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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Teaching Situation

A few weeks ago, my friend Lynnette, who owns the Tessitura studio where I teach, told me that she is going to be renting her space to a personal trainer, who will convert Tessitura into a personal training gym. This is an opportunity Lynnette couldn't pass up. She had been advertising Tessitura as a place to rent space for office use, yoga, or whatever when she wasn't teaching. She was hoping for some extra income from some smaller renters, but instead, she was contacted by someone who wants to rent out the space full time. It's a win/win situation for Lynnette. She's leasing her space to the personal trainer and then paying some rent to another landlord two doors away so she can continue her music classes.

While I understood that Lynnette took advantage of a good opportunity, I was a little bummed at the change in my teaching situation. Fortunately, Lynnette gave me plenty warning, so it wasn't like I had to find another place to teach the next day. Being right smack in the middle of the Oakhurst neighborhood, Tessitura has been a good home base. I searched for another neighborhood spot to teach. It looked like I was going to be able to teach at a local church. The music director was excited about the prospect, but it turned out that they have a policy of only renting to non-profits. I suppose it could be argued that, being a musician, I am automatically non-profit.

After the church location fell through, I realized that, since almost all of my Tessitura students live in Oakhurst, I can come to them. Starting in mid-May, I'm going to teach in my students' homes. The reaction from the parents has been unanimously positive – no driving to the studio and sitting around waiting while their kid takes a lesson. On top of that, I'm not increasing the lesson fee. Lessons at Tessitura are higher than my normal rate so I can cover the rental cost. I charge more for home visits, but that price is offset by the fact that I will no longer be paying rent. Even with the cost of driving and the extra buffer time between lessons for travel, I'll be earning half again what I earn at Tessitura. Parents pay exactly the same. I earn more money per lesson. Win/win.

To be honest, I've been lazy about recruiting students at Tessitura. I hate the marketing aspect of the music teaching business. I've been relying on Tessitura's great location, waiting for students to drift in. With no central location, I'm going to have to be more proactive about recruiting students. I've ordered some postcards to sprinkle around the neighborhood. I'll also encourage word of mouth by giving parents some incentive to spread my name around. For example, if a new student comes to me because of a referral from one of my students, that student gets a free lesson. I've managed to build up a respectable roster at Tessitura without trying very hard. Imagine what I can do if I put some effort into it! At first, Lynnette's news about renting her space threw me for a loop, but now it's starting to look like a blessing in disguise.

Starting around the middle of May, I'll be zipping around Oakhurst and the surrounding area, teaching guitar, ukulele, and piano to students of all ages. Have guitar, will travel.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Seven String Hobby

I bought a seven-string guitar a few months ago with the intention of using it for solo and Godfrey and Guy gigs when we don't have a bass player (which is most of our gigs). I knew it would take some getting used to, but was even more challenging than I expected. I lost interest in it and gave it up…or so I thought. I was considering selling it, but I hung onto it. I'm glad I kept it, because I've started playing it again.

When I first bought the seven-string guitar, I figured that maybe three months would give me time to adjust. It's just one more string! Silly me. I put too much pressure on myself to get good at it right away, and I became frustrated when I realized that it would take more time to sound halfway decent on it than I thought.

Now I'm thinking of the seven-string guitar as a hobby. Of course I would like to eventually be comfortable enough with it to play in public, but I'm enjoying the low pressure approach. Each night, before I go to bed, I pull out the seven-string guitar and play it for around 30 minutes. I'm not doing anything fancy with it. I'll play a few ii-V-I sequences and then play with a handful of songs that are in my repertoire, figuring out how to take advantage of the low A string. I enjoy puzzles, and this is a kind of musical puzzle.

As I continue to dabble in the seven-string guitar, it'll feel more and more natural to use the low A string, and eventually I won't have to think about it very much. At some point, I'll realize that I'm ready to play it in public. I'm not putting the pressure of a deadline on myself. It might be a year from now; it might be two years. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying my new "hobby."

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

You and the Night: Mixing

Today, I went back to 800 East Studios in Atlanta to mix Godfrey and Guy's You and the Night album.  We reached the mixing stage about a month later than expected because our trumpet player, Hadrian Mendoza, was having some lip problems. It's a recurring injury that surfaces from time to time, and the only cure is to rest. Having experienced my own chop problems as a brass player, I could empathize, and I had no problem waiting for Hadrian's lip to feel better. It was worth the wait, because when Hadrian returned to the studio, he laid down some mighty tasty solos. Both Hadrian and the tenor sax player, Reed Lukat, did some great solo work.

As soon as we finished Hadrian's session, I scheduled two mixing and mastering sessions with Ken. Mixing is one of the final steps in the recording process. After recording all the vocal and instrumental tracks and then making fixes, the next step is mixing: adjusting volume levels so that instruments and voices are balanced, adding just the right amount of reverb, and generally fine tuning everything.

At the beginning of the session, I rerecorded my vocals. The night I laid down my original vocals, I was coming down with a fever,  and we often had to back up and redo phrases in which I had started coughing. Listening to the playback a few days later, I cringed at my vocals. They probably would have sounded okay to most people, but I could hear myself holding back a cough. I wanted to redo my vocals right away, but my cold and fever turned into a sinus infection, and I was unable to sing for a couple weeks. It wasn't until last week that my voice returned to form, and I happily rerecorded my vocals before we began mixing this morning. I'm so glad we took the time. The difference between the two recording sessions is like night and day.

Listening to the mix in the studio and again at home, I'm really happy with the results! As I mentioned earlier, Hadrian and Reed played terrific solos, and they nailed the ensemble parts I wrote for them. The drums and bass playing are super tasty. I had written some horn soli sections, with the guitar as the third "horn." These sections turned out nicely, and listening to today's mix makes me feel motivated to write more of these types of arrangements. I'm pleased with my own guitar comping and solo work.

Even with the extra vocal recording at the beginning of today's mixing session, we managed to wrap up seven of the eleven songs on the album. Next week's mixing will be a piece of cake. I'm very much looking forward to sending this album out into the world!