Most of all, Ael wanted to sing, but lost his voice at six. His stepfather’s mantra was: “Children and fish have no voice.” His stepfather meant what he said. Silence was enforced. Around the same time, Ael was an altar boy in Poland. One day, the priest asked him to join Marcin, the soloist singing hymns during Sunday mass. At the podium, Ael froze, and his voice tumbled and lodged in his throat like a rock slide. Marcin elbowed him to be quiet, and he stayed that way.
Ael grew and earned his keep. A hot-dog vendor, a black market money exchanger, a communist soldier, and a part-time revolutionary. After escaping Poland, he picked fruit and vegetables in Norway. Then a refugee in Germany, he worked random illegal jobs, occasionally lifting gourmet food items to indulge himself and his children. At twenty-seven he crossed the ocean.
In Canada, Ael began with an ESL course and a career as a dishwasher and later waiter at Red Lobster. That was enough to motivate him to go back to school and study very very hard. Four years later, he took home a medal for the highest graduating GPA in the Faculty of Science at Trent University, and a graduate scholarship offer from Harvard, which (a long story) he declined, and headed to Vancouver.
Grad school at Simon Fraser brought a whack of grants and scholarships, research projects, academic publications and conference presentations, breathtaking west coast nature, and finally a PhD. Throughout his schooling, Ael studied all the good stuff: continental philosophy, semiotics, developmental psychology, and medium theory.
Then Ael discovered the Vancouver spoken word scene, and his academic career slowly lost its battle with poetry. As a poet, he performed all over North America. Poetical highlights include two victories over the unbeatable (Vancouver Olympics opener) Shane Koyczan, being the subject of a full-length CBC documentary, and receiving several arts grants to create a spoken word CD. At the same time, Ael started a poetry slam series in Winnipeg, and founded the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, now Canada’s largest spoken word festival. After winning the title of 2003 Canadian Performance Poetry Individual Champion, Ael stopped performing poetry, picked up a guitar, and started writing songs.
During the slow, painful process of learning the basics of voice and rhythm guitar, Ael presented a weekly opinion column on CBC Radio, wrote a film script, created two Fringe Fest shows (winning Best of Fringe for one), hosted various arts events, toured with a radical marching band (The Flaming Trolleys), and flew his motorcycle up and down winding mountain roads. Ael also founded and ran Winnipeg’s infamous live music venue, the CYRK. Oh, and not to mention falling in love and becoming an instant father of another tribe of magical children.
All the while, Ael’s canoe has paddled to many wild places with some up close and personal animal encounters, including bears, moose, and orcas. He has also over the last decade and a half religiously sampled his weekly beer quota at Winnipeg’s famous Times Changed bar. These are some of the adventures that have helped Ael help others, in his 10 plus years practice as a psychologist. Phew!
All in all, half a century has crawled by, the continents have drifted further apart, and Ael has finally excavated enough of his long buried voice. Then he asked himself a question: Is it possible to start a songwriting career in one's 50s? To find the answer, he set up a live recording studio, figured out all the internet voodoo, convinced his wife Jessica Gonzalez to join the journey, and at age 52 started rehearsing some of the favorite songs he wrote over the previous few years.
To kick off his songwriting journey, starting on January 1, 2018, one song a week, Ael recorded and released demos of 52 original songs.