Final Entry Jazz Man

May 01, 2011

Damien Martin recently took his skills as a manager with Bowman and Company in Stockton to a new job as senior tax accountant at Wolf & Company, LLP in Chicago. He also plans to maintain his talents as a jazz musician in the Windy City, along with his California CPA license. California CPA caught up with Martin to see how the move went, and to talk about the origins of his musical talent and doing business across state lines.

Since you’re a music guy, we have to open with: Stones or Beatles?
Tough choice, but I have to take the Beatles on this one. Their influence on the music scene and pop culture is undeniable.

How did you get into being a jazz pianist?
It all started in the second grade when I asked my mom if I could take piano lessons. She then began carting me to lessons every week for the next 10 years. In high school, I continued to develop my appreciation for music and began listening to jazz greats, such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I was instantly hooked. In college I went on to study music—jazz in particular—and continue to develop as a jazz pianist today.

What was the coolest gig you played?
Of all of the gigs I’ve played the one that stands out the most is working with Ron Moton of Con Funk Shun. Performing with Ron transformed my approach to music and taught me to play with the high level of energy that characterizes my style of playing.

A bachelor’s degree in music to a master’s in taxation is quite a turn. What note did accounting ring with you?
I started off as undergrad at UC Berkeley by following my passion and majoring in music. Everything changed when I took an introduction to business course. During the accounting section of the course I was drawn to the rule-based structure of accounting and its likeness to the structure of music. I found the improvisation skills I learned through my jazz training translated well to interpreting the rules of accounting. I immediately knew I wanted to learn more and began my journey to become a CPA.

You recently moved from Stockton to Chicago. Culture shock?
More like a weather shock. Being born and raised in sunny California I definitely wasn’t prepared for the shockingly cold weather. I have now become accustomed to snow tires, salty roads and snowplows—things that were once foreign to me.

You must be in music heaven in the Chicago scene. Any memorable experiences yet?
Living in the city where electric blues was born and Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy played together has been remarkable! The experience of meeting new people and hearing new ideas has been inspiring.

How has it been adjusting to the new job/office?
In moving to Chicago I also made the move to a 100 percent paperless firm. It has taken some getting used to, but the convenience of having work papers and tax returns a click away has allowed me to become more efficient.

Why do maintain your California CPA license?
California is a very desirable market to conduct business and many of my clients have operations in California. Maintaining my California license allows me to better serve these clients and gives my firm the ability to work with clients on a national level.

What sort of interstate work do you do?
Working in proximity to a number of states means working with a larger number of state taxing authorities. Many clients have multi-state operations and they look to me to advise them on income tax nexus issues, especially in California. My California roots have allowed me to better advise clients, particularly in light of the recent changes to the apportionment provisions in California.

What advice would you give a young CPA just starting out?
The opportunities in accounting are endless. Find the area that you are most passionate about and immerse yourself in it to become a specialist in that area and a trusted adviser to your clients and your employer.

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