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.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

UUMN Conference, Snapshots

I had planned on singing with the mass choir this morning to cap off my first UUMN conference experience, but I woke up with a sore throat. I was starting to feel some vocal fatigue yesterday during the reading session, and I was feeling tired in general. I tried vocalizing a little bit this morning, but from my mid to upper register, it just came out as a squeak. I was careful to pace myself singing this week, but still, I sang a lot more this week than I ever have. I think my scratchy voice is a result of vocal fatigue and general conference fatigue. I decided to bug out this morning and head back home. It's a long drive, and I didn't want to overuse my voice, go through another emotional experience, and then arrive home at 3 a.m. after a 12.5 hour drive. If I had done that, this would certainly have become a full blown cold. I arrived home at about 10:30, which is a much more reasonable time than 3 a.m.! I'll get a good night's sleep and hope that some good old fashioned rest will nip this cold in the bud.

As I was driving home, memories from the conference kept swirling through my brain. Here are some random snapshots.

  • The powerful experience of being in a room full of wonderful singers all belting out a hymn for the first time.
  • Being around a couple hundred other people who do what I do and knowing that I'm not alone in this profession. It was fun to swap stories and realize that everyone else shares similar experiences and faces similar challenges. Others were able to offer advice in how to solve some of the issues I face, and even though I've only been a music director for two years, I have my own unique set of experiences, and so I was able to offer help to others.
  • Being asked to play guitar with the band that played in a workshop on contemporary worship music.
  • Being pleasantly surprised to see Don Southworth, who used to be the minister at my own church.
  • Getting daily texts from a friend back home who was checking on my progress. It was great to be at this big conference for the first time, learning as much as possible, but it also was nice to share my experiences with someone back home. It helped me feel grounded, and I began looking forward to those check ins.
  • Realizing, after the valet handed me the car keys, how nice it was not to not drive for almost a week.
  • Hearing everyone in the sanctuary spontaneously sing Sarah Dan's own hymn to her (Meditation on Breathing) after her last speech as outgoing president of the UUMN.
  • Missing the children's choir repertoire and techniques workshop after being recruited to play for the contemporary worship music workshop, and then having someone walk up to me and hand me the music and handouts from the children's workshop without me even asking.
  • Hearing the children's choir sing their first note when they joined the adult choir.
  • Being so tired the last evening that, when I got back to my room, I took one shoe off and then had to take a break before I had the energy to take off the other shoe.
  • Having a profound experience attending the musical meditation service, and looking forward to taking that concept back home to my own church.
  • Looking at my watch on the ride home after five hours in the car, realizing that I would have just then been leaving Dallas if I had stayed to croak my way through the choir pieces, and realizing I made the correct decision for my health.
  • The most profound thing that came out of the conference, at least for me, was a clinician who told us that the secret to good singing is that there is no secret. It is a gradual accumulation of small skills over time.
There's more. It'll all start to sink in after a week or two. I'm looking forward to sharing much of this with Terry Davis, the minister at NWUUC.

Like most introverts, when I experience something new like this conference, I spend most of my time observing rather than jumping in. Next year, I would like to participate more. I would like to be one of the guinea pigs in a conducting masterclass, and I would like to play guitar and sing as much as possible in services and workshops. For the masterclasses, I need to pay attention to the announcements and sign up as soon as possible when there is a call for conductors. To participate as a musician, I need to stay in touch with the people I've met and make myself available.

That's it! That's my first UUMN conference experience. Now it's time to sleep in my own bed and not set the alarm.

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