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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weird Thoughts While Performing

Can you imagine yourself walking into a restaurant, pulling out your guitar, and playing while 99% of the room ignores you? This is something I experience all the time, and you wouldn’t believe the hours of practice that go into two or three hours of background music. The thing is, I care as much about the music whether I’m playing for 500, 50, or 5. Even if no one is paying attention, I still honor the music and play my best. Before and after the show, it’s business…setting up, tearing down, collecting my pay, and trying to get another gig. During the show, it’s all about the music.

The more you do something, the easier it becomes, and plopping myself down to perform in the middle of a public space feels normal to me now. Although I am outwardly a picture of calm, there are all sorts of weird thoughts that tumble through my brain as I perform. If I try to make these thoughts go away, they take over and get in the way of my performance. To maintain concentration, the trick is to allow these thoughts to dance around as they please, almost as if I’m observing them instead of thinking them. I’m the axle of the wheel, and the thoughts are the spokes, spinning and spinning while I remain at the center. With that bit of Zen out of the way, here’s some typical stream of consciousness chatter:

“I wish I had practiced this song more. Oops, there’s a mistake, but if I play it two more times, they’ll think I did it on purpose. Hey, she’s cute. I wonder if she likes fat bald guys who don’t make any money? She’s with a date. Here comes that hard lick. Yes! Got it! My knee hurts. My nose itches. Great, someone just sat down right in front of my video camera. Oh, here comes my favorite part. I love this bridge. Hey, she’s cute. Hey, my first tip of the evening. Thank you! Oops, don’t speed up! Nobody’s looking at me. Oh wait, there’s someone in the corner paying attention. I’m going to have to retune after this song. Boy, I love this guitar. I like cats. There’s another mistake, but it sounds better than what I wrote in the first place. Hey, she’s cute.”

There are other gigs where the music just clicks. Everything goes right, and even the mistakes sound good. Here’s what typically goes through my head when I’m in the zone:

“An hour just went by? I don’t remember any of it. Hey, she’s cute.”

2 comments:

  1. Very informative, entertaining AND funny! I enjoy reading your stuff!

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  2. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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