Closing a musical loop
Michael Bosworth has always dreamed of being a musician.
As a freshman at the University of Missouri in 1965, Bosworth was offered the opportunity to play in a band with one of his fraternity brothers. But he was committed to earning his electrical engineering degree, and he didn't think he'd be able to juggle music and his studies.
So Bosworth chose his studies.
But 52 years later, Bosworth is closing the loop on what he feels was a missed opportunity. Last month, on his 70th birthday, he released his first studio album, "When One Is Loved," at a party for friends and family at the Lake Theater & Cafe in Lake Oswego.
"I kicked myself for 52 years for not having accepted that opportunity," he says. "Finally, it came back my way, and on the second pass, I said there's no way I'm going to miss it."
Bosworth's album serves as a reintroduction to the world of singing and songwriting after a long and successful career in the high-tech industry. After graduating from Missouri, he earned an MBA from Harvard University and ventured west to start his career at Hewlett-Packard.
He then played a key role at Mentor Graphics, the Wilsonville-based electronic design automation company. In the 1990s, he left Mentor Graphics to serve as chief executive officer for OrCAD, joined Cadence Design Systems when the two companies merged in 1999 and then retired in 2002.
The opportunity to explore his musical imagination presented itself during a chance encounter at a Bikram Yoga class in late 2010.
As he was warming up for class, Bosworth noticed a woman who walked into the studio carrying a cello. She pulled her instrument out of its case, tuned up and played for the duration of the class, sweating in the 105-degree heat along with the rest of the participants.
"It was the most beautiful cello music, so I walked up afterwards and told her, 'I love that, I would love to buy your CD.' Bosworth says. "She said she didn't have a CD, and something inside me said, 'We're going to fix that.'"
That woman was Kendra Carpenter, a musician from Portland who now serves as Bosworth's music coach and business partner-of-sorts.
Having "goofed around" on the guitar for more than 50 years, Bosworth began serious guitar lessons with Carpenter, which eventually evolved into voice, piano and cello lessons. In return, Bosworth used his 30-plus years of business acumen to help launch Carpenter's latest musical endeavor, Swaha Studios, an experiential workshop where students of all ages are encouraged to improve their skills simply for the love of music.
Their partnership has proved mutually beneficial, according to Carpenter, who says Bosworth's eager acceptance of the way she teaches music — not as a discipline but more as a lifestyle — encouraged her.
"To watch his joy and learning continue to grow was super inspiring to me," she says. "(Our) uncanny partnership made my confidence and my business start to flourish, and at the same time his musical world is just getting bigger and bigger."
As Bosworth continued lessons and his skills progressed, he started conceptualizing the idea of creating an album. Around the time of his 69th birthday in 2016, he thought about all the people who had supported him throughout his life and career.
"I thought, wouldn't it be cool to essentially thank everyone in my life who has given me love and support for these 70 years by giving them the gift of my music, which is, in a way, my essence," he says.
From that thought, an album was born. Working with Carpenter over the course of four months, Bosworth fine-tuned songs, put together a band and recorded the album at Big Red Studio in Corbett with the help of owner and sound engineer Billy Oskay.
"Billy was a true find because he's done nearly 300 albums," Bosworth says. "He really knows how to work with musicians and people like me in a way that brought out our best, and that turned into an album over that four-month period."
"When One is Loved" contains 13 songs that range from intimate piano ballads like the album's title track to more energetic tunes like "At the Ending," which opens the album with Bosworth's screaming guitar and a punchy bass line. "Back Beat," a song that tells the metaphorical story of Bosworth's life, provides a different flavor with a tango-inspired rhythm.
Bosworth cites the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and Billy Joel as a few of his biggest influences — as well as Carpenter, who can be heard on cello and piano throughout the album.
Once the album was finished, Bosworth decided to share his music with family and friends at an album release party held last month on his 70th birthday at the Lake Theater & Cafe. With the help of Carpenter and the rest of his Amazing One-Time Band, Bosworth played through the album and crooned to an audience of more than 100 people.
As he looks back on his life and career, he says he is ecstatic about the chance to redeem himself for the missed opportunity to play music 52 years ago.
"Standing in front of 100 people, dozens more scattered all over the world live-streaming and listening in at different times of their day, it was just incredibly fulfilling to see that loop close," he says. "To have a second chance and take it. I felt in the zone, and it was just a beautiful experience."
Bosworth says many people told him that the event felt like a wedding, with catered food, a guest list and a unique venue. But for him, it almost felt more like a living wake, where he was able to recount his life in front of his closest friends and family.
"There's a certain morbid aspect with that," he laughs, "but I don't look at it like that at all."
Despite the album serving as a capstone to his musical endeavors, Bosworth says he's by no means done making music. He still writes songs here and there and toys around with the idea of continuing to record. He still participates in jam sessions at Carpenter's studio. And for his 70th birthday, his family gave him a cello — so more lessons are in his future.
In his career as a tech CEO and businessman, Bosworth describes himself as the typical "Type-A" leader who tried to control the world around him, from investors to customers and employees. In retirement — where he really started to get serious about his music — Bosworth has taken the opposite approach of simply going with whatever moved him, in whichever direction felt right at the time.
He began saying yes to things he might not have been open to before, from picking up instruments he'd never touched to joining a men's quartet or participating in weekly jam sessions every Thursday night. He opened his mind to surround himself with new musical experiences.
"These are all things that just came to me. I wasn't seeking them out, and that's how I'm looking at the future," he says. "I think I'm just going to allow the flow to happen and take advantage of it where it feels right."