Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bucket List...check...check...check

So there I am backstage at the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville, TN. I'm trying to stay focused on my solo that will be coming up in just a few minutes while the stage manager corrals my group in the wings. While I'm standing there, Stacy Phillips (Reso players, yeah, THAT Stacy Phillips) comes up and gives me some mic tips about the resophonic. "Let the mic point here--not there--and during your solo, step in and flatten the guitar out."

Wow, thanks.

Then Ivan Rosenberg (yeah, THAT Ivan Rosenberg) gives me some reassurances that I'll do fine. While he's talking to me, Kenny and Amanda Smith go walking by me.

Wow, wow.

Then I hear them announcing my band and I hear them say my name. The handler herds us onstage. The sound technician positions the mic exactly where Stacy had said it should go. The mandolin player kicks it off and we do our song, "Love of the Mountains." My solo part comes up, I step forward a bit and turn my guitar a little flatter and away I go. Fifteen seconds later I'm done and the crowd applauds for me.

OMG Wow!

That was Friday, June 24, the last night of the Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp. At the start of the week, my class instructor asked us to go around and play a little so he could get a gauge on our relative skill levels. I completely froze up and could barely remember anything I had ever played. Eventually I stumbled through "Grandfather's Clock." So I signed up for the band scramble. That's where you put your name in an envelope for your instrument, and on Friday they randomly assign you to a band. You're given 45 minutes to come up with a vocal and an instrumental (along with a band name). Then the competition begins in front of all the other campers. That's one way to get over your fear of playing in front of others. What was I thinking? As it was, my group won and that earned us the distinction of getting added to the Friday night concert as the opening band.

Well, it all turned out well--as the beginning of this blog documented-- and it was the thrill of a lifetime to be on that stage (and to not screw up).

And it was the lesson of a lifetime. I am honored to have been surrounded by these great musicians and witness first hand their humility and ability to listen all week to students and encourage them. Their universal talent across the board was to hear a student play and filter it down to one thing the student was getting almost right. They ignored the good and the truly awful of what you did and went for the one thing that could make you better--the logical next step. And that's all it took.

My personal thanks to my instructors, Mike Witcher and Ivan Rosenberg, for neither berating me nor trying to make me great (in one week). Thanks for accepting the player I was and leaving me just a little better than when you first encountered me. And thanks for teaching me how to make that happen on my own now, week by week.

Did I say Wow?


Ted Kuster said...

Good on you, Mike. I've been in those student bands, and it's as scary as all that, but way worth it. A few of those celebrity players also have real pedagogical gifts, and what a treat when you come across one.

Warren said...

Atta Boy! That's my guy, I guess I'll just have to fade into the background -- or get a Dobro my own self. July 21 is around the bend, see you soon.

Michael Hughes said...

Don't forget that a Dobro only works is other instruments are doing the heavy lifting. Haul away. buddy.