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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wet Wedding

I played solo guitar at a wedding today. It was an outdoor wedding. It rained, hard. The music requested for the processional wasn't exactly my first choice. They requested a microphone for the minister the morning of the wedding, which meant that I also had to schlep another speaker, since I was just using a guitar amp. But you know what? In spite of all that, it was a good gig.

About the music. I had free choice over everything but the entry music. During the hour guests were arriving, I played solo guitar arrangements of jazz love songs. Well, it was supposed to be an hour, but apparently the storm front didn't get the memo. The processional music requested by the bride was Moby's Love Theme. This tune wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but it's about the bride's wishes, not mine. Instead of sullenly playing my way through the song, I embraced it. I transcribed it note for note, and I used my budding Garage Band skills to create my own backing track. I played through a guitar synthesizer, which allowed me to mix in lush string sounds with my nylon string guitar. I transferred it all to my iPod, which I played through my amp. It's more fun playing with live musicians, but I have to admit it's pretty cool to carry a back-up band in your pocket. Maybe I'm bragging, but I did a bang up job on the song, and now if someone else requests New Age music, I have a piece all ready to go. What really made it special, though, was the bride's reaction. When I ended the music, the smile she gave me made it all worthwhile.

About the rain. It looked like we were going to have nice weather, but the dark clouds rolled in, and it started raining. As soon as I felt a few drops, I stopped playing and began moving my gear to safety as fast as I could. Without my even asking, three or four guys started helping me out. While it was no fun to get rained on, it was heartening to have so many helpful people appear to lend a hand.

About the extra mic and extra speaker. I really didn't mind bringing the extra equipment. I could have been a jerk about it and said that I was only contracted to play guitar, not provide sound equipment, but why? All I needed to do was bring a mic, an extra speaker, and a cable. Just as those guys were willing to get their suits wet helping me move my equipment, I was glad to be able to bail them out with my extra sound equipment.

It was a good gig because I added a new song to my repertoire and was able to apply my new recording skills to create a killer backing track. It was a good gig because I helped people out, and they helped me. It was a good gig because the bride told me the music was perfect. It was a good gig because they added a healthy tip on top of my fee. It was a good gig because I was invited to dine with the guests, and the food was incredible. It was a good gig.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beginner's Mind

It doesn't matter of you're a jazzer, a folk singer, a rocker, or a classical musician; there's always something new to learn. I'm constantly learning new scale patterns, licks, and new chord fingerings. Jazz harmony is like peeling an onion. There are so many layers that I'll never explore every harmonic possibility in jazz. I've always enjoyed puzzles, and jazz harmony is the puzzle of a lifetime.

Now I'm discovering that there are new skills outside of music that I want to learn in order to further my career and satisfy my artistic goals. Once again, I find myself a beginner in many areas. This is both frustrating and thrilling. It's thrilling because every time I pick up a new skill, I have something more to offer as a music professional. It's frustrating because I have an ego that gets bruised easily if I can't learn something right away.

When I get discouraged, I have to remind myself that in all of my areas where I'm strong, I was once a beginner. I can sight-read like you wouldn't believe, but reading music isn't an inborn skill. I learned to read music like I can read words…one syllable, one note at a time. Same goes for music theory. Someone had to show me chords and their meaning, and I went through theory class just like all the other college music majors. Music engraving with Finale? I'm a wiz at it now, but when I started out, I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

The new skills I'm picking up now are using a looper, learning to use recording software, and talking to people…yes, talking to people. I'll explain later.

For those of you who don't know, let me explain what a looper is. You use a looper to record a short phrase, and then have that phrase repeat endlessly. What's cool is that you can loop several phrases on top of each other to play back at the same time. For example, you can set up a percussion groove to loop over and over again, then record a bass line and some chords on top of that, then a melody or whatever else you can think of. There are some people out there who can do amazing things with these loopers. I recently bought the big daddy of loopers, the Boss RC-50 Loop Station. Right now, my goals are modest. I want to spice up my solo gigs by looping a percussion rhythm, recording chords, and then improvising over the looped chords. This is only the start, though. The RC-50 is an incredibly powerful tool that will let me explore many possibilities as I get used to using it. I'm finding that learning how to use the RC-50 is similar to learning an instrument. It won't take me as long to learn the RC-50 as it took to learn the guitar, but there are some skills I have to develop before I can use it in public without falling on my face. Of course I want to be great at it right away, but no. It appears I'll actually have to spend time reading the manual and practicing with it! I guess using the RC-50 isn't an inborn skill.

The next thing I'm learning is Garage Band, which is the recording software that comes pre-installed on the iMac. I want to use Garage Band to create solo guitar demos, demos of my original music, and backing tracks for my solo appearances. I'm already running into hurdles, but that's because I'm trying to do too much soon. I'm going to take a few lessons in how to use Garage Band. Yes, I know there are tutorial videos and that the program is set up so it's easy to learn (relative to other, higher end programs), but I've come to the conclusion that for something like this, I need someone to help me out, not just with the software, but with recording in general. To really excel on the guitar, DVDs and books aren't enough. You're going to have to find a good teacher at some point. I feel the same way about learning the ins and outs of audio recording.

And finally, talking to people. Yes, this is a new skill for me. I really do know how to talk. I talk to myself all the time. What I'm working on is being able to talk to complete strangers. I normally keep to myself, which is one reason I enjoy playing background music. To get gigs, though, I need to actually talk to people, not just send emails and hope for the best. I have a gig tonight, and I've been telling people about it on my morning walk. Those who know me well will tell you that this is completely out of character for me. Lately I've taken up the challenge of making cold calls in search of gigs for myself and for On the Cool Side. I've been spending an hour or two a day this week on the phone, calling up restaurants and bars. What I've discovered is that cold calling isn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Sure, it's not fun to be turned down over and over, but nobody has been rude to me, and if they are, so what? It's probably not a place I would have enjoyed playing in anyway. Now that I've learned to deal with my fear, cold calling is just a numbers game. I don't need to get a gig from everyone I call. I just need one, and chances are good that they'll like our music enough that they'll want us back! Even if I'm only able to land one gig in a week, there's a strong possibility that it'll turn into a recurring gig.

Like any other endeavor, being a musician means constantly learning new things, not just chords and songs, but related skills. For me, right now, this means learning to use a looper, learning to record, and learning how to talk to strangers. Next year, who knows? I guarantee there'll be something else. As I learn new skills, I just need to avoid frustration by keeping a beginner's mind and being open to all possibilities.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dreaming and Scheming

So many projects, so little time!

My current projects include:
As if that's not enough, I've recently come up with some ideas for new projects. I don't have time to do all these at once, but here are some challenges I'd like to tackle in the future.
  • Create my own brand of Celtic-Jazz fusion. I've found some interesting music surfing around on YouTube looking for Celtic Jazz, but nothing like what I have in mind. I need a kindred spirit or two for this one. I'll have to check out some local Irish music spots and see if I can meet some open minded Celtic musicians. I'll keep my receipts and call it "research."
  • Learn how to use Garage Band properly. Garage Band is an amazing audio recording program, especially considering that it comes pre-installed on the iMac. I don't plan on being a world class recording engineer, but I do plan on becoming competent with the program for my own uses, which will help me with the next two projects on my list…
  • Create backing tracks to spice up my solo performances. I prefer to play with other musicians, but there are some situations in which backing tracks could help me out. For example, if I'm playing an extended, all-instrumental background solo job, backing tracks would be very useful. I have enough solo guitar material to play for more than two hours, but this type of solo playing is stressful on my left hand. Having backing tracks would allow me to take a breather and play single line melodies instead of chord/melody style, and I could extend the songs with a few choruses of solo improv over backing tracks. Many purists might say that playing with backing tracks is cheating, but I don't feel that way…especially after spending hundreds of hours creating the recordings myself.
  • Create quality demos and home recordings of my own music. For the most part, an A&R person is more interested in the quality of the music than the quality of the recording, but there are some situations that call for a good recording. For example, on TAXI, some people shopping for instrumental music specifically ask for good quality recordings for use in TV, film, or commercial spots. Once I've had more experience with Garage Band, I'll be able to create good quality recordings at home.
  • Concerts or presentations at elementary and junior high schools with On the Cool Side. Presentations would be for passing along the legacy of jazz through presenting jazz history in a fun, accessible way, and leading activities that get the whole assembly grooving. There is a LOT to plan here. For example, before contacting schools about my jazz presentation, I might want to, say, develop a jazz presentation. As of now, this project is in the brainstorming phase.
  • Clinics with young jazz bands, either by myself or with On the Cool Side. This is also in the brainstorming "what if" phase. I can picture working with a young combo, helping them learn to play together, rehearsing some songs, helping with improvisation, etc. I can also picture a joint concert. Even if I led a clinic all by myself, I could bring in On the Cool Side for a joint concert with the young band or combo.
  • Summer jazz camp. This would be similar to the school clinic, only it would last a couple weeks instead of a couple days. Again, I'm still brainstorming.
  • Create a series of videos teaching basic jazz guitar chords. This will mainly be for jazz guitarists starting out, but other guitarists might learn some chord forms that come in handy in folk, rock, or country music.
There are lots of possibilities out there, and I'll keep trying out new projects until I finally find my own niche in the music world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Losing It #3: Weight Loss Tips

Since I started losing weight for (hopefully) the last time, I've been surprised at how many other people have told me that my efforts have inspired them to get off the couch to take a walk or ride a bike. Maybe I inspire them, but these comments also motivate me. When I receive comments from other people about how I've helped them to start losing some extra pounds, it makes it easier for me to head out the door for a walk on the days when I feel less motivated. I post regular walk or weight loss updates on Facebook. Sometimes it'll be something like "added another half mile to my walk" or "will need a smaller belt soon." The last thing I want to do now is post a status update that reads "bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's and stopped exercising today."

I've even had a few people asking for tips and motivation, and that's what this blog entry is all about. Please, please, please don't take this as a blueprint for your own weight loss plan. This is a random list of what is working for me. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. I am NOT a dietician, and I'm not recommending any particular diet program. Again, I'm just telling you what is working for me. If you want to create your own diet plan, you should consult an expert. If you have a tip of your own to add, please do so!
  • Diet AND exercise, not one or the other.
  • Remember that you're in it for the long haul. The first week, you may lose 5-10 pounds of mostly water. Don't think that this will always be the case! I lost 10 pounds my first week, but after that, I've dropped a steadier, more natural 1-2 pounds a week. Although I'd like to be ready for a fitness photo shoot next week, realistically, I'm looking to be at or near my target weight in about a year. I didn't gain this weight overnight, and I'm not going to lose it overnight.
  • Pick an exercise that you enjoy. If an exercise feels like torture or is mind numbingly boring, you'll probably stop after a week or two. Walking is what works for me. You don't need fancy equipment, and walking is such a natural activity for the human body that even a very overweight person like me can do it.
  • Another reason to pick an exercise you enjoy is that you'll want to keep it up AFTER you've lost the weight.
  • If you get bored easily with one type of exercise, mix it up. Although I enjoy walking, I don't walk exclusively. I also have a stationary bike at home. I prefer walking, but sometimes I just feel like playing a DVD and pedaling at home. It's also my back-up plan if it's raining too hard to walk.
  • Exercise regularly. I walk or pedal 5-6 days a week.
  • For weight loss, go long and slow, not fast and hard. My walk is a little over 4 miles and takes an hour and ten minutes. On the stationary bike, I pedal 30 minutes at a moderately fast pace…enough to keep me breathing hard, but not so fast that my legs really start to burn.
  • Find a regular time to exercise and build it into your schedule. Make it a regular part of your day, not something extra. I prefer exercising at night, but I'm often rehearsing or gigging at night, which gives me a perfect excuse to skip. I adjusted my schedule so that I exercise first thing in the morning, and now I rarely miss a workout.
  • Create a support network. I'm single and live alone, and I prefer to spend time by myself. Although I don't spend much time with other people, I've created a support system for myself on Facebook. I didn't intend for this to happen. All I did was start posting status updates about my progress. Friends immediately started responding with encouraging comments, and so they support me and I support them.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip. If you couldn't resist the cookies today, don't worry about it. Move on, and try to make a better choice tomorrow. If you skipped your exercise today, don't worry about it. Move on, and make sure you exercise tomorrow. It's all about developing a generally healthy way of life. A bump in the road here and there won't affect your overall lifestyle.
  • I try to keep my meals as simple as possible, and I avoid processed foods as much as I can. I stick to basics: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, beans, and rice. Basically, I want everything on the plate to look pretty much like it does coming out of the ground.
  • I've cut out most sugar from my diet. Sugar is not your friend.
  • Keep junk food out of the house. This is one of the best decisions I've made. I'm a compulsive eater and a junk food junkie. If there's junk food in the house, it won't even last a day. Buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's and it'll be gone in no time. Buy two pints of Ben and Jerry's? It doesn't matter; it'll still be gone. A bag of chips? Gone. Since I know my own habits and weaknesses, it's best to not even give myself the opportunity.
  • It's okay to eat out, but just be smart about your choices. I used to order a bacon cheeseburger and fries at my favorite lunch spot. Now I order a chicken wrap and a side salad. Unfortunately it's usually a little more expensive, but I always order a side salad instead of fries.
  • Although I still eat out, there are some places I have to avoid for now. I just love the unhealthy goodness of a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder, and so I avoid McDonald's like the plague. If I'm looking for a quick meal out, I'll head to Subway.
  • Don't put yourself on some sort of exotic diet. If it's a pain to prepare or find the necessary foods, you won't stick to your diet. Keep it simple.
  • Don't try to eat a whole bunch of food you don't like. I've cut out my favorite treats, like ice cream and chips, so why punish myself by eating foods I don't enjoy? If I try to constantly eat foods I don't like, I guarantee I'll fall off the wagon.
  • If you're like me and have trouble avoiding the bucket o' popcorn at the movies, be a rebel and smuggle in some "outside" food.
  • Don't starve yourself. You're trying to establish habits for life, and starvation diets don't work anyway.
My overall strategy is to keep it as simple as possible. In a nutshell: move more and eat less.

I hope this helps someone, and if you have any advice, please post a comment. We're all in this together.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mailbox Money

My originals band, Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey, is ready to take an important step. I've assembled all our original songs and made note of who contributed to each song. After everyone has a chance to review the package, we'll be registering our music with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrighting our songs is important because it will allow us to move forward with aspirations of earning mailbox money.

While everyone in the group aspires to be a great performer, there are other avenues that will be open to us once our songs are protected through copyright, such as publishing or licensing for TV, commercials, or film. Then of course there is the pipe dream every songwriter has: that a major star picks up one of your songs and it becomes a hit. Fortunately, Thomas Vinton, our keyboard player, has been down this road before, so his experience will be invaluable as we explore new territory.

The idea of earning mailbox money from royalties is appealing to me, not because it would be fun to open up the mailbox and find a big check (which would be fun), but because of the freedom it represents. In another blog entry, I wrote about how much I enjoy being a background musician. Writing music and earning royalties is very much in line with my background musician mentality. I don't know how much more "background" you can get if you're writing songs that other people are singing or instrumentals that are used for mood music in commercials or films.

If I'm eventually fortunate enough to be earning mailbox money, I would have more freedom to pursue the kind of music I'd like to play, and I would have more time and resources for finding gigs. It sure would open a lot of doors if I could say that yes, I'm the guy who wrote the #1 hit, "Yoda in the Rain."

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that I need to keep writing music that I enjoy playing. If I write music that comes from the heart and find a way to earn a living from it, I'm not a sellout. I will be a sellout if I forgo artistry and start writing songs purely for profit.

But first things first. We need to send that copyright package before we start worrying about all the rest.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Unique Skill Set

Being a jazz guitar player of only six years, there are many skills I wish I possessed. If I had been playing guitar since I was 7 instead of 37, I would be able to play a wider variety of styles and maybe even be making a good living as a studio player. In the short time I've been playing guitar, I've focused on jazz, and I've learned enough to fake my way through some other styles through my experience playing with Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey.

Another area in which I'm lacking is technique. I have my moments, but I don't possess the sheer speed that some guitar players have. I work on technique daily through scales, patterns, arpeggios, and etudes. Fast technique isn't something that you gain overnight. It starts with accuracy, and the speed comes later. It's one of those things that you may only realize you have after you've had it for a while. When I was a trombone player, all of my practicing came together after about 12 years, and one day I realized that I was able to sight-read music that I would have found difficult only a few years earlier. I've only been playing guitar 6 years, so all I can do is keep practicing and hope that it all starts coming together in another 6!

I also wish I knew more jazz standards and licks, but again, I've only been at this for six years, the first two of which I was just learning basic chords and scales. As with technique, my repertoire and bag of licks will grow over time.

Although I'm lacking in some areas due to inexperience, I make up for it in other areas due to my classical training and experience as a music engraver. For a jazz guitarist, I have an odd assortment of skills.

My main "other" skill is music engraving. Some guitar players teach. I've found that I don't enjoy teaching, so I'm fortunate to be able to pay the bills from engraving. Every small group that I've been in has benefited from my music engraving skills, especially On the Cool Side. It helps to have everyone on the same page, literally, and it helps even more that the music they're reading is professionally copied. On the Cool Side may not yet be the best known band in Atlanta, but I bet we've the best looking book in town!

I can also conduct. How many jazz guitar players can get in front of a choir, band, or orchestra with a stick in their hand and look like they know what they're doing? My conducting skills came in handy last year when I served as interim music director at NWUUC. Conducting experience is also very useful in running a small group, such as On the Cool Side. Conducting is more than just waving a stick. A good conductor knows how to run an efficient rehearsal and fix problem areas. In my experience, most jazz groups don't rehearse effectively. They'll run through an entire song and talk about it a little bit, usually forgetting where the problem spots were. Then they'll maybe run it again and usually make the same mistakes they did the first time. In my rehearsals, we'll often run through intros and endings first, or we'll hit a tricky spot in the middle. While many jazz groups will run through an entire song, if I hear a problem, I'll stop the band and fix it then and there.

I can read music. This may seem like an odd "other" skill, but I've found that many guitar players are weak in this department. Some guitarists say they read just enough music so it doesn't get in the way, but trust me, musical literacy is not a handicap. As a music reader, I am able to sight-read a melody without having to hear it first. I can sing in a choir and sight-read my part. I can write out my own songs without having to rely on anyone else to interpret them for me. I can read down a big band part that includes both chord charts and written out lines. I don't know a single musician who regrets learning to read music!

I'm the first to admit that I'm lacking in some areas of guitar playing, all of which will improve with time and practice. Meanwhile, I have to keep reminding myself that it'll be a long time (or maybe never) before I'm satisfied with my progress, but I have other skills that I can use. Everyone has a unique combination of talents, and it's up to each of us to figure out what to do with them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

You're Too Loud!

Part of being a good musician is constantly striving to improve. I practice every day. Much of what I practice will never be heard in public: scales, arpeggios, patterns, and exercises that improve my dexterity and technique. My technique practice is similar to physical conditioning for an athlete. A basketball player spends a good deal of time conditioning his body handle the demands of his sport. He'll lift weights, stretch, run, do plyometrics, and run all sorts of drills without even touching a basketball. We only see him shooting baskets and defending, but all of his behind the scenes physical conditioning is essential to making him a good player. The same goes with playing the guitar. The consistent practice of scales and other exercises helps you improve your accuracy and speed over the course of time.

While practicing is the one and only way to improve your technical skills, there are some areas of musicianship that can only be learned through public performance, such as connecting with an audience or the pacing of your set. In public, even for background gigs, the music feels different. There is an energy in the air. There is background noise. The sound system settings that sounded great last night are totally wrong for the acoustics in another venue.

My originals band, Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey, has come out of a couple months' layoff and has been performing regularly this month. We've played well, but we've also learned something from every show. The latest lesson, learned publicly, is to be sensitive to the room you're playing. This weekend we played at the Hungry Ear Coffee House with mixed reaction. On the one hand, we received a standing ovation. On the other hand, some complained that the band was too loud, especially the drums.

My initial reaction was to be a little gruff. It was a challenging night for me. I'm the host and point man for the Hungry Ear, so not only was I responsible for performing in the second set, I also acted as emcee, supervised the volunteers, set up the sound system, and ran the sound for the first act. I was frazzled because I didn't get to warm up as much as I like, and because, as usual, there was someone giving me suggestions on how to run sound. (One thing I've learned as a fledgling sound man is that, without exception, there is ALWAYS someone who is willing to tell you how you should run the sound.)

So…I wasn't exactly in a good frame of mind to accept criticism after a busy night, especially with the adrenaline rush that comes with performing. Rather than speak my mind, I decided to bite my tongue and wait until I heard the recording before saying something I would later regret. For those of you who have seen me perform, you may have noticed that I've been recording my appearances. Part of this is so that I can post clips on YouTube for potential clients, but it's also a learning tool. If you want to know exactly what you look and sound like, there's nothing like the cold eye of the video camera.

I listened to our show the next day, and sure enough, the drums were overbalancing the band. Good thing I didn't snap at anyone the night of the show! We addressed the issue last night in rehearsal, and we'll be making adjustments as we always do. This weekend we're playing at Mighty Joe Espresso, which is a smaller room, so we'll be able to apply our Hungry Ear lesson at Mighty Joe and be more sensitive to the venue.

Every time you pick up the guitar to practice, there's a lesson to be learned. The same goes with presenting your music to an audience. Every show offers another lesson. It's all part of learning the craft, and many of those lessons are played out in public. You have the choice of gaining new insights or ignoring the lesson altogether. I choose to learn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Other Guitar Player

Through a lot of effort, I'm gradually beginning to find more gigs as a soloist and with On the Cool Side and Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey. These projects are very important to me, but I also like to cultivate relationships outside of my regular bands, especially big bands.

I'm the "other guitar player" for the Atlanta Swing Orchestra and the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I absolutely love playing big band rhythm guitar. It's very different from small group playing in that the guitar player is rarely called upon to play a solo. Instead, the guitarist plays a very specific role in the rhythm section, helping to keep time and filling in harmonies in the middle register. In a small group, the guitar has the freedom to alter chords, but in a big band, the guitarist is expected to play exactly the chord that is written. In a small group, the guitarist will often play little fills to complement a singer or horn player, but in a big band, that's the piano player's job. In a sense, the guitar player is an extension of the drums. For the guitarist, it's common to play nothing but quarter notes for an entire chart, a la Freddie Green. When I play rhythm guitar in a jazz band, I focus on staying in sync with the hi-hat as I chunk through my quarter notes. You might think it would be boring to play quarter notes all night, until you take a look at the parts and realize you don't stand a chance unless you know a LOT of chords. You also need to be a good reader. Many guitarists avoid learning to read music, which baffles me. As long as you're playing your own music or you can puzzle out something in TAB, I guess you don't need to read, but if you sit down to play in a big band and you can't read, you're in for a long night.

Someday I hope to "the" guy instead of the "other" guy in a jazz band. For now, I'm content to sub. Since I sub in two bands, I usually get a chance to play in a rehearsal once or twice a month to keep up my big band rhythm chops. An added benefit to subbing is that I have the opportunity to meet other musicians. I tend not to say a lot in rehearsals, and I'm not a big schmoozer. I keep my eyes open, my mouth shut, and play my part. Simply by being friendly and competent, I've met people who have helped me in my quest to relaunch my performance career.

When I think of helpful musicians, Dan Turner comes to mind. He's the piano player in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. He's pointed me to a couple low-key restaurant gigs, as well as some better paying gigs playing dinner music at SJO dances. I was able to return the favor last fall by hiring him for a duo job at a wedding rehearsal dinner, and I plan on returning the favor again in the future as I eventually enjoy more success. I've also gotten work as a result of my relationship with the Atlanta Swing Orchestra, including a couple combo gigs, some nice restaurant gigs, and a big band job.

So, "other guy" status can pay off, as long as you're respectful and competent. Even if I rarely get to play with the full band, some doors have opened simply by playing in rehearsals. Last month I had two paid gigs as a result of being the other guitar player, and I have three such gigs this month. That's why I'm happy to sub anywhere, anytime. I'll continue cultivating my own projects, but it's equally important to get out there and meet new musicians.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Losing It #2

It's been three weeks since I decided to do something about my weight for once and for all. So far I've lost 19 pounds. That's a lot of weight to lose in three weeks, and I don't expect to lose as many in the next three. The first week I lost a lot of water weight, which is typical. After that watershed week (pardon the pun), my weight loss will be more gradual. I didn't put this weight on overnight, and I won't lose it overnight. I'll be close to my ideal weight in about a year.

Here are some observations from dieting and walking during the past three weeks.

  • Social media can be much more than Vampire Wars and funny videos. On Facebook, I post near daily updates on my walk, and I've been pleasantly surprised at my online support system. People often add encouraging comments to my posts. Every single comment helps me stay motivated.
  • I didn't expect that other people would be motivated by my struggles. Many people have told me that I've motivated them to start or renew an exercise program. I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to know I've had a positive effect on people I've never even met.
  • Even though I haven't lost enough weight to make a difference in my appearance, I look better to myself in the mirror.
  • I really enjoy walking. It feels good. Well, the hills don't always feel good, but those climbs are a great workout. Walking makes me feel more connected to the neighborhood. Driving through the streets, I'm isolated from my own surroundings, but putting my feet on the ground helps me feel more a part of the world around me.
  • I do not enjoy my stationary bike. It numbs my bum. I'll reluctantly pedal 30 minutes on my stationary bike if it's too rainy to walk.
  • For me, exercising is easy, but dieting is hard. I'm not on a counterproductive starvation diet. Instead of "dieting," I'm making an important lifestyle adjustment. For the most part, I try to eat unprocessed foods, especially meats, fish, vegetables, rice, and beans, and I'm cutting out a lot of processed sugar. Basically, I want everything on my plate to look like it does when it comes off the plant.
  • I can eat out and still lose weight. Being single and a lousy cook, I enjoy eating out. I eat out less these days, but I'll still eat out two or three times a week. The big difference is that I'm careful about what I order. One of my favorite lunch spots is the Corner Pub in Decatur. I eat lunch there once a week, but I'll order a chicken wrap and a side salad instead of a bacon cheeseburger and fries.
  • My knees aren't bothering me as much. They're still creaky though, and I suspect my running days are over, even after I've lost all my excess weight.
  • People on the street are more likely to say hello from 6-7 than 7-8. The 6-7 folks are out there because they want to be. The 7-8 people are out there because they're going to work, and they seem grumpier and unwilling to even look at me. Everyone says hello on the weekends.
  • I find that I have more time in the day, even though I'm taking an hour of that time to walk. I used to turn on the computer first thing in the morning and get sucked into Facebook or a game. A good chunk of the morning would be gone before I realized it. I also have more energy. The mornings that I spend music engraving have become much more productive.
  • I am a cat magnet. I've met several cats during my morning walk. One cat greets me nearly every morning, charging down the driveway to say hello and have her ears scratched. This morning I almost missed her, but she spotted me and chased me down the street.
For the many of you who are too far away to walk with me, I've videotaped a portion of my morning walk. I invite you to click here to take a virtual walk with me.