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, May 12, 2012

New Musical

This morning, I took part in a rehearsal for an exciting project. Next month, Act3 Productions will present an original musical called By Wheel and By Wing. The script and music have been written by members of the Act3 family – mostly teens. By Wheel and By Wing is based on the true story of how one family endured, escaped, and survived World War II and the Holocaust.

Today's rehearsal was an initial read-through of the music with the full pit orchestra. Normally, the full orchestra begins rehearsing a week or two before opening night. Because this is a brand new musical, we needed to get together for an early rehearsal to work out any problems.

It was a long rehearsal. I won't attempt to recap the full rehearsal. Instead, here are some random thoughts and observations from the guitar player's point of view.


  1. For this show, I only need an acoustic guitar and an amp. For the most part, we're mimicking a Gypsy family band. I'm thankful for a simple set-up…no pedals or special effects to worry about. As a matter of fact, I may not even use a pick.
  2. It'll be interesting to see how (or if) we all fit into the pit. The last show was pretty tight, with two keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. This time we have two keyboards, guitar, upright bass, drums, violin, a woodwind player, and a conductor. Should be interesting. Good thing I'm keeping my weight down. We'll need all the room we can get.
  3. The guitar part was obviously written by a keyboard player. There are some sections where the notes are written out, but no chord symbols are given. This would freeze many guitar players in their tracks, or at least cause them to turn their volume down. This is a good example of why guitar players should learn to read traditional notation. There are other sections that could easily be played on, say, a piano, but are impossible on guitar, with unplayable voicings or long, extended harmonized runs. The orchestrator admitted up front that he wrote it on a keyboard. He even added the words "play something similar to" in certain sections, leaving it up to me to come up with my own interpretation. As long as I match the intent of the music, I have the freedom to play what I want. If I have the time, I may write out what I'm playing so that future guitarists will have a more guitar-friendly book to read.
  4. Two of the numbers call for ukelele, which I don't know how to play. A friend let me borrow her uke, and I'll be busy learning the instrument over the next few weeks. Actually, I won't really be learning the instrument. I'll be learning the specific chords I need to know for this musical. I only brought my guitar to this rehearsal. I told the conductor that it was my "big ukelele."
  5. I don't play on nearly half of the musical numbers. The musical term for this is "tacet." If you see a title followed by the word "tacet," you don't play that number. It's weird. Musicians love to play their instruments, but at the same time, there is a certain amount of joy in seeing tacet marked in your music. The orchestrator asked me if I was okay with the tacets. I told him that yes, I can do tacets. It allows me time for an extra bathroom break, and I can check my emails and text messages. While I was sitting through a few numbers, a chipmunk on the other side of the glass door offered some entertainment.
  6. There is some very pretty writing in this music, and there are a few places where I get to shine playing delicate solo accompaniments, which is one of my strengths. Most musicals stretch me in new directions. I enjoy the challenge of learning new styles, but it's also kind of nice to play a book that seems tailor made for my style of playing.
  7. My biggest concern was some missing guitar music. When we got to #11 in the book, it looked like I was missing at least one page of music. It turned out that I was only missing the last measure, which I didn't play. Crisis averted. On with the show.
  8. One of the things I like about Act3 Productions is the mixing of generations. The pit orchestra is made of talented teens and old farts like the drummer and me. Okay, at the ripe old age of 45, I don't exactly qualify as an old fart, but I'm old enough to be the father of over 50% of the pit orchestra. It's refreshing to work with some highly talented youngsters.
Overall, I'm impressed with the music. I'm looking forward to rehearsing again after everyone has had the chance to woodshed their part, and I can't wait to see how it all works in the context of a stage production. I've been proud of every Act3 Productions show that I've played, and I think this is going to be extra special.

Performances are June 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and July 1, 6, and 7. Please visit www.act3productions.com for ticketing information.

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