About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Goodbye Noosh

As I prepare for a move to Albuquerque in the spring, I've anticipated a series of lasts: the last lesson, the last service leading the NWUUC band, the last rehearsal, etc. I didn't expect that my first last would be the gig at Noosh Kitchen.

Godfrey and Guy have been performing at Noosh Kitchen for nearly four years. I had an excellent guitarist lined up to take my place in June, but it turns out that next week is our last gig at Noosh. As the owner told me, they are "exploring other musical options." I've noticed that the only vids Noosh posts on social media these days is the Saturday night group, which is much more dynamic (e.g. loud). They are also Persian. Noosh Kitchen is a Persian restaurant. We were originally hired to perform quiet, background jazz on Friday nights, but I think they want to have more Persian dance music.

Although I'm disappointed that I can't pass the gig along to Lori and the other guitarist, this has been a really great run. The gig was originally supposed to be six months, but we kept showing up. You can practice at home all you want, but there's nothing like playing a steady gig to improve your chops and expand your repertoire. I can honestly state that I'm a much better musician for having performed at Noosh, and our repertoire has expanded to the point where we play three weeks without repeating any songs.

I'll miss playing at Noosh, but it won't be difficult to fill up my Fridays. There's always something to do: extra practicing, music engraving projects, preparing for my move in June, and more.

This has been a great gig, and I'll be fortunate if I am able to find something similar when I move to Albuquerque.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Finding a Balance

 Like many freelancers, I have trouble saying "no" to opportunities. No matter how many gigs I book, no matter how many students I teach, I'm afraid that the work will dry up. I'm fortunate to have a lot of work, but as much as I enjoy music, it can be too much of a good thing. When I move to Albuquerque, I'd like to strike a better balance between my personal life and my professional life.

I've reached a point at which I literally have no days off. This is not healthy, nor is it sustainable. I teach more than 30 private students in homes, and I play 4-5 gigs each week.

One of the main reasons I'm moving to Albuquerque is easier access to nature. I would hate to get so busy that I can't get out to hike the mountains and desert trails. Overbooking won't be a big problem when I first move; as I work to establish myself, I'll have more than enough free time on my hands. But I plan to limit my professional activities as my student roster grows and the gigs come. Ideally, I'll teach 20-25 students 4 days a week, and I'll play 2 steady gigs a week. That'll give me one full day off, plus the gig days will be fairly light unless I'm traveling.

I realize that I can make all of these changes right here in Atlanta, but I still want to be in a place with fewer cars and more mountain trails. When I move, it'll be important to me to maintain a good balance so that I can enjoy those trails.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I'm so excited about moving to Albuquerque in June. I'm also putting things in order in Atlanta before I leave.

I teach approximately thirty private students. Many of my students are either very young or started taking lessons when they were little. Come to think of it, I've known many of them over half their lives. I would hate to see any of them give up learning an instrument just because I'm leaving. I'll be helping them find new teachers.

About five years ago, I formed a contemporary band at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation. This has been a meaningful experience for everyone involved. I am no longer the Director of Music at NWUUC, so the fate of the band is ultimately out of my hands, but the current Director of Music would like to keep it going, and I'll be happy to do what I can to help the band continue after I'm gone.

Finally, Godfrey and Guy, which has by far been my favorite musical experience. Playing and singing with Lori is always a pleasure. She is a terrific singer and is a joy to work with. I wish I could take her to Albuquerque to continue making music together, but her husband and family might take issue with that idea. We've spent years developing a repertoire, and I hope to see her continue performing after I'm gone. I sing about 25% of the Godfrey and Guy repertoire. I just finished transposing all my vocals into keys that suit Lori's range. I've also lined up a guitarist to take my place when I'm gone. A lot can happen between now and June, so I don't want to name the guitarist yet. Let's just say that my future replacement can play circles around me, and Lori will have a top notch guitarist to play with her.

While I'm looking forward to new adventures in the Southwest, I hope to see my Atlanta musicians and students flourish, and I'll do what I can to help with the transition.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Goals

I'm not much for holidays, but I do like New Year. It's an opportunity to reflect on what the old year has brought and give some direction for the upcoming year.

I have three main goals for the year.

Weigh 190-195
This seems to be my perennial goal. I've never quite made it, but I'm getting closer. I think I'll be pretty close to this weight by the time I move to Albuquerque in June. Once I'm there, I plan on taking hikes in the mountains and desert, which certainly will help with weight control.

Memorize 120 Solo Songs
Over the past couple years, I've memorized a lot of music, but it's almost all been Godfrey and Guy. Once I've moved to Albuquerque, I'll be gigging as a soloist more often, so it's time to turn my attention to memorizing my solo repertoire. I've memorized around sixty of my own songs, so I have another sixty to go. That's a lot of songs to memorize, but the majority of them will be songs that I perform with Godfrey and Guy, so I'll already be familiar with them. I'll just need to change keys to fit my vocal range.

Record a Solo CD
Again, I'll be going solo in another six months. I will be recording some solo demos this month to update my demo recordings, particularly guitar instrumentals. I suppose that could kinda sorta count as a solo CD, but I'd like to record a solo album later in the year. I've been writing more music lately. It would be a lot of fun to connect with some good musicians in Albuquerque and record a CD of original music.

There you have it: goals for 2018.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Making a Move

Albuquerque as seen from Sandia Peak.
It's time for a change – a big one. So much has happened in fourteen years of living in Atlanta. In Atlanta, I grew from a beginning guitarist to a professional level player. In Atlanta, I got divorced. In Atlanta, I experienced a few years of poverty and clawed my way out. In Atlanta, I rediscovered my love of teaching as I began offering private lessons, first in guitar, then ukulele and piano. In Atlanta, I served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation for six years, where I learned so much more about life than just music. In Atlanta, I reluctantly resigned the Director of Music position as my roster of private music students began to flourish.

Despite all the positive things going for me in Atlanta, I've decided to move to Albuquerque. I've grown both personally and professionally in the past fourteen years, but I've never quite felt at home in Atlanta, which is ironic, considering that I've lived longer in Atlanta than in any other place. Part of the reason I don't feel at home in Atlanta is that I grew up in a small town, and I'm a small town boy at heart. I miss being able to see the countryside. I'm also feeling itchy. I don't feel right unless I have a challenge in front of me, and I feel like I've met all my challenges in Atlanta.  And please don't get me started on Atlanta's traffic. Making this move is risky, but every minute of sitting in yet another traffic jam reinforces my decision.

So why Albuquerque? Mountains and desert. Hiking trails. Lighter traffic. Bicycle friendly infrastructure. With a lower cost of living, I should be able to teach 20-25 students and live at least as comfortably as I do teaching 30+ students in Atlanta. Albuquerque is smaller than Atlanta, but it's still large enough to support a freelance musician/teacher, and Santa Fe is only an hour away, presenting another area to scare up gigs.

You don't have to live in a big city to be a successful musician, at least not the way I describe success. To some, being a successful musician means fame and fortune. I don't care about any of that. All I care about is making music and helping others learn to do the same.  I am confident that I can do this in Albuquerque.

So I'm moving. My plan is to move in June of 2018. In the coming months, I'll reach out to Albuquerque musicians, and I hope to get a few students signed up before I've even moved. I've been saving my pennies, and by the time I move, I should have enough to last 5-6 months in case the gigs and students come more slowly than anticipated. In short, I have a plan, and I'm looking forward to new adventures making music and hiking in the Southwest.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lessons to Learn, Always

I played two gigs yesterday. One was my regular Sunday evening appearance playing solo jazz guitar at L'Thai, and the other was as part of a band at St. James United Methodist Church in Atlanta. No matter what the situation, and no matter who you are playing with, there is always something to learn.

Lesson #1: You don't know everything.
Harmonically speaking, there is no comparison between jazz standards and contemporary Christian music, but harmony isn't everything. Any musical style has its own idiosyncrasies. In sight-reading a jazz tune, I can draw on my bag of tricks and usually come up with a good comp right away. Is it swing? I'll try some basic Freddie Green comping. If I'm the only harmonic instrument, I'll default to my Joe Pass wanna-be style. Is it Latin? I have a few basic grooves that work for almost any situation. But yesterday's first gig wasn't jazz. While I'm comfortable in a jazz setting, I'm not used to playing contemporary Christian music. It's a different beast. Fortunately, I was playing in a group where the other musicians were all well versed in that style. As the rhythm guitarist, my job was to listen, find ways to fit in, and do whatever the band director told me to do. As I continue playing this service, I'll keep on listening and adapting so that I'll become comfortable with this genre.

Lesson #2: Take care of yourself.
Yesterdays gigs were back to back. I had a rehearsal in the afternoon, played the service, and then drove straight to my restaurant gig. I got home at 10 and putzed around until midnight before going to bed. I think I may have had one glass of water in a 12 hour stretch. Big mistake. I woke in the middle of the night with cramps in both legs and feet, probably from dehydration. Lesson learned – take a water bottle with me on Sundays! Some Sundays will be particularly challenging, with a Sunday morning service, a rehearsal, an hour of down time, and then two more gigs like I had yesterday. I'm going to need to take care of myself, pack a lunch, and bring some water. Maybe do some stretching, too.

My two lessons from yesterday are to keep learning and to take care of yourself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finding the Path

As a musician, I've struggled through career ending injuries and financial hardship trying to find my place in the world. Going through the rough patches, I've always had a nagging sense that I was close to what I was supposed to be doing, but I wasn't quite there yet. And then sometimes the universe tells you that you are right where you need to be.

When I was a much younger man, I felt that my dual purpose was to be a teacher and a performer. My sense of purpose was ripped away from me when I developed an overuse injury in my upper lip, ending my professional trombone career just as it was beginning. I ended up music engraving full time, working for publishers as a freelancer. I made great money, but I felt unfulfilled until I started learning to play the guitar. Eventually, the guitar playing supplanted the music engraving, even though it brought it significantly less income.

Over the past two years, my roster of private students has steadily increased, and I perform three steady gigs on the weekends. I gained enough students that I decided to cut back on my hours at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation and just run the band while hiring someone else to serve as Director of Music. This was a financially risky move, yet almost as soon I opened up another day for lessons, another six students signed up. I couldn't have asked for a clearer sign that I'm following my path.

As I wrap up my last week as Director of Music at Northwest, I received another signal that all will be well. Carl Fischer, one of the big league music publishers, has an opening for a full time music engraver. Without intending to brag, I am a great music engraver, and I would have a pretty decent shot at this position. A few years ago, I would have jumped at the opportunity. When I learned about the position this morning, I thought "Oh, that's nice," and moved on with my day. I didn't even think of applying. I don't desire anything else.

While I am a first rate music engraver, and the position at Carl Fischer would offer plenty of security, I find teaching and performing both challenging and fulfilling. It is enough. In my early 30s, I lost my way as a teacher and performer, but now I'm back on the path. I don't need to be anywhere else. All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing shall be well.