Andy was raised by his mom, Filomina Pinon, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 16. Andy was born on August 30, 1975, in Paterson, N.J., and moved to Vermont with his mother at the age of 10. If you had the privilege of meeting Filomena, you would’ve understood where Andy’s firecracker wit, sass, resilience and amazing strength came from. A single mother who worked multiple jobs, Filomina was a role model who helped Andy to soar, and to build his own life.
Everything that Andy had was a result of his passion and hard work, his genuine, contagious warmth and unquenchable curiosity. Andy’s mother dealt with a serious illness, and he did whatever he could to support her, beginning with a series of unglamorous jobs when he moved to Burlington at age 18. This continued while he worked at the B Side and when he became an extraordinary, full-time DJ/turntablist.
When Andy moved to St. Albans, he met two friends who became brothers to him, Dennis and Bill — aka team B.A.D. Despite the name, as soon as there was any kind of trouble, the “A” in B.A.D. would flee the scene. He was mischievous, but too good-natured to engage in any real drama. From BMX biking and skateboarding, to discovering new music and making art, these friends made the most of their rural Vermont childhood. They used their limited means and surroundings to their advantage — a lifelong skill to be able to create something from nothing. Ten-year-old Andy was already a mini entrepreneur. He would cut out pieces of cardboard to make BMX number plates, sticker them up and collage them. Whatever stickers Andy couldn’t afford, he’d draw himself. He’d then go to school and sell them to his classmates for $5. That’s how he met Dennis: He cut him a deal at $2.
After high school, Andy moved to Burlington to pursue his passions: skateboarding, music and art. Burlington was far enough from where he grew up to allow him to grow, but close enough to home that he could still support his mom. Andy didn’t follow the traditional route of college, but he hungered for knowledge and loved to learn. He frequently watched documentaries on a range of subjects — not just art and music but also the environment, agriculture and historical figures such as the Black Panthers and Malcolm X. If Andy heard of a word or subject he didn’t know, he’d ask for an explanation rather than pretend he knew, as many people do. The world was his school, and he gained knowledge and insight from unexpected places and encounters.
At 18, Andy started finding DJs he respected around town and began learning how to master the turntables by watching their sets. Beginning with his first gig, when Dave Grippo offered him a guest spot with the Grippo Funk Band, Andy quickly excelled. He manipulated the turntables as his own instrument, and anyone who has tried to do this knows what incredible skill and talent that requires.
Andy displayed musical diversity in all his performances, blending and cutting up jazzed-out hip-hop grooves, funk, reggae, soul and electro. He was known around town for his weekly DJ residencies at Red Square, and also beyond Vermont. Andy became Burton Snowboard’s DJ, regularly flying around the U.S. to DJ their movie premieres and promos, as well as for other companies including Skullcandy, Analog and Nike. He toured with one of his musical heroes, Mix Master Mike, and shared the stage with many other artists including Nas, Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan and Lauryn Hill.
Andy also rocked the decks internationally, traveling to Innsbruck, Montréal and Vancouver. He produced remixes and blends along with innumerable mixtapes over the years, always creating the artwork and graphics himself.
Andy always left his visual mark: custom-made stickers and mini art projects on random surfaces. Even in the hospital, his room and IV pole were stickered up in true Andy style. He customized everything he owned, spray painting and stickering to perfection. Andy was a culture maker in the truest sense, with a keen eye for graphic design, color, photography and fashion and an ear for creative mixes and beats. His peers revered him for his talents as well as his kindness, willingness to share what he knew, and his unwavering positive attitude.
Despite his successes and big-name encounters, Andy was humble, genuine and down to earth. Walking somewhere with him would always take at least an extra half hour; he would run into someone he knew every couple of minutes and always had time for them, excited to hear what they had going on. If you visited Andy, you’d leave his place with some kind of gift — a mixtape he’d just made, a new pair of headphones or sneakers.
Andy’s last five and a half years were spent with his partner and soul mate, Josie Furchgott Sourdiffe. They turned their small Burlington apartment into a creative haven, making art side by side. They took immense pleasure in everything they did together — cooking, traveling, dancing. Andy often referred to Josie as his “queen” and treated her with respect, love and humor.
Josie was by his side every step of the way this last tumultuous year, during Andy’s treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, campaigning to find a bone-marrow donor, and during the complications resulting from his transplant. He became a spokesperson for Mixed Marrow, an organization to find much-needed donors for those of mixed ethnicity, and for Be the Match. Andy became passionate about turning his unfortunate situation into a positive thing, a way to help spread this knowledge so that more people could have an opportunity for a cure.
He took what that life dealt him and approached every hardship with positivity. This is why Andy’s community in Burlington and beyond went all out to help him when he lost everything after his apartment burned six years ago, and why they did it again when he was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2012. This is why more than 1,000 people showed up on a freezing winter night for a candlelight walk and vigil after his passing, and why the hashtag #whatwouldandydo has gone viral.
These were Andy’s mantras: absolute kindness, no grudges, appreciation for small and large, living life to the fullest. He lived with vivaciousness, passion and enthusiasm. Though he is gone much too soon, Andy lived more in his 38 years than some do in 90. He leaves an unforgettable legacy.
Andy passed peacefully on December 26, 2013, at 7:07 a.m. in Lincoln, Vt., at Josie’s family home, surrounded by an immense amount of love.
Photo courtesy of Ben Sarle