John Knific is a music major with a commercially produced CD that has just been released. He's also a biology major who was accepted early into medical school. He has a minor in entrepreneurship and is working toward launching his own business next summer. He studied abroad in Amsterdam for a semester.
But John Knific is not a "renaissance man." At least, not in his opinion.
"I just view it as taking advantage of all the opportunities that have been presented to me," he says.
And the opportunities have been plentiful. On the music side, Knific has learned from some of the best teachers and been a regular performer on the Cleveland jazz circuit. Academically, he has researched with and shadowed faculty members and worked on research projects within the Department of Biology.
He takes classes of interest because of curiosity and desire, not because of requirements.
And it's all in an effort to, as he puts it, "keep busy."
"I've come to find out I need to be doing multiple things," he says. "Even if I'm doing something I love, and am devoting all my time and energy into it, I find myself wanting to do other things simultaneously."
Which is why the native of Kalamazoo, Mich., is working on an effort to combine all his interests into one pursuit, a business venture with three other classmates that he hopes will combine music, pragmatic science and marketing into a new kind of social network.
But before he can devote his full attention to that, he has a couple of other projects of note, including this week's release of Lines of Influence on Cleveland-based Azica Records.
Lines of Influence is a project several years in the making. It's the first studio compilation of the Tom Knific Quartet, headed by John's father Tom, a classically trained bassist, composer and director of jazz studies at Western Michigan University.
The other members of the ensemble include a mix of friends, family and Tom Knific protégés. The group has played together for several years, both formally and informally.
"This is the first recorded collaborative project my dad and I have done with both our names on it. It's very special," John Knific said.
John Knific's roommates did the mixing at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) facilities. The CD will be available on campus in the music department's main office in Haydn Hall.
Friends and family played a role in John's decision to come to Case Western Reserve. His father is a Euclid, Ohio native, and his parents studied at the CIM. John Knific became aware of Case Western Reserve's science and medicine programs as well as the conservatory at the CIM. Additionally, he was able to connect with Case Western Reserve professor Paul Ferguson and Oberlin College's Daniel Wall for lessons.
Knific, who performs at local establishments, is in the studio putting together some of his own compositions, written during his six-month study abroad sojourn in Amsterdam last spring.
After that, he'll be faced with a big decision: Should he pursue music full time or continue on to medical school?
"I love music and have a great passion for it," he says. "But I also have a deep interest in neurobiology and behavior. To be a success in either music or medicine you have to be totally driven, almost obsessive. The trick is to figure out which and how much I want."
He might get sidetracked from both with a new business venture he's undertaking with his classmates. Though still in the development phase, Citizen Groove aims to be a new kind of musician social network, connecting musicians to music industry members.
It also combines what he's found interests him the most by taking music, putting it together scientifically and pragmatically and then presenting it in a way that is marketable and, hopefully, profitable.
"Starting something new from the ground up is a pretty cool thing," he says. "And if this really starts to go well, I might make it a full-time gig and see where that takes me.
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