Never say never again…

In the Fall of 1988, I graduated from the Guitar program at Musicians Insitute in Hollywood, CA. (Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it!). It was a great time to be there. There were lots of great instructors and it was a very intense experience. I’ll be talking more about this later.

Well, to save a long(er) story, it wasn’t too long after I’d graduated that I found (thought?) that I didn’t have the stomach to be a full-time, working musician. I did some work as a musician, including a short stint as a “strolling troubador”, but I had a career in music as a set of binary choices — either immerse oneself in the culture and sacrifice OR not do it. Despite having built some good technical chops in school, I felt worse about my playing than I ever. I didn’t like my “sound” or (for that matter) the way that I played. All factors considered, moving away from music was a “reasonable” choice.

Over the course of the next few years, I played infrequently for pleasure and with a few friends using the Jamey Aebersold CD’s, but I never did anything serious. I tried getting into playing with a Big Band that was struggling to get going, but that didn’t last too long. I even tried learning piano, thinking that breaking the patterns I’d developed playing the guitar would do the trick and break it open for me. Nope. Didn’t happen. My attempts at trying to start something all just withered and died. All of the evidence was stacking up — I was a musical failure.

The end result of all of this was that I basically wrote off guitar and music performance as an element of fufilling my life. In one fell swoop, it was done. The only thing that I would be playing would be CDs or my iPod, save the occasional country tune or a rendition of “Happy Birthday” at someone’s party.

Well, over the course of the past few years (say late 2007 or so), a tiny spark of interest in playing started to set fire to all of the combustible material (mostly cobwebs at this point) in me. In November 2008, I decided to order a “Hot Licks” video of a player that I really liked listening to (Danny Gatton) and found it valuable and inspirational. I wanted to try some of what he was demonstrating. In the process, I started looking for other videos in the series and came across some dude by the name of Jimmy Bruno.

I’d never heard of him, but the title of his videos were compelling — Jimmy Bruno: No Nonsense Jazz Guitar and Jimmy Bruno: Inside Outside Jazz Guitar. I thought about it and figured that even if they were terrible, they were cheap enough to give a try (given my experience with the other ones). As it turns out, the videos were a revelation to me. All of a sudden, the small spark of inspiration turned into a SoCal Wildfire-scale raging inferno of inspiration. A few key things he said led to insights about my playing (and orientation to playing) that have fundamentally altered me as a player and musician (these are different, but very related).

Then in January 2009, at the Annual Special Program (offered by Contegrity Program Designs), I played a song (a Johnny Cash tune with new words) with another participant in front of the entire group and everything changed. I was clear that I wanted to perform for people!! At that point, I knew that I was going to have to go back to basics and start to recapture some of the technique and musculature that I’d lost and start exploring my insights into playing and music.

My intention for the music portion of this blog is to chronicle my return to music, share some of what I’m learning along the way and provide a forum to keep people informed about my playing. Whether you’re a player or not, I’m sure that you’ll find something useful in this topic.


July 19, 2009 · kengon · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Music

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