About Me

My photo
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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jamming with Students

This Sunday, one of my students, Grace, will be attending her first jam session. Aside from playing with me, she hasn't had any experience playing with other people. This is going to be a great learning experience for her. She'll be exposed to different genres of music, and she'll hear different styles of guitar players. She hasn't heard me play a lot of jazz, so that'll be a new thing for her. She'll also get to hear other good soloists and plenty of fingerpickers. Nearly half the musicians at this jam session are women, so I think Grace will also be inspired by hearing so many other strong female musicians.

Because this is Grace's first jam session, we've been working pretty intensely on handful of songs for her to play. Each song has a little challenge for her: a new fingerpicking pattern, a challenging intro, a new chord, and a new strumming pattern. She's met the challenge in each song, and she's ready for the jam session.

Grace is playing Summertime especially well. As a matter of fact, for the past couple weeks, she's been playing it so smoothly that I lose myself in the music and forget that she's a student. It's a real pleasure to work with a student who practices everything I assign, even the repetitive scale exercises, and it's paying off. She's only been playing a couple years, but she is beginning to develop a fretboard knowledge that is deeper than that of many older guitarists. This familiarity with the fretboard will pay off big time as her knowledge grows. It's one thing to mimic licks or use TAB to "paint by numbers." It's another thing to know exactly what you're playing and why it works.

I wish I could peek 10 or 20 years into the future and hear Grace play. I think she's going to be amazing. For now, I'm happy to jam with her in lessons and help her along in her journey.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stone Mountain Pics

Until my recent move, walking was my main form of exercise. My new neighborhood isn't as friendly for walking as Winnona Park near downtown Decatur, GA, so most of my workouts are spent planted on a stationary bike while watching NetFlix. I much prefer getting outside to exercise, so it's a treat when I have a free day and can head over to my favorite hiking spot, Stone Mountain. The most popular trail is the Walkup Trail, which as you might guess, takes you straight up the mountain. The Walkup Trail is just over a mile. It starts out pretty easy at first, but the higher you go, the steeper it gets.

As popular as the Walkup Trail is, I'm surprised more people don't walk the other trails surrounding Stone Mountain. According to the brochure, there are about 15 miles of trails in the park, and while they don't all present the physical challenge of a steep, uphill mile, there are enough ups and downs to get your heart pumping and muscles working.

My favorite route is a 5 mile loop around Stone Mountain. I hiked 15 miles today and took pictures from my favorite parts of my favorite trails.

The start of the trail doesn't
look like much of a trail.
So you have to follow the
orange hash marks.
Into the woods after a quarter
mile of following the dotted line.
On an earlier walk, this deer tolerated me
long enough to pose for a photo.
My favorite water crossing. I find this
spot very peaceful.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
I took the white one.

I saw several ducks today.
Here are four of them.

Ah, water. I could be happy with just a
cabin and a canoe. Oh, and a paddle.
Covered bridge.

Some useful information about covered
bridges. Watch out for robbers!
No robbers here.
The water wheel. Another of my
favorite spots.
Close up of the water wheel.
Near the Labyrinth.
On a hot summer day, this shallow spot
is usually filled with splashing children.
This section always reminds me of the
hobbits walking out of The Shire.
I am a nerd.
Met a box turtle today.
I never thought of climbing the mountain
in this area until I saw this sign.
Fire and dry leaves. What could go wrong?
Actually, there was a minor fire today!

Not something you see every day
on the trail.
A most glorious sight after a long hike:
the public restrooms!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Upward Trajectory

I just realized that compared to last year at this time, my gig calendar looks pretty full, and most of those gigs are (gasp!) for pay. I'm so pleased that I continue to land more and better gigs. It seems that my fledgling jazz guitarist/singer career has been on a slow but consistent upward trajectory.

Taped to my computer so that I can see it every day is the phrase "I make a quiet, comfortable living playing the music I love." It used to read "I will make…," but I scratched out the word "will," because I prefer to think in the present, to act as if this is something that I'm already doing rather than constantly think of it as a future occurrence. To be more specific, this is what it will mean to make a quiet, comfortable living making the music I love:

  • Grow my music director job at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from quarter time to half time. Currently, my church job includes leading the choir two Sundays per month, providing the music for one service per month, and scheduling another musician to play one Sunday per month when I have the day off. Once we have the funds and a larger congregation, I would love to begin a children's choir, start a regular church band, and lead other educational activities such as a "how to read music" class and a "sing through the hymnal" series.
  • Maintain a roster of 15-20 guitar students. I only teach a handful of students now, but I'm working to connect with a teaching studio to help grow my roster.
  • Regularly play corporate and private jazz gigs as a soloist, with a band, or as an accompanist. Recently, I've been fortunate enough to have joined a jazz quartet that plays regularly at The French Market on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday every other week, and I suspect the group will be landing private and corporate jobs soon. My own group, Tea for Two, is beginning to book party gigs and wedding jobs, and we're even playing for a swing dance in February. I rehearse with Lori Guy, an excellent jazz singer, and lately, we've started to land a few voice/guitar duo gigs. I feel that all three of these projects (the quartet, Tea for Two, and the duo with Lori) all have great potential for success, and as a bonus, they're all super fun to play with.

So, I'm growing in three areas overall: the church job, teaching, and performing. I am slowly making progress in each area. I would love to snap my fingers and make all this happen at once, but if that actually happened, I would be overwhelmed. I think it's actually a good thing that my success is gradual, because this gives me time to make adjustments and grow.