time; it is deeply meaningful and fulfilling for me.
I have also recently begun working on a new project with an organization called Critical Beats that is to raise awareness as well as money to help reduce the clear-cutting and destruction of the old growth forests, mainly the Amazon Rainforest, which are greatly threatened as well as the indigenous peoples that live there. I feel very passionate about this cause as it seems to be at the forefront of preserving the beauty of our planet for future generations. Plus, we need those trees to give us clean oxygen and filter out the carbon from the air. It just makes sense to me that we should save any of the old growth forests that remain.
They say we are down to less than 10% of the old growth in the world. We are fortunate here in California that about 30% of those old growth trees live within the coastal redwoods and the sequoias in the Sierras. It is part of the reason why I love living in California and why the air is so great in Northern California in particular. Those trees have changed my life and I want my grandchildren to be able to touch them and be touched by them.
Jeannie: I know you’ve performed at Yoga and Music festivals throughout California and the US. Do you have any plans to take your music on tour internationally?
Todd: Well, as I write to you I am on a train in India touring with the great devotional singer Snatam Kaur. We just performed at the 11.11.11 Kundalini Yoga and Music Festival in Rishikesh, India so I am happy to say it is happening. I have traveled to the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas to play a couple of years ago and am scheduled to play at yoga events in Costa Rica and Mexico this spring. Hopefully it will continue as I love to travel and play music.
In addition to performing in this recent music festival in Rishikesh, India, if one scrolls through all of the different events of which Todd Boston has been a part, it is clear that Todd is well on his way to making a global impact with his music.
Recently I shared some of Todd’s music with my own fans from all over the world, and as I suspected they were deeply moved by his music. One person said it perfectly, “Thank you for Todd’s beautiful, enchanting and soul-moving music.” That pretty much says it all. Todd has without a doubt made an indelible mark on the yoga community here in the United States. As he continues to express the beauty of his soul through his music, and as he continues to offer his gift in support of so many worthy causes, I have no doubt that Todd Boston will continue to leave an evocative and lasting mark on the world.
I will leave you with some of his beautiful music…