Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New YOU!

I was contacted to run a contemporary Christian Praise and Worship Band and play keys at a rather large church on the Sunday between Christmas and News Years Day. I was the only professional musician in the group. The band consisted of drums, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboards and nine singers.

I arrived an hour early to meet the very competent sound-engineer. This was a relief as a bad mix can toast a great band.

After introducing myself to the band, I quickly deduced that they were pretty solid musicians. All the songs were traditional Christmas Carols, but the band wanted to perform them as hard rock tunes. They had heard of me and were eager to listen to any suggestions that I was willing to offer.  I can assure you that this doesn't happen every day!

I usually go to a new band experience and lay low until I get a feel of their social dynamics, but felt that this crew was ready for some new  direction. This was such a welcome feeling for me.

I listened to what they had rehearsed. It sounded a lot like Old country and Western swing (bouncing the alternating quarter and eighths as triplets). Not exactly what I felt was hard rock at all.

The drummer could play a rock beat, so I started with him putting down a solid beat in 4/4 using all straight eights on the cymbals.

I then told the bass player to lay down the tonic of the chord using straight eighths just like the drummer.

The rhythm guitar player was shown a blues lick that sounded like the beginning of the old standard, "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown".

Add my directions to the overdriven lead guitar telling him to play whatever he wanted (he was very young and couldn't believe his ears when I told him to ROCK OUT!!!) He said that he never gets to do this.

The singers felt the new groove and started to wail unlike the first run-through.

After adding a catchy hook to each carol, the band was ready for the service.

OK, I know that I usually have a "don't let this happen to you" lesson for each new post. I can honestly say that this one was a breeze. I always kept a watchful vigil just in case something would go wrong so I never let down my musical guard.

I don't know what was more fun, watching the band have a great time playing in a rock style, or seeing my little daughter dancing in the aisles to the band during the service.

this posts lesson....

genuinely enjoy when a gig is going well and....

Happy New YOU!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Always be prepared!

I was hired to play bass at the Dayton Convention Center with the University of Dayton Big Band for our City of Dayton Parks Christmas Party. In order to do this, I needed to drive to UD and pick up the bass amplifier. The director said that UD has a dolly that I can use since the school is on Winter break and won't be needing it. 

The parking attendant at UD was very nice and allowed me to park fairly close to the music building, but it was still a fairly long trek. I went inside an looked at the amp. I don't remember it being this heavy or big!

I found the music secretary and asked where the dolly was. She said that they don't have a dolly, but a square board with four casters. I put the amp on the board and it fell off as soon as it started rolling. I picked it up and started carrying it out the door. Thank heaven, two young men who are music education students recognized me from my guest lectures and came over to give me a hand to the car. I knew that I still had a long haul from the Convention Center visitors lot to the stage, so I left UD and drove straight to Home Depot and  bought the nicest dolly they had!

The new dolly rolled behind me so smoothly that I forget I was pulling an amp that weighed almost as much as I do.

The gig was a huge success. I think that I enjoyed playing a little more than usual because I was aware that I wasn't going to have to carry the amp back to the car.

Two lesson were learned this gig. 

1. I left for UD in plenty of time to allow for unforeseen circumstances like having to swing by and buy a dolly.

2. Don't depend on someone else to get your stuff to and from the gig. The UD boys were a pleasant surprise. If they hadn't of helped, I would have had to carry the amp alone.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Tree Powered keyboard

Yesterday, I was asked to perform a couple of engagements during the Christmas season. The first was to supply keyboard accompaniment for Chris Haines on trumpet at a Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Xenia, Ohio. 
The place was decorated professionally and I couldn't believe how lovely it all was. We were led to a large room with an enormous tree that I found out later was over 12 feet tall. Unfortunately, with houses built before 1900, every room only had one outlet in the floor and it was being used for the Christmas tree. I had to think quickly as we only had four minutes to set up. I plugged the keyboard right into one of the strings of lights on the tree! It was the first time I ever had utilized this type of "green energy" to power my rig. The gig was a success and we were off to the next venue. We left Xenia for Beavercreek to provide music for our local Christian Radio station, WFCJ-FM. Chris and I are in Joshua Jazz. It is a Christian Jazz Combo that includes piano, bass, drums, alto sax, tenor, sax, trombone, and Chris on trumpet. We were pre-recording the show to air on Christmas Eve. The special guests for this show were the Stivers High School Handbell Choir directed by Cissy Matthews.  The stage was set up right in front of Macy's department store, and the decorations were amazing! This Mall has two stories so the upstairs balcony was packed with fans of the radio station looking down from above. I was so sleepy afterwards, but the guys decided on all going out to Longhorn steakhouse afterwards. It was after 11 when Chris drove me past the Greene Mall on the way to drop me off and wanted to drive around that mall to see the outside decorations. Since it was a Thursday gig, I didn't have to get up early for Church or anything, so I slept in until after 10 AM. Lesson today is to schedule an afternoon nap when I have two gigs on the same night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zat you Santa Claus?

Last week, I was asked by the Fairborn Civic Band Director, Gary Johnson, if I would help him with their Winter Concert by playing the snare drum. Gary and I went with the Dayton Philharmonic this summer to sing at Carnegie Hall. We got to spend a lot of time at Central Park together between rehearsals. He was the band and Choir director at Belmont HS in Dayton for many years and we became fast friends. He now started teaching general music in Fairborn and loves it. 

The concert was wonderful!
The arrangements of the carols were done very tastefully, so I enjoyed listening to the music as I played along. 

Then, Gary asked me to be the Santa and enter during the last song to give candy canes to all the audience members.

I arrived a half hour early and met two children who were sitting alone in the back of the auditorium. They were 14 year old Jennifer and 10 year old Peter. I asked them if they were staying to watch a family member perform with the band. They said that they lived across the street and were bored, so they thought they would hear the concert. I asked them if they would mind helping me with my Santa costume. They had marvelous attitudes. They laid the costume out on a table and took the shrink wrap off the candy cane boxes. 

I informed them that, after the song "Frosty the Snowman", to meet me backstage and help me get ready. They were so helpful! Peter asked if he could ring the jingle bells and announce me to the crowd. I thought it was a great idea. 

I came in Ho Ho Ho-ing and gave everyone in the audience a candy cane. After the concert was over, The kids thanked me for allowing them to help. I smiled and pointed to the Santa bag which was still full of extra candy canes and told the that the rest were theirs. They thought I was kidding, but I couldn't have been more serious. 

lesson one, don't ever miss an opportunity to make a positive impact on a child or refuse to help a friend in need.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Signals crossed

I was contacted by University of Dayton's temporary Gospel Choir Director to play the bass guitar for their Winter Quarter Concert Dec. 7th. She sounded very young, but seemed competent. She indicated that she would mail the sheet music and a CD of the tunes. I got them the following day.

I had played their Spring  farewell concert for the regular Director, Professor Donna Cox,  just before she took her sabbatical.  It was a fantastic concert and the choir was excellent, so I was happy to help with the Winter Concert.
The new director indicated that they were having two rehearsals prior to the performance. hey were Tuesday Nov. 25th and Dec 2nd at 6 PM in the Theatre and Music Building. I grabbed my bass and heading out for the first rehearsal only to find the building empty and not a soul in sight. I had worked with their pianist, Mary Carmen,  on several occasions and called her to find out what the problem was. She informed me that the temporary director cancelled the rehearsal but didn't inform me. Needless to say, I was not happy. The next day I called the number that the director gave me only to find out that it was the Music Dept. Office which was closed for the Holidays. The following Tuesday I set aside the evening for rehearsal but decided not to go until I had confirmation. 6 PM came and went with no word from her. At 8:30 I did get a call from her wondering why I wasn't at the rehearsal that night. I told her that I went last week and she didn't inform me that she had cancelled. She did apologize, and said that she would keep me better informed next quarter. As this was their last rehearsal before the performance, I can only assume that they will not be using a bass for the concert.

The lesson here is to keep in constant contact with everyone involved with your performances. Had she called me prior to Nov 25th about the practice being cancelled, I would have attended last nights practice. As it was, I was not going to drive all the way to UD again without confirmation. 

The three magic words for this post is:

Initiate, Communicate, and then Validate!

It is better to over contact someone about a concert than under contact them. Try to leave nothing to chance.

I hope that she will remember this in her future dealings with her accompanists.