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.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why I Sing

I'm singing a lot these days. As a matter of fact, I rarely play a purely instrumental gig. It wasn't always this way. Before I injured my lip, all of my professional life as a trombone player was spent performing instrumental music. When I took up guitar, it was the same. I've always thought of myself as an instrumentalist, and I came into singing reluctantly. Actually, that's not entirely true. I've enjoyed singing in choirs from time to time, but I've never considered myself a solo singer until recently.

Although I've been an instrumentalist most of my life, I've always been more attracted to singers. As a trombone player, I tried to emulate the expressiveness of a good singer. As a trombone teacher, I would often sing to my students to demonstrate a point, and I would sing to myself while practicing to help develop a better sense of phrasing.

This singing aesthetic carried over when I began playing jazz guitar. Sure, I listen to jazz guitar players, but I listen to a LOT of jazz singers. My collection of Ella Fitzgerald recordings is enormous! I listen to jazz singers for the same reason I used to listen to classical singers: to learn style and phrasing. Phrasing is something that guitar players often overlook. Our phrases aren't limited by our breathing, and as a result, many guitar players (and piano players) tend to play improvised solos in run-on sentences. I like to play my guitar solos like a singer, with shorter, more natural phrasing.

Whenever I learn a new song on guitar, I always learn the words right along with the melody and chords. Again, this helps with phrasing. Even if I'm playing a song as a guitar instrumental, I feel that knowing the words helps me put extra meaning into my playing. With this approach to playing guitar, I suppose it was inevitable that I would begin singing in public as a soloist.

To be honest, the main reason I started singing more often is because the tip jar fills up faster when there's a singer! Another reason I started singing is that it makes me more marketable. Most people prefer to listen to a singer rather than a solo guitarist.

I've since discovered that I truly enjoy singing these great jazz songs for an audience. I love, love, LOVE jazz songs, and it's fun to share these songs with others. Although I started solo singing for utilitarian reasons, the real reason I sing now is because I love it.

Here are a couple YouTube videos with singing:

1 comment:

  1. Mercenary!!! Hahah! Love your blog, Tom... thanks for writing it for us. And, I'm really really glad you started singing... you have a beautiful voice. See you tomorrow night.