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.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ready for More

It's August – back to school time for many. For me, August means it's time to gear up for another year at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, where I serve as Director of Music. This is a part time position, and I have two months off every summer. Around this time last year, I was feeling burned out despite my summer break. It's not a good sign to feel this way before the new church year even begins! It got worse, too. I thought that I would maybe feel more enthusiastic once I was back in the swing of things, but I kept feeling more and more burned out as the year progressed.

I don't know why I felt this way, but I have a couple guesses. We were going into the new year with the intention of trying new things, including a more informal Sunday service called Worship Café, which we scheduled every couple months, and the Join-In Choir, which was a new initiative of mine. Both of these ideas involved some extra effort on my part, particularly the Join-In Choir, for which I wrote all the arrangements. Going into the new church year, I knew I was going to have some more work to do in a schedule that was already pushing up against the limits of my 15 hour position.

Mostly, though, I think I was feeling burned out because I was going into my fifth year, making this the longest time I've stayed at any job. Aside from my four years in the Air Force, I've always been a freelancer, working at home and taking on projects as a music engraver, performer, and teacher. I don't know if there is any such thing as a "five year itch" in the world of work, but if there is, I was feeling it.

This year I feel so much different. I'm excited to come back and start working at NWUUC again. Some of it is just a general feeling of enthusiasm that seems to have come on, and some of this is deliberate on my part. I've taken some personal steps to help me put this year in perspective, including:

  1. Deciding to even out my NWUUC work schedule. The Director of Music is a 15 hour position, but I have rarely worked exactly 15 hours in any given week. If I'm doing a lot of arranging, I have often put in 20-25 hours in a week in addition to performing, teaching lessons, personal practice time, etc. Other weeks, I might work as few as 8 hours. Each staff member kept track of their hours last year, and my hours miraculously averaged out to almost exactly 15 hours, but the roller coaster ride of longer and shorter hours took its toll. This year, I'm taking steps to even out my hours.
  2. Putting in some "preseason" work. This relates to my first decision to find a way to even out my hours. During the summer, I've been logging some hours, organizing a choir retreat, doing a bit of library work, and copying new music for the Band. I've been doing this on my own time, without the pressure of any deadlines. As the year progresses, I'll be factoring in these hours. If I start to feel guilty that I've put in a few 12-hour weeks in a row, I'll remind myself of the significant number of hours I've worked and recorded this summer.
  3. Learning to love my work. I listened to an interview featuring Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe observed that many of the people who perform some of the nastiest, dirtiest, smelliest jobs actually seem enjoy what they do. He said that they have learned to love their work. Listening to that interview and comparing Dirty Jobs to my Director of Music job, how could I not love my work? Are there things I don't like about it? Of course! But there is so much more to love about it. I work with a supportive staff. I give amateur singers and instrumentalists an opportunity to make music. My piano accompanist is ridiculously talented and easy to work with. I have to work within an overall framework, but I have quite a bit of autonomy. I pick all the band and choir music. Although the minister usually has the final say in hymn selection, she selects from a list of hymns that I suggest each week. I get to fiddle around with a sound system. And I get paid for all this.
So, as I begin my sixth year at NWUUC, I'm recharged and ready to go. It's going to be a good year.

2 comments:

  1. My name is Norman Brown, ret. Psychology Prof. Don Milton (UUCA) suggested I ask you to train me in Finale (I've been unable to learn on my own, as sole caregiver for disabled wife--stage 4 cancer--and daughter) so I can digitalize original hymns & choral orchestrations (Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic") for UUCA etc. I've only got your phone from Internet sources.

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