- July 10, 2017
With steady fingers, Jesse Cutler methodically rolls over the frets of an acoustic Yamaha. Unsuspecting cars whisk by him on Alafaya Trail. He pays them no heed, fixing his gaze on the hollow, wooden instrument that jump-started his musical career 52 years ago.
Behind his lightly tinted glasses are confident eyes. They tell a story of musical success, from the glam of Broadway to the brick-lined streets of Winter Park.
“Music is my soul,” Cutler said.
The Grammy-award winner first yearned to pluck the strings of his very own guitar while visiting Italy in fifth grade. He watched in awe as his cousin Paulo strummed his guitar in front of adoring fans — most of them were young women.
“As soon as I landed in LaGuardia, I said to my father, ‘I’m going to ask you for one thing, and I’ll never ask you for another.’ He said, ‘Let me get my lawyer and write that up,’” Cutler recalled.
Nearly six months after Cutler assembled The Young Executives, he and his two teenage band members were signed to an exclusive recording contract with Mercury Records in 1964. But he didn’t stop there. Cutler’s ear for music led him to take his talent to the stage, playing guitar and composing the score for the Broadway rock opera “Godspell.”
After making a name for himself in New York and California, Cutler settled in Winter Park in the late 1990s. He grew fond of the city’s charming nature, from its artistic flair to its serene environment. To capture the essence of the “hippest city in Central Florida,” Cutler used his musical talent to compose 10 instrumental tracks.
“Music of Winter Park: Heart” serves as a musical ode to the 134-year-old city. It played its way into local stores and onto the internet in December 2015, marking the release of Cutler’s 17th album. He adorned the cover with emerald green and royal blue feathers to pay tribute to the peacock, the official symbol of Winter Park.
“I tried to package the city into a take home musical postcard. It’s a place to be remembered,” Cutler said. “Winter Park has a touch of class that I find nowhere else.”
Cutler said his experience in the vibrant, urban city reflects the order of his musical score. The soundtrack documents a typical day in Winter Park, beginning with an upbeat rhythm in track one, “Alarm Clock,” and ending with a string of mellow notes in track 10, “Good Bye!”
While Cutler was creating his ethereal melodies, he kept the people of Winter Park at the forefront of his mind. Watching residents and visitors order a cup of espresso in the morning, chat with their friends in quaint restaurants and casually walk the streets of Park Avenue helped him develop a consistent flow to his music.
“I’m watching movies in my mind when I write music. When a new melody comes into my mind, a new picture does too,” Cutler said.
To bring his vision to life, singer and producer David Mikeal mixed and mastered the album at Studio Live USA in Oviedo.
“Jesse’s very creative — a good songwriter and musician,” Mikeal said. “I think his music matches Winter Park. It’s classy and slightly laid back.”
Cutler’s musical tribute to Winter Park is beginning to gain more recognition and appreciation from the community. Residents can now find his album at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Orlando Museum of Art.
“I wanted to lend my abilities to the city of Winter Park while I was still alive,” Cutler said. “It had never been done since [the city’s] incorporation in 1882. But now people can pop the CD into their CD players and have a musical soundtrack to their time here.”