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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year, New Goals

At the end of each year, I like to sit down and make a list of goals for the new year. I have a list of overall goals that I'd like to meet by 2016, which will mark my 10th year of playing guitar. Each of those goals is broken up into smaller yearly goals.

I didn't do as well at meeting my goals in 2011 as I would have liked. Circumstances changed that made it nearly impossible to meet a long list of goals that was already challenging. Fortunately, these were positive developments. One was becoming the regular guitarist for Act3 Productions, and the other was becoming Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Some of the goals I did not meet included recruiting 20 guitar students, memorizing 50 vocals, recording several backing tracks, and arranging several guitar solos. I found that I simply didn't have the time or energy to meet those goals. The music director job is only a quarter time position, but when I added it to an already busy schedule, my time was stretched pretty thin. It looks like I'll be playing 3-4 musicals a year for Act3 Productions. At my current skill level, it takes a while to learn an entire guitar book for these musicals. In the couple months before a musical, I'll often spend 2-3 hours a day learning my part, so I don't have those 2-3 hours to spend arranging or recording. On the other hand, my guitar playing continues to improve, partially as a result of learning those musicals. I'm finding that it's gradually taking less and less time to prepare for musicals, which gradually allows for more and more time to focus on my own repertoire.

As far as guitar students, I enjoy teaching, but my schedule is filled with music engraving, the church job, practicing, and gigging. If I hadn't landed the church job, I would almost certainly have my 20 students, but I'm not advertising as a teacher these days. If a student approaches me about lessons, I'll teach, but for now, I'm not actively recruiting. If the church job went away, or if music engraving suddenly dried up, I would start looking for students again.

On the plus side, I met my weight goal, I've improved at solo improv without accompaniment, I've written a few arrangements (just not as many as planned), and I've finally become comfortable standing and playing guitar. In fact, now I prefer standing over sitting, unless it's a background music gig.

I'm not making excuses for not meeting some goals. It's just that life happens, things change, and you have to adapt.

In past years, my goals have been centered around guitar or fitness. I'm really enjoying the music director job at NWUUC, which factors into my 2012 goals. Here's my list of goals for 2012:

  1. Improve my fingerstyle playing. I started out mainly as a fingerstyle player. Lately, I've been playing mostly with a pick, but I've been watching a lot of Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor videos, and I'd like to get start getting more creative with my fingerstyle playing.
  2. Weigh 185 pounds. I've gained weight over the holidays, and I'm not very happy with that. I've been good about exercising, but it's time to get my diet back on track. At least I don't have to lose over 100 pounds this time.
  3. Attend a choral conducting workshop. I feel that I'm doing well as a choir director, but my formal training was almost exclusively for band and orchestra. I've spent the first few months of the job getting my bearings, but to be a better music director, I feel it's important to start participating in workshops and clinics.
  4. Start piano lessons. Last year, when I almost won a job at another church, I considered taking piano lessons. When I didn't get the job, I dropped the idea. Now that I do have a music director job, I would like to start developing some piano skills.
  5. Find one more steady music engraving client. A few years ago, I dropped a few clients so I would have more time to focus on guitar. Unfortunately, I went overboard. One more steady client won't affect my overall schedule that much, and I'll be in a better financial position. As a guitarist, I'm still a little fish in a very big sea. As a music engraver, I'm a shark! In my ideal world, I would spend all my time practicing and gigging while money rains down from the sky. For now, most of my money will still be coming in from music engraving, and I'm fine with that.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Playing Sick

Wow, it sure has been a while since I've blogged. 'Tis the season for performing, and I just haven't had much time for blogging. Fortunately, after this week, I have a little break before a two-week run of Xanadu.

This weekend, I'll be busy leading the music at NWUUC for both the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, as well as the New Year's Day service in another week. Unfortunately, my body decided to catch a cold yesterday. I don't feel any better today, but I don't feel worse, either. I'm hoping this means I'm already on the mend, and that I haven't caught a slow, long-acting bug.

There's never a good time to catch a cold, but some times are worse than others. For example, if you're a church musician doing a lot of singing for three upcoming services, it's a terrible time to catch a cold! If I were just playing guitar, it would be miserable but doable. Singing with a cold is something else.

So if you have a cold, is it okay to sing? It's a judgement call for me. In my case, my cold seems to be staying in my head and hasn't affected my throat or chest (knock on wood). For me, this means that I should be okay to sing. If my cold travels south, I'll have rethink things.

I'm not a heavy singer. For my style of singing, I use a microphone and don't need to generate the power and projection of a classical singer, so I feel like I can get away with singing with a cold now and then. If I had several performance dates in a row, I would definitely back off. Most likely, I would just play the guitar and bring in another singer.

Not that I enjoy being sick, but I practice more efficiently when I have a cold. Normally, if I have a public appearance coming up, I'll practice my music to death, even if I'm just playing hymns for church. With a cold, I don't have the energy or voice to be able to do that, so I'll practice exactly the amount needed and no more.

The funny thing about music is that, for a brief time, I'll get wrapped up in the music and forget that I'm sick. Last night after choir practice, one of my singers told me that I appeared energetic and not sick at all. I was miserable just before rehearsal, and I was miserable as soon as rehearsal was finished, but during rehearsal, the music gave me an energy boost. The same thing happened today while practicing guitar. It was hard to get started. I just didn't feel like doing anything. I was so involved with pushing my technique, perfecting a solo, and learning my Xanadu part, that I didn't even think about my cold.

Of course, now that I'm finished practicing, I'm tired all over again. I'll be hitting the sack early tonight, hoping I feel a little better tomorrow than I did today.