Friday, the second full day of the 2014 UUMN Conference in San Diego. This was my favorite day of the conference.
Like many of us from the Eastern Standard Time zone, I had difficulty sleeping. I woke early, headed outside to practice guitar, and then walked to the host church, the 1st UU Church of San Diego. The walk to the church was only 25 minutes, but most of that was up a steep hill. Practicing guitar at 6 in the morning helped me maintain some amount of finger dexterity. Walking up that hill provided my exercise. And doing both allowed me to feel a certain amount of smugness throughout the conference. If the conference had been extended for another week, I'm pretty sure I would have taken the buses like most everyone else.
After the initial service, I attended an excellent plenary session focusing on creating a good flow in the service. I took away some good ideas from that, and then went on to band rehearsal.
Although there were still some rough patches, the contemporary band was noticeably tighter than it was the previous day. The singers joined us toward the end of rehearsal, which I enjoyed very much. They sounded great, and it was nice to be able to hear the complete arrangements, including vocals.
Following rehearsal, I met with Sarah Dan Jones for a quick rehearsal. Sarah Dan would be leading a reading session the next day, and she had asked me to play guitar on a few pieces. I'm glad we got together. Being jazz oriented, I had a very different concept of the songs than Sarah Dan had! We ironed it out, and I was ready for the next thing, which was Scott Roewe's "Creating a Jazz Service" session.
Dana Decker, who led the contemporary band, had asked if I would be interested in playing for Scott's jazz service session. Of course I was interested, and I was happy to learn that Scott would let me play. I really enjoyed the workshop. Scott treated it as a public rehearsal, showing the attendees how to put together a jazz group and how you can adjust harmonies and accompaniments in hymns with jazz styles. Throughout the "rehearsal," Scott took questions. The band members all had microphones and could chime in when needed. Typical of me, while I don't talk much in "real life," I didn't have any problem piping up on stage with a microphone in front of me. I have to admit that I got lost in one song. I think that we were supposed to play the 1st 8 bars as an intro, but I didn't realize that at the time. I got to the bridge, and realized that something was wrong. There's an old adage, "when in doubt, lay out," which is exactly what I did until I figured out where we were. Unfortunately, this particular song was videotaped and posted on Facebook. I will not provide a link to that video. :)
After the jazz service workshop, I broke down my gear and scurried to Sarah Billerbeck's session, "Sing, Move, Dance, Play: movement activities, dances and music games for children of all ages." That's a long title. It was also hands down my favorite workshop of the entire conference. If all I could have done was attend Sarah's workshop, it would still have been worth the trip to San Diego. This past church year, I attempted to start up a children's choir, but I was met with scheduling challenges. Although I still plan to have a children's choir at Northwest UUC, I can only do so much with 15 hours a week. Instead of a formal children's choir this year, I'm planning on venturing into the realm of RE (Religious Education) and working with the kids in the classrooms. This will be brand new territory for me, and this workshop couldn't have come at a better time. I've returned to Atlanta with a great starter kit of songs, musical games, and dances for children. I can't wait to use them in RE! On top of the great information and resources, the workshop was tons of fun. How can you not have fun in a room full of adults playing, laughing, and literally rolling around on the floor? I left that workshop full of new ideas and buzzing with joy from the sheer fun of it all.
Following the children's music workshop was another choral reading session. This session was focused on more difficult material. It was fun to sing this music, but I won't be ordering from that list. Some of the pieces were pretty difficult, and my choir wouldn't be able to sing it. Someday they'll be able to handle that level of difficulty, but not this year.
There was no service this night. Instead, there was a banquet and talent show, which I skipped. By the time the day was over, I was ready to not be around people for a while. While most everyone else was at the banquet, I was recharging by practicing guitar in my hotel room.
This was such a great day. I played a lot of guitar, which is always a plus, but the best part was the children's music workshop. Nearly a week later, I still smile when I think about it.
- 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.