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, 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, June 20, 2013

Halfway Home

As of this morning, I've lost 33 pounds, and I'm halfway to my goal of weighing 200 or less. Using higher math skills, you can probably figure out what I weigh right now.

This has been a relatively painless process. Steady effort has been the key. I've been exercising regularly, but not intensely. I'm not training for a half-marathon or trying to push my limits. I simply hop on the stationary bike every morning and pedal at a moderate rate for 60 minutes. When I'm tempted to start pushing myself by increasing the resistance, I remind myself that I'm going to be doing this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next. I'm exercising at a level that I can maintain over a long period of time.

The same goes with my diet. No crash diets for me. Using the MyFitnessPal app, I keep track of my eating habits. There are some days when I'm hungry, but it's usually a craving rather than true hunger. Using the app to monitor my caloric intake is helping me learn the difference between wanting food and needing food. Just as with the exercise, my diet is a steady effort, and it's sustainable, because I'm still eating foods that I like.

I've always been good at losing weight in the past, but I've been terrible at maintaining a healthy weight once I've reached my goal. This time, it feels different. This time, once I reach my weight, I'll keep exercising steadily without pushing too hard, and I'll continue to monitor my eating habits with MyFitnessPal. Above all, this has to be the last time I lose this much weight! I have better things to worry about.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lesson #10

Another lesson with Dave Frackenpohl, another lesson summary. This helps me wrap my head around each new assignment, and I hope these summaries will also help others who are on the same path.

We started off playing my transcription of a Zoot Simms solo from It's Only a Paper Moon, recorded with Count Basie. It went pretty well. Dave suggested a different fingering for a lick I had been having problems with. After that, I played a Samba accompaniment etude from The Brazilian Guitar Book. Again, I played pretty well. He turned on the metronome and had me play. Overall, my time was pretty solid. I noticed a few spots where I was playing the bass note on beat 1 slightly early, but I managed to correct myself the next time the same rhythm appeared. After the etude, we read through Triste, which is part of my next assignment. Next, I played my transcription of Joe Pass' solo from I'm Beginning to See the Light, recorded with Ella Fitzgerald. I could have played this one better, but I did alright. Next, we began working on Autumn Leaves. We played it in the standard key of E minor, and then we played in it B minor, since I play it in that key with my duo partner, Lori. Then we played it in G minor, since that's the key most horn players will want to play it in.

My next assignment:

  • It's Only a Paper Moon. I thought I was done with the Zoot Simms solo transcription, but no! The solo is in C. Now I'm supposed to transpose that solo to B-flat.
  • Triste. In The Brazilian Guitar Book, there is a chord-melody arrangement of Triste in A for me to learn. I also will be memorizing the melody and chord changes in B-flat.
  • I'm Beginning to See the Light. Just like Paper Moon, I thought I was finally done with the Joe Pass solo transcription, but no! The solo is in C. Now I'm supposed to transpose it to B-flat.
  • Autumn Leaves. Depending on which group I'm with, I usually play this in E minor (the standard key) or B minor. Now I will be learning it in G minor, and I'll be finding another solo to transcribe. Dave wants me to find a solo in G minor, but I suspect I'll be learning that solo in another key at some point.
It seems like the word for the day was "transposition." I was pleased with the way I transposed today. That's something I've been working on, and my transposition skills are improving. Rather than thinking chord by chord, Dave has had me thinking of the function of each chord. When I am aware of the function of each upcoming chord, I'm able to transpose more easily. This sort of thinking has also been helpful with memorization. Lori and I are challenging ourselves to memorize a couple songs each week. When I focus on the function of each chord, it helps me view the song as a whole a little more easily.

Overall, these lessons with Dave have been very helpful. I have a long way to go, but I'm noticing progress in my playing. Jazz is a strange beast. As a classical player, I could measure my progress by the solos, etudes, and orchestral excerpts I was able to play. With a huge emphasis on improvisation, I find it more difficult to measure my progress as a jazz player. I just notice little things here and there that show improvement. A couple rehearsals ago, I found that I was able to improvise over some chord changes that gave me fits a year ago. It's becoming easier to memorize songs as I begin to be able to view the music as a whole. Transposing is getting easier. I can't point to any particular song as evidence. I'm just feeling more and more comfortable as a jazz musician, and I'm excited about the direction Dave is taking me.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Summer Ahead

Yesterday was the last choir Sunday of the season at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation. I'm looking forward to my summer break from Northwest. I'll be back once more this week for a staff meeting and to file some choir music, and I'll be leading hymns on Sunday. After that, I won't be around the church much. I'll be in from time to time for a rehearsal and some teaching, but I'll be putting aside my church duties for a couple months.

The main thing I'm looking forward to this summer is the UUMN conference in Dallas at the end of July (UUMN = Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network). Among other things, I'll be attending a workshop on developing children's music programs, and I'll participate in choir reading sessions, where I'll have my eye out for new music for Northwest's choir. My friend Sarah Dan Jones will be attending. She's a former music director at NWUUC. It'll be nice to see Sarah Dan again, and I'll look forward to meeting a few people with whom I've only corresponded.

Having to spend less time on church activities means that I'll have more time to devote to my own guitar playing. I've been taking lessons from Dave Frackenpohl, who teaches jazz guitar at Georgia State University. I anticipate more hours spent on my lesson material and on building my repertoire in general.

Now that most of my Wednesdays will be free, I'll have time once again to hike at Stone Mountain. It's a wonderful place to walk around and get some fresh air. Until choir starts up again in mid-August, I think Wednesdays will be my Stone Mountain days.

And I can't forget summer movies. As many of my friends will tell you, my taste in movies is questionable, but I love sitting in an air conditioned theater on a hot summer day with a bag of popcorn to keep me company!

That'll be my summer…nice and simple, with time spent on hiking, some extra practicing, and movies. I'm looking forward to recharging.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Plan

As most of my friends can tell you, I'm an obsessive maker and checker-offer of lists. I'm using this minor obsession to help stay motivated and on track with my weight loss.

This is my overall plan, in list form, of course.

  • I started at 266 pounds. It's not the 324 I weighed a few years ago, but it's not exactly dainty, either. As a matter of fact, this is the exactly what I weighed when I began losing pounds to qualify for the Air Force. My goal is to weigh 190-200 pounds, which is where my weight hovered in my Air Force days.
  • The first phase was to simply ride the stationary bike and keep track of my calories with MyFitnessPal…best app ever for monitoring exercise and food intake. The stationary bike and MyFitnessPal will be the two most important parts of this whole process.
  • After hitting 240, add crunches. (This is where I am right now. I just hit 239. I began adding crunches yesterday, and I sure can feel it.)
  • After hitting 230, add planks. Not only is the plank a good overall exercise, but it will prepare my upper body for the next phase.
  • After hitting 220, add pushups and curls. Also, somewhere around the 220 mark, I should be able to wear almost all the shirts in my closet again. Once I've reached this point, I have two giant white shirts and a giant black shirt that I can't wait to get rid of. There will be no going back!
  • After hitting 210, add pull-ups. I'll be happy if I can do just one pull-up for starters!
  • After hitting 200, slow down the weight loss. I'm currently losing 2-3 pounds a week. At 200 pounds, I'll want to ease up and lose 1 pound a week as I transition from losing weight to maintaining weight. I don't know what my weight will be, but it should eventually settle to somewhere around 195.
  • Maintenance. For me, this will be the most challenging part. I will continue to exercise regularly, and I can't get lax with my eating habits. I'll be able to indulge more often than I do now, but it'll be imperative that I continue to monitor my eating habits. That's where I have always slacked off. Fortunately, the MyFitnessPal app has different settings…weight loss, weight gain, and maintenance. I'll just set it up to maintain my weight and continue to monitor myself.
Why do this in phases? Why not start off doing all of these exercises at once? Because I want to build up gradually. If I try to do everything at once, I know from past experience that I'll overdo it, become frustrated, and then stop. If I gradually add these exercises, it won't be such a shock, and it'll feel more like a routine than self torture.

This might seem way too analytical for some, but it works for me. It's helpful to have goals and milestones to keep me going.