The road to becoming a recording artist can follow many paths—some easy and some not so much. The path may be smooth and direct, or bumpy with obstacles, curves, and detours. The latter is the journey that Kenneth Hooper has followed in getting to his first solo recording, Directions. The perseverance he has displayed in getting to this point is a testament to his spirit, passion, and willingness to wait until the right time and opportunity presented itself, courtesy of a serendipitous universe.
One of three children born into a military family (mother stayed home and raised Kenneth and two older sisters and his father was in the US Air Force), the family was stationed at a base in Austin, Texas in 1965, the year Kenneth was born. His parents believed that creative pursuits, whether they be reading, writing, or music, were childish in nature, meant only for little kids. As a result, Kenneth had no clear vision of what he wanted to be when he grew up. “As a kid I really just wanted to read and live in my imagination. I didn’t really have ideas about something I wanted to do when I grew up.”
Kenneth was a late bloomer to music, at least compared to many. When he was 21, he began to play bass guitar after moving to Waco, Texas. At first, he pursued photography, but when he discovered McLennan Community College’s commercial music program, he began to think of becoming a musician. “I took the performance track in the commercial music program. We had a class called “Rock Band” [where] I met friends and formed a band outside of school, [playing] local night clubs…We sounded great but ultimately it was unsatisfying.” As a result, he put his music aspirations away for a while.
It was after a move to Redwood City, California, in 1994 that serendipity entered the picture. “It was there I met a person who was giving a Penny Whistle workshop and picked up my first flute… After years of introspection, prayer and a trip to the Amazon jungle where my trusty Penny Whistle accompanied me everywhere, I returned to the states and attended a prayer meeting where I was gifted a Native American Flute. Fortunately, the muscle memory from the Penny Whistle translated very well to the NAF.” Kenneth enjoyed learning to play the flute, although his studies in psychology and spirituality ultimately guided him in tapping into his own creative process in a deeper way. In 2003 he and his friend Garth D. Brooks formed a duo, Elysium Calling, ultimately releasing two albums.
Perhaps the most important turning point occurred when, in 2014, his life-partner Kari’s mother was dying. “I was there the night [she] passed. I was able to play flutes for her at her bedside and I saw the power of the flute. This helped me to chart my course for the kind of music I wanted to play.” Soon after, Kenneth discovered a certificate program in San Francisco called Sound, Voice and Music in the Healing Arts Program where he met and became good friends with Gian Berselli who went on to start Astral Wolf Records (Berselli also ended up producing and co-composing the tracks on Hooper’s first solo release, Directions). As fate would have it, at the end of the certificate program, Kenneth’s father passed away, and as he did with Kari’s mother, Kenneth played flute at his bedside, easing his father’s transition at the end of his life. He now considers these two events as “bookends” to his studies in the program.
Currently living in San Jose, California, with partner Kari (who has an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice), Kenneth works full-time as a program coordinator of a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. His position sometimes allows him to combine his love of music with this job. “Every Friday I hold a relaxation class with my folks. They can lay down or work on art while I play flutes. Not too many jobs let you play your flutes as part of your workday.” Besides assorted flutes (Native American, Anasazi, Chinese Xiao) Kenneth also plays Udu and Rav drum.
When asked about his hopes and dreams, he muses “My dream is to make music for a living but, until that happens, I will enjoy the folks I work with. I do get together once, sometimes twice, a month with friends and we hold sound healing events here in the Bay Area. He also wishes that “…World, New Age and ambient music could hold a more prominent place in our society” a sentiment shared by many other artists in those genres. Until that level of success arrives, though, he lives by a few simple philosophies—“My view [is] that I would rather know the truth of a thing no matter how hard than to live a lie” as well as a belief in “The power in gentleness and beauty.”