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 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adventures of a Young Musician: Starting Over


Welcome to the first installment of “Adventures of a Young Musician.” The main purpose of this blog is to give you a peek into the world of a working musician. If you are not a musician, I hope this will bring you closer to the musicians who play the music you love. If you are a musician, I hope you’ll connect with me as you read familiar stories. For performers and listeners alike, please write back if something touches you, interests you, or if you have some insights of your own to share with the rest of us.
At the ripe old age of 43, I’m not young, and I’ve been a musician since I was 11 years old. Although I’ve been a musician for over 30 years, I’m just getting started. To be more accurate, I’m starting over. I’m a jazz guitarist and singer now, but my original training was in classical trombone. I graduated high school one year early and went straight into the University of Illinois School of Music, where I graduated with a degree in Music Education. After graduating, I had a dismal career as a band director. I was an excellent conductor, but I just wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. I was a pushover and couldn’t keep discipline in the classroom. After a miserable year and a half of teaching, I decided to become a professional trombonist. My first trombone teacher, Robert Gray, helped me establish good fundamentals as a brass player, and my next teacher, Elliot Chasanov, helped me build on that foundation and develop into a true musician.
Eventually I found a job as a trombonist in the Air Force with the USAF Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where I performed with the concert band and the jazz band. Things started out well. I quickly earned respect within the band for being a good trombone player, and I performed as a soloist during the concert band’s summer series. Unfortunately, I developed an overuse injury, tearing the tissue inside my upper lip. It started out as discomfort and stiffness, and eventually it began to feel like someone was poking the inside of my lip with a hot needle every time I played. It got to the point where I was barely able to produce a sound.
I left the Air Force after my first term. At the time, there seemed to be no point in reenlisting if I couldn’t play the trombone anymore. (With 20/20 hindsight, I could have stayed in and cross-trained to become a sound engineer, but that’s water under the bridge, now.) After the Air Force, I developed my own business as a freelance music engraver. What’s a music engraver, you ask? Find out in a future installment.
I still had my foot in the door of the music world through music engraving, but it wasn’t the same as performing. Three times I tried to get my trombone chops back, and three times I failed. One Christmas, my wife (now my ex-wife), Katherine, gave me the best present ever: a new guitar. Soon my fingertips were burning, I was struggling to learn my first chords, and I had fallen in love with music all over again. After a week of playing, I decided I was going to become a professional musician again.
That was six years ago. After a lot of practice (a LOT), I’ve reached the point where I feel that I’ve reached a professional level of playing. I still have a lot to learn (a LOT), but I’m ready to make another run at a performing career.
So that’s where I am now. Within year of playing, I gravitated toward jazz guitar. Now I lead my own combo, On the Cool Side, perform as a soloist, and am a founding member of Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey. I have a lot of experience, but I still consider myself a young musician. I’ve only been playing guitar for six years, and although I had plenty of experience as a classical musician, my new incarnation as a jazzer has opened me up to a whole new world of music, which I’m only beginning to grasp.
That’s it for this first installment, and now you have an idea where I’m coming from. From here on out, this blog will be mainly insights and stories from my perspective as a growing musician. I’ll include horror stories, a typical day in the life, favorite websites, my equipment (for you equipment junkies), dealing with stage fright, and much more. As we continue this journey together, I’d love to hear from you and learn from your insights.

3 comments:

  1. Personally witnessing your transformation as a player, composer, spokesperson and friend continues to inspire me. It's great to see your blog. I'm looking forward to watching it evolve.

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  2. Thanks guys. My only regret is that I didn't start playing guitar 20 or 30 years ago, but having come from a different place makes me appreciate it all the more.

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