A couple nights ago, I sat in on a combo rehearsal. It was a blast! It was six horns plus a rhythm section. All the arrangements were well written, and everyone was a strong player. We started off reading some vocal charts with Lynnette, who is the primary vocalist in my Tea for Two trio. After rehearsal, and knowing my background as a former trombone player, she said that whenever the trombonist played a solo, she wondered if I missed playing trombone.
I enjoyed being a trombone player, but I don't really miss playing it. What I miss most is having the kind of mastery over an instrument that I had as a brass player. To blow my own horn, so to speak, I was an awfully good trombonist before my overuse injury brought me down. If I were still able to play today, I would most likely be a trombone professor at a college or performing in an orchestra (or both).
As a relatively new guitarist of a little over 6 years, I struggle daily with technique, and my command of the guitar isn't even close to the level I had reached as a trombonist. I constantly practice scales, arpeggios, and other exercises. For me, the whole purpose of practicing technical exercises is to have them be second nature, so that when it comes time to make actual music, you can forget all about scales and just play.
The bad news is that I'm not as a good a guitarist as I was a trombonist. The good news is that, barring illness or accident, I should have another 30 or more years to practice. So there's hope! Some day, maybe in another 10-15 years, I'll reach a level on the guitar that surpasses where I was as a trombonist. I'll won't want to stop there, though. I hope that when I'm in my 90s, I'll be hunched over my guitar every day, trying to learn one more lick.
- Tom Godfrey
- 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.