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Computing pioneer and guitarist returns full circle to his musical roots
Story by Barry Witt, with photo by Amy MacWilliamson
Roger Choplin started in the music business as rhythm guitarist for “The Tempos,” the hottest rock ’n’ roll band at Junior High School 74 in Queens in the mid-1960s. “We were pretty good,” he says. “We won the Battle of the Bands. We got to play the prom. Got a few gigs out of that.”
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Choplin took a long detour—earning his BA in computer science at UB in 1972 prior to a career that ended at Oracle Corp., where he retired four years ago as vice president of data and systems technologies. But now he’s back where he started. Choplin has built Whiskey Hill Studios next to his home in Woodside, CA, once again giving him a space to jam with friends (without disturbing his wife, Carol), while trying to turn his expensive hobby into a profitable recording studio business.
At Oracle, which he joined five months before its March 1986 initial public stock offering, Choplin began as an engineer figuring out how to transfer the company’s existing database management software onto new platforms, including Unix. After graduating into management, he handled relationships with major Internet players, such as Amazon and eBay, as they integrated Oracle’s software into their operations.
But Choplin became tired of what he calls the “hamster wheel” of high-tech, the continuous process of designing and releasing new versions of the company’s software. So he took a leave of absence to design and build the studio, which led to another leave of absence to equip and furnish it. At some point, he and Oracle realized he was never going back to the company.
Along the way, Choplin also amassed a collection of vintage guitars and amplifiers. His most recent acquisition is his most prized, a rare Gibson Les Paul 1958 Sunburst. With only about 1,700 made, it’s now considered the most sought-after electric guitar in the world and valued at well into six figures. “It’s the only guitar I ever bought with the expectation to sell eventually,’’ Choplin says. “It’s such an expensive guitar there was no way I could justify it to my wife other than as an investment. And it is an investment.”
Choplin now hopes he can pass his love of music on to his son, Jacob, 12, who plays timpani in his junior high band. “I’d love to have him playing drums behind me.”
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