- 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.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tonight was not one of those nights. I played solo guitar for a realty company's 40th anniversary party in downtown Atlanta. Despite playing guitar all day, my fingers felt cold and stiff. It felt like I fumbled my way through most of my solo arrangements, and I couldn't quite find the flow in my improvisation. It was an off night, and I was disappointed in my performance.
Imagine my surprise at the end of the night when my client praised me effusively, asked for business cards, told me that the partygoers were complimenting my music, and added a generous tip.
There's usually a big difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. I tend to judge myself harshly. In the hours I spend practicing, I work relentlessly to become a better player through perfecting new solo arrangements, learning licks, or improving my speed and accuracy. While I've come a long way in a short time, there is always something new to learn. A short search on YouTube will reveal a host of amazing guitar players to inspire me. Sometimes my diligent practice results in a magical gig where everything clicks. Sometimes I fall short, and I disappoint myself.
In public, I don't let my disappointment show. The only way most clients can tell you've made a mistake is if you make a face. Tonight, my client didn't know or care about my self doubts and musical ambitions. She just cared that the partygoers were happy, that the music sounded nice, and that I acted like a pro.
Even on a bad night, I still enjoy the fact that I'm being paid to play the guitar for a few hours. It's not a bad way to earn a few bucks.