Thursday, the first full day of the 2014 UUMN Conference in San Diego. This was the beginning of what would be a magical, exhilarating, and exhausting three and a half days of learning and music making.
Each day of the conference began with a 45 minute service. A few days before the conference, Keith Arnold, a fellow UU musician, asked me to play guitar with a band that was being tossed together for the Thursday morning service. So I got up early Thursday morning to grab breakfast and take myself through a guitar warm-up. Getting up early was not a problem this year, since my body was still used to Eastern Standard Time.
The first service was excellent, and the band sounded good. I was thrilled to participate. Throughout the conference, I found myself playing for and with others often. I loved it! I find it difficult to meet people, even when they are as friendly and gregarious as the UUMN crowd. I'm less inhibited if I'm holding a guitar in my hands. Having the opportunity to rehearse and perform with others helped me make connections with people I may have otherwise shied away from.
After the first service was the annual meeting, but I played hooky. Last year, I went to everything, and I came home with a cold. This year, I purposefully skipped a few things as a matter of self care. I'm glad I did. I'm still exhausted (just slept 12 hours), but I'm in better shape than last year. I need to take it easy this week anyway, because I'm attending an intense week-long piano class teacher workshop next week.
So anyway, after the meeting, which I skipped, I attended the first band rehearsal. This was great fun! This is the first year there has been an official conference contemporary band, and I loved it. We had three horns, two keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, and singers. We spent the first rehearsal getting to know the music and each other. All the musicians were terrific and super nice. The instrumentalists in the band were coached expertly by Dana Decker, who has a gentle way of demanding perfection and encouraging teamwork. At home, both inside and outside Northwest UUC, I lead nearly every group I perform with. It was rather refreshing to sit back and have someone else tell me what to do.
After band rehearsal, I attended Don Milton and Anne Watson Born's workshop, "It's Not Just Learning the Notes." I just finished my third year at Northwest UUC. While I'm an experienced musician, I'm just a baby at this whole church music thing. I would say that for the first year, maybe two, I was unaware that a church choir is more than just a music making machine. This is a real community for the singers, and it means a great deal to them, otherwise they wouldn't put up with being corrected for 90 minutes every week. This workshop helped reinforce the lesson that I am constantly learning: that the choir is a community. I came out of it with new ideas for nurturing my own choir's community and building relationships.
Finally, I attended a choral reading session. The reading sessions are a highlight for me, because they expose me to new choral literature. Thursday's reading session focused on choral music written by Unitarian Universalist composers. Throughout all these reading sessions, I made note of pieces that I'd like to order for my own choir.
After the reading session, there was a dinner break and an evening service. I found a Mediterranean restaurant with kabobs. It was okay, but I'm spoiled by the excellent food at Noosh Persian Bistro, where I play every Friday with Godfrey and Guy. Noosh does things with rice that you wouldn't believe. But I digress. I skipped the evening service. As a matter of fact, I skipped every evening service so I could go back to the hotel, practice guitar, and recharge.
The first full day of the conference was awesome, and it just kept getting better.
- Tom Godfrey
- 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.