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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Successful Experiment

Earlier tonight, Tea for Two took a chance and played a special Jazz by Candlelight concert at Zen Tea. We play once a month at Zen Tea, and like most other acts, we play for tips in the dining area. It's obviously not a lucrative gig, but it's a nice place to play. The staff treats us like gold, and it's a beautiful space. I don't play many free gigs anymore, but I enjoy playing at Zen Tea to stay sharp and work on new material.

Zen Tea has a multipurpose back room that is used for meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, and other classes. We store our cases there when we perform. A couple months ago, I was in back with Connie, the owner. I looked around and said, "Have you ever had music back here?" Connie perked up at the idea, and we decided to go for it.

Tea for Two
We were quite persistent with our marketing, putting up posters, energizing our small but growing fan base, sending out emails, and posting on Facebook, etc. Normally, the dining area gig is a "rehearsal gig," but since this was the first show at Zen Tea for which we were selling tickets, we wanted to add some extra polish. We picked our set list early and rehearsed a couple times with Bruce Gilbert, whom we added especially for this show.

The weeks leading up to the show were a little nerve wracking for me. I knew we were going to sound good, but I was a little worried about ticket sales. This was my first experience creating and promoting my own show, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I would have loved for the tickets to sell out the first day, but we're not exactly the Beatles. After the first week, we sold five tickets. After the second week, we sold eight. I was bracing myself for a minuscule showing, but this afternoon, Connie called to tell me we had sold out. As a matter of fact, people were still calling today, and Connie had to inform the callers that there were no more seats available. Full disclosure: With tables added for ambience, the small room held 22 audience members, so we didn't suddenly sell 100 tickets overnight. For our current fan base, this room was just right. As our number of fans grows, we'll gradually be able to fill larger rooms.

Bruce Gilbert
Numbers aside, our show went very well. I was pleased with how we sounded from beginning to end. I was a little nervous at the beginning of the show. I play so often as a background musician that at first it was disconcerting to have people actually listening to us! I settled in and found a groove after the first couple songs. Lynnette's vocals sounded great, and I was satisfied with my own vocals and guitar playing. Jeff was solid as usual on bass, and I was so happy that we had pianist Bruce Gilbert joining us. We normally play as a trio (flute/guitar/bass), and we sound good that way, but the piano added a whole new dimension to our sound and made us a more flexible group. As a bonus, Bruce sang a few of his original songs. He sounded terrific on his solo material, and he was a beautiful addition to the Tea for Two sound. We had someone shooting video. I'll go through the footage in the next day or two and post a few selections on YouTube.

This little experiment was a resounding success, and now we have a model that we can use to create similar gigs. At Zen Tea, we'll still be playing mostly freebie shows in the main area, but we're going to put on special shows in the back room now and then. Connie and I are talking about a Christmas show, and we'll probably put on a Valentine's Day show as well. We'll also be looking around for other places to play…places that may have a little used back room, as well as less traditional venues. Aside from Zen Tea, I'm not interested in the idea of playing in coffee shops anymore. The coffee shops and similar venues are saturated with musicians who play for tips only. Owners are understandably unwilling to pay for music when there are dozens of musicians who will play at no cost.

Rather than go where all the musicians are, I'm going to start creating opportunities by going where the musicians aren't. I think there are plenty of places in Atlanta that will be willing to host a concert, do their part in promoting the show, and share in ticket sales. We'll start small, targeting similar sized rooms and seeking larger and larger venues as demand grows. I already have some venue ideas, but I'm not ready to spill the beans until I've booked a few places!

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