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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Refocusing

Lately, I've been having trouble maintaining my focus. I've been tired a lot, and I haven't been able to concentrate while practicing.

I just finished up two major events, both of which required a lot of effort and mental drive.

A couple weeks ago, I finished performing in a musical with a very difficult guitar book. I spent over two months practicing this music, drilling it over and over again. Even during the two-week run of the show, I continued drilling much of the music to keep it all under my fingers. While I enjoyed playing the show, and I improved my guitar skills, it was also a huge relief to be finished.

Last week I ran a half marathon. This followed nearly a year of dieting, walking, biking, and running that culminated in a very respectable time of 2:03 for my first half marathon. I didn't realize how much mental focus went into that race until the next couple days, when my brain simply shut down and I had to sleep through two afternoons. I was literally falling asleep while practicing scales!

Normally, I maintain a laser focus, but no one can keep it up indefinitely. To regain my energy and recover from the half marathon, I've had an easy week of exercise, with just one run and some easy bike riding. Next week I'll begin building up the running miles again, aiming for another half marathon in October and a full marathon around this time next year.

As far as guitar playing, to help me regain my focus, I'm going to start working my way through a DVD guitar course, Guitar College, that I bought last year and never seemed to get around to using. Since I'm having trouble deciding what to practice next, I'm simply going to follow the course and use the DVDs to help me get back on track. It won't be long before I find my groove again as a musician.

I'm glad I played the show and ran the half marathon. I'm equally glad that they're both finished. Now I can take a breather, absorb the lessons I've learned, and start moving forward again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Half Marathon Report


This morning I ran the Georgia Publix Half Marathon. 13.1 miles in 2:03:54, with an average pace of 9:28 per mile. According to my printed race results, I ran the first 6.2 miles in 1:03:21, which is a pace of 10:12 per mile. I ran the last seven miles in about an hour, for a pace of around 8:34 per mile. Those are the dry facts. Now let me tell you about the experience.

To understand what this race meant to me, we need go back to April 11, 2010. On this day, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to discover that I weighed 323 pounds. (I've included a "before" picture in this blog.) I reined in my diet and began walking…and walking…and walking. After a few months, I started peppering my walks with short runs. Over time, I was able to run a continuous 3 miles, then 4, then 5, and eventually 14.

Through experimentation, I've discovered that my Saturday long runs feel best if I take a short, easy run the day before. Sticking with this routine, I went for a short run yesterday. I deliberately ran the same 3 mile route that used to be a challenging walk, just to remind myself where I had started. As I ran the last quarter mile, my eyes welled with tears as I realized that what used to be a major workout was now an easy warm-up run for a much longer distance. The simple fact that I was running 13 hard miles the next day meant that I had already won my own personal race.

On race day, the weather couldn't have been any better. Overcast, with a high in the low 60s, it was as if someone had ordered up the perfect day for a long distance run. I traveled to the race with Mom (visiting from Branson) and Lynnette, my musical partner and fellow runner. I'm very much an early bird and wanted to leave really early for the race, but Mom and Lynnette voted me down. We arrived shortly before the start time, so I was glad that I stretched and warmed up at home. I had consumed plenty of liquid, so on the way to my starting corral, I had to duck into a nearby hotel and take care of some business. Coincidentally, this was the Embassy Suites near Centennial Olympic Park, where I played a corporate gig last year. For some reason, no one seemed to recognize me.

In a race of this size, the runners start in designated areas based on their estimated finish time. Elite runners lead the way, then super fast runners, fast runners, kind of fast runners, and so forth, with the snails bringing up the rear. Once I found my starting corral, it wasn't long before the race began. For my group, the race didn't begin until about 15 minutes after the gun went off. Fortunately, all of our race numbers had chips that were activated once we crossed the official starting line, so every participant was able to get an accurate finishing time. As we were slowly making our way to the starting line, I began to get choked up again. I was thinking that this time last year, I was knocking off a bag of chips a day with a Ben and Jerry's chaser, and this morning I was running a 13 mile race.

I was afraid that in the excitement, I would start too fast and wear myself out early in the race, but that wasn't a problem. With around 15,000 participants, this was by far the biggest race I had entered. (Back in my Air Force days, before I gained all that weight, I ran lots of 5Ks and 10Ks.) With the runners all packed in like sardines, I couldn't have started fast if I had tried. This worked out really well for me. I had no idea how long it would take to run this race. My plan was to start conservatively, and then to kick it up a notch if I felt good at mile 7. Well, I felt more than good at mile 7. I felt great, so I turned on the afterburners. After the fact, I was surprised when I discovered that I averaged 8:34 minutes per mile over the last 7 miles. This isn't elite runner speed, but it's faster than a snail.

The race itself is mostly a blur, but I have some random flashes of memory and observations. The music at the start was too loud. I covered my ears. I'm not good at drinking from paper cups and running at the same time. I got Gatorade up my nose and snotted myself. Runners, even marathoners, come in all shapes and sizes. You gain a lot of energy high-fiving the little kids who are standing by the side of the road cheering for you. Even though I ran the race alone, I had several chance running partners and competitors along the way. There are a lot of cute female runners. The Georgia Publix Marathon/Half Marathon has loads of hills. Whoever decided to put a hill in that last mile of the course deserves a punishment…maybe some sort of Sisyphean fate where they have to run eternal hill repeats. I'm normally not a competitive person, but I allowed no one to pass me in the last two miles. If you're meeting someone after a huge race, you shouldn't give them your phone before the race. It took longer to find my mom than it did to run the race! I can run faster than I thought. I have my own story behind the half marathon. There were 15,000 other stories.

Today's race was a terrific experience all around, and I'm hooked. I've signed up to run the Silver Comet Half Marathon on October 29, and I may look for another half marathon in July or August. I plan on working up to a 20 mile run on Thanksgiving, and next year I'll run the full Georgia Publix Marathon. Sometime in the next year or two, I'd like to take a trip to the American Southwest and spend a couple weeks doing nothing but running desert trails, and when I turn 50 in six years, I'm going to celebrate by running 50 miles.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Back At It

Being a musician is a wonderful thing, but there are times when it can feel like a job. "Job." Just the sound of that short word sends shivers down my spine!

A few days ago, I found myself in a funk after finishing a short run of All Shook Up with Act3 Productions. I don't think I realized how much I needed a break from guitar playing until after that last show. In most ensemble situations, I am able to learn the music quickly without deviating much from my normal practice routine. All Shook Up was different. It was a difficult book to learn, and even during the run of the show, I had to stay on top of it by spending at least 30 minutes running through the tricky parts before each show. Over the past three months, I spent a large percentage of my practice time working on this show book. I cut way back on my usual regimen of licks and sight-reading, and I wasn't able to commit much time to learning new songs for my own repertoire.

After the show, I didn't practice for two days, which is highly unusual for me. I love playing guitar, but even with music, there can be too much of a good thing. If I hadn't had to teach a few lessons and play some rehearsals, I probably wouldn't have touched the guitar at all for two days.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't take back a minute of the time I spent learning All Shook Up. It took me way out of my comfort zone and forced me to become a better guitarist. I'm glad I took the two day break, though. I feel rejuvenated and ready to play again. It feels good to get back to my regular routine, and I cherish the "alone time" with my guitar more than ever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Act3 Productions


Last night I played the final show of All Shook Up with Act3 Productions. This was a wonderful experience, and I'm looking forward to playing more shows with Act3 in the future. As a trombone player, I played in pit orchestras for several musicals and operas, but this was my first pit experience as a guitarist.

The guitar book for All Shook Up was very challenging. The guitar is typically a back-up instrument, but since this was a rock n' roll show, the guitar was often front and center. Unless I someday play Man of La Mancha, I can almost guarantee that every guitar book I play after this is going to seem easy by comparison. After I was hired to play this show, I asked to have the guitar book as soon as possible, and I'm glad I did! The first time I cracked open the book, it took me three days to work my way through all the music. Eventually, I was able to play through the book in two days, and then finally one day. Once it was time to play the show, it was just a matter of briefly reviewing the tricky spots each day. I'm a better guitarist for having played this show.

I'm happy and proud to have become part of the Act3 Productions family. When I was first told that this was a community theater, I was a little wary…at least until I was told I would get paid. (I am a mercenary!) When I played my first rehearsal, I was pleasantly surprised at the high level of the cast. Opening night was great, and the performances just kept getting better and better. The pit orchestra was mighty fine, too. Everyone was a pro, and it didn't take long for the pit musicians to gel, both musically and personally. (By the way, for those guitarists who downplay the importance of reading music, some pit orchestra experience might just change your mind.)

Act3 Productions has a lot going for it, and I highly recommend checking them out. According to their website, their mission is "to inspire performers, support positive values, and enrich the Arts community by producing professional-level performances." I'll be involved in playing musicals with them 3-4 times a year, but there's a lot more going on than just musicals. They have a group of high school students writing their own musical, several plays, summer workshops, and much more. If you are interested in theater and dance, either as an artist or strictly as an audience member, you owe it to yourself to check out Act3 Productions in Sandy Springs.

Act3 Productions is located at 6285-R Roswell Road NE in Sandy Springs 30328 behind Trader Joe's in the Sandy Springs Plaza. You can go to www.act3productions.org to learn more about Act3 Productions, including upcoming shows, workshops, and a little Act3 history.