As a musician, I've struggled through career ending injuries and financial hardship trying to find my place in the world. Going through the rough patches, I've always had a nagging sense that I was close to what I was supposed to be doing, but I wasn't quite there yet. And then sometimes the universe tells you that you are right where you need to be.
When I was a much younger man, I felt that my dual purpose was to be a teacher and a performer. My sense of purpose was ripped away from me when I developed an overuse injury in my upper lip, ending my professional trombone career just as it was beginning. I ended up music engraving full time, working for publishers as a freelancer. I made great money, but I felt unfulfilled until I started learning to play the guitar. Eventually, the guitar playing supplanted the music engraving, even though it brought it significantly less income.
Over the past two years, my roster of private students has steadily increased, and I perform three steady gigs on the weekends. I gained enough students that I decided to cut back on my hours at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation and just run the band while hiring someone else to serve as Director of Music. This was a financially risky move, yet almost as soon I opened up another day for lessons, another six students signed up. I couldn't have asked for a clearer sign that I'm following my path.
As I wrap up my last week as Director of Music at Northwest, I received another signal that all will be well. Carl Fischer, one of the big league music publishers, has an opening for a full time music engraver. Without intending to brag, I am a great music engraver, and I would have a pretty decent shot at this position. A few years ago, I would have jumped at the opportunity. When I learned about the position this morning, I thought "Oh, that's nice," and moved on with my day. I didn't even think of applying. I don't desire anything else.
While I am a first rate music engraver, and the position at Carl Fischer would offer plenty of security, I find teaching and performing both challenging and fulfilling. It is enough. In my early 30s, I lost my way as a teacher and performer, but now I'm back on the path. I don't need to be anywhere else. All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing shall be well.
- 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.