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, March 4, 2014

Rockin' Oakhurst Elementary

I just returned from an important 8:30 a.m. gig with a 6.5 year old student name Bennett. Bennett was assigned to give a black history presentation to his 1st grade class. He gave his presentation on Stevie Wonder. Bennett loves Stevie Wonder. (I think it is evidence of good parenting.) His teacher knows that Bennett is taking guitar lessons, so she suggested that he perform a Stevie Wonder song at the end of his presentation. Bennett and I decided on Ebony and Ivory, which is actually a Paul McCartney song that he and Stevie Wonder recorded as a duo.

Nailing a Dmaj7
To prepare for this performance, I copied out the first 8 bars of Ebony and Ivory, which can be easily played with just two chords. In working on the song, Bennett learned how to play a Dmaj7 chord and how to use a capo, which he placed on the second fret to match the key of the recording. (The actual chords alternate between Emaj7 and F# minor. With the capo, Bennett alternated between Dmaj7 and E minor.) We practiced the song for two lessons, worked up a nice little arrangement, and then I met up with Bennett's parents this morning for the big show.

When we walked into the classroom, Bennett looked forlorn. He was already standing in front of the class with all his classmates seated in a circle around him. By the look on his face, you'd have thought he was being offered up as a sacrifice. There was a great show of relief on his face when he saw his parents and his guitar teacher walk through the door.

Bennett had certainly done his research and knew his stuff, although he needs to work on his delivery. He had made a large poster with all sorts of Stevie Wonder facts, and he kept his back to the class as he read from the poster. His mom, who was recording a video, pretty much got a video of Bennett's back for about 10 minutes of presentation.

When Bennett said something about Ebony and Ivory, I knew that was my cue. Like any good guitar tech to the stars, I had already tuned his guitar and added his capo. We sat down and began playing. Bennett nailed it! I couldn't have been happier with his performance. He got a big cheer at the end, and then some of his friends asked for his autograph after his presentation. Sadly, no one asked for my autograph.

Proud Parents
This morning was a big deal for Bennet, but it was a treat for me, too. I was so proud of how he played of his presentation in general. It was a lot of fun to put his guitar lessons to use in a real world setting. Bennett sometimes asks me when he's going to be a good guitar player. As far as I'm concerned, considering he's only 6 years old and has been playing for a year (maybe less), Bennett is already good. He has a good sense of rhythm and sings on pitch (when I can get him to sing). He didn't miss a beat today. Most importantly, he's excited and curious about the guitar. If he keeps on practicing, his natural talent and enthusiasm will take him far.