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.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tantrums Begone

An actual quote from my younger
days as a budding musician.
Recently, my brother didn't seem to believe me when I told him that I don't get mad and swear anymore when I practice. This is understandable. My family grew up listening to me yelling, cursing, and throwing things when I practiced trombone. Nothing I played was ever good enough for me. I could play a beautiful phrase but be mad at myself because I didn't articulate the beginning of the second measure as precisely as I wanted.

It only took me about 45 years to learn that this was not the best way to approach a practice session. You can't berate yourself for every little mistake. That kind of thinking bleeds into the rest of your life, and pretty soon, you begin belittling yourself for every little personal flaw.

I'm still a perfectionist when I practice, zeroing in on my mistakes and repeating problem spots over and over until I get them right. These days, I just go about it with a different attitude. I no longer tie my feelings of self worth to whether or not I can play every note perfectly. If I can't play a new lick, it doesn't mean I'm worthless. I just means I can't play that lick yet. Now I can approach that new lick with a calm mind and relaxed body, learning it more quickly than I could if I were berating myself.

This new attitude began to take hold when I started improvising on guitar. When I was a trombone player, I had a terrible time improvising. I wanted everything to be perfect, and that's not what improvising is about. I had only been playing guitar for about a year when I began improvising. Since I was new to the instrument, I already knew I wasn't going to sound great, so I didn't worry so much about what I sounded like. I take this same approach when I make mistakes in my practice sessions. Instead of being angry at every little misstep, I look on it as part of the overall process. My mistakes show me the fastest way to improve. As I work on my weak areas, I become a stronger musician.

Of course I still get frustrated from time to time. I'm more mature about my approach, but I'm not Buddha! However, the days of tirades and book throwing are long gone.

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