Monday, October 25, 2010

Stepping on Stage

I haven't written about it much on this blog, but I'm a guitarist. I've been playing since I was 9 years old, more or less, which means I've been playing more than 30 years now. And, I'm pretty good. A bit rough around the edges. After all, despite my music department affiliation, I'm almost entirely self-taught. I read music, but like many if not most rock guitarists I mainly play by ear. More to the point, my technique is a bit of a hodge-podge. I more or less flail about with my right (picking) hand, I can play fast staccato only up to a point before I lose my grounding, especially when I have to switch from one string to another. My left hand is more reliable and I can work up a good head of steam when I'm playing in a more legato (hammer-on and pull-off) manner. But there's a lot of imperfection in my approach, which is mostly fine but sometimes I wish it were otherwise.

Here's the thing - because there's gotta be a thing right? In all my years of playing, I've almost never been in a band, and haven't even spent all that much time playing with other people. As a musician I'm something of a lone wolf. Which is how I am in most other areas of my life, I guess, so no harm done. But, it means my playing is done almost entirely in private - my public appearances over the years have been few and far between. And thus, when I do play in public it's sort of a big deal, for me if no one else.

I made one of my rare appearances this past Saturday night. The occasion was typically Smith: the annual "Montage" concert, held during Family Weekend, when all the parents come to visit their collegiate offspring and are shown the College's idea of a good time. The concert is designed to showcase most of the main performing groups at Smith: orchestra, glee club, chorus, handbell choir (!), wind ensemble, and the many a capella singing groups. So where did I fit in? I was a guest soloist of sorts, playing lead guitar for a version of Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time," with a small rock band comprising myself, the orchestra/glee club conductor Jonathan on bass, the department accompanist Jerry on rhythm guitar, and a student named Jamie on drums. Oh yes, and the college organist, Grant, playing the giant pipe organ in the College's biggest public auditorium. Did I mention that we were accompanying the combined glee club and chorus, who provided the vocals? Does this sound as weird as I think it does?

Thing is, it was kind of a hoot, in its way. There's something so incongruous about playing lead guitar at a College event meant to boost the family spirit, and at the same time such incongruities are pretty much what I've based most of my life around. I played through my little 10 watt Line 21 amp and was easily audible above 100 unmiked voices. The audience was pretty big - I'd guess 1500 or so - and genuinely appreciative. And truth be told, I tore it up. Sure I hit a few bum notes here and there but I don't think anyone cared enough to notice. And today when I walked into class one of my students said my solo on Saturday "melted" her face, which I guess is a good thing. So, in tribute to coming momentarily out of my shell, here's some Boston for ya.

Boston · Long Time
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