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.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Little Composer

I just returned from a fun lesson with Joel, an eight year old guitar student who is exploring his creative side. He has written two melodies, complete with chords, and tells me that he is halfway finished with writing another one. I'm super thrilled about this!

It's exciting to see a young student find a creative voice through composition. As a bonus, Joel's general note-reading ability has skyrocketed. In writing out his melodies, Joel has to think about the notes he is writing, the rhythms, and how he is going to play them. By doing this, he is processing and internalizing a lot of information. Today, Joel read two new lesson assignments nearly perfectly the first time, and I believe this is due in no small part to his endeavors in composition.

Joel doesn't have any idea what chords to write for his melodies yet. His chords are quite random, and so I edit those pretty heavily. For his next lesson, I'll bring in a chart with the chords he knows, spelling them out note by note so that he starts to get an idea of which chords may go with his melodies. I'll also suggest chord groups that often go together (G/C/D7, Am/E/C, etc.). Joel is quite the explorer on the guitar. He likes to know how things work, and so I think we'll be getting into the rudiments of music theory pretty soon.

I see some of myself in young Joel. When I was around 12 years old, I began writing music. It wasn't great, but I enjoyed it, and the writing made me eager to learn music theory, because it helped in my writing.

After having this experience with teaching Joel and seeing his note reading accelerate, I'm going to encourage other young students to begin writing. I'm not going to make it a requirement, but I will give them some staff paper and gently encourage them.

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