Hi everybody - thanks for the check-in Hayden, and thanks for creating this marvelous resource for us.
So I just attended my 50th high school reunion earlier this summer and figure the bio for that would be sufficient here for a recap, save me some time. Then I’ll add some commentary about music after.
"I’m the owner of LifeCoaching.com and I maintain a thriving practice providing professional organizations, teams and individuals with an evidence-based methodology to develop emotional intelligence and emotional self-management skills through coaching and training. Over the last twenty years I’ve coached hundreds of clients - from single moms to CEOs, from combat-veteran Marines to teenagers to professional artists, writers and musicians - as well as worked with clients within organizations such as Apple, Google, Raytheon, NASA, IBM, Onsemi, General Atomics, The Gina Din Group, The Washington Post, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many others. I was the co-developer - in collaboration with Pam Leo - of the “Meeting the Needs of Children” parenting workshops, which in 1995 were published as Pam’s seminal book, “Connection Parenting.”
Since high school and college I’ve traveled extensively throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Africa and Japan, and lived in northern India. I live with my novelist partner (Jennifer Rose) and a sleepy old cat in an 1834 New England farmhouse on 26 acres of rolling fields and woods in central Maine. I still noodle around on guitar, though I’ve retired from public performance. I chop wood, carry water, make tea, keep a canoe down by the river, and I freely admit to knowing nothing at all about zen.
I consider population overshoot and abrupt climate change to be the most pressing issues of all that faces humanity, and see soil regeneration, permaculture, holistic management, community building and parenting education as significant and comprehensive solutions to the dangers of anthropogenic global warming."
Ok. so music…
I started guitar at 13 - had a crush on a girl whose dad played banjo in a bluegrass band. Of course she taught me to tune my guitar, but I didn’t realize that her dad’s guitar was in an altered tuning - open G. I was totally in the closet as a player so I played for 4 to 6 hours a day for 4 years, completely baffled as to why every time I went to a show and watched other guitar players, wrote their chords down in my little notebook, and got them home to play them they wouldn’t work. Never even crossed my mind at the time that you could tune a guitar in multiple ways. I play in dozens of tunings now of course, but then it was an infuriating mystery.
The first consequence of altered tunings was that I had to create my own music if I wanted to play whole songs. Second consequence was I never played anyone else’s songs until I pretty much had a great ear, great hands, and a lot of experience finger-dancing on the fretboard and with the right hand. Third consequence was that Joni Mitchell released “Song to a Seagull” in early '68 and within ten minutes of my first listen I realized I already knew all the chords for “Marcie” and within an hour I could play it note for note. That was the first tune by someone else I ever played. Shortly thereafter I discovered the tuning problem and moved on to “Anji” (Paul Simon and also Bert Jansch but written by Davy Graham, who invented DADGAD), “Rockport Sunday” (Tom Rush), “Classical Gas” (Mason Williams), “Embryonic Journey” (Jorma Kaukonen) and many others. Other early guitar influences were John Renbourn, Bert of course, John Fahey, Leo Kotke, Muriel Anderson, Alex De Grassi, Pierre Bensusan, and eventually people like Tommy Emmanuel, Michael Hedges, Kaki King, Andy McKee, Don Ross, and all the other modern fingerstyle masters.
My interest in jazz really opened up as a teenager because one of my best friends was the bass player for Lenny Breau, who was a local celebrity. I actually had no idea who he was until my friend Dan took me to one of their gigs one night at a dinner club in Lewiston. Lenny was dripping liquid arpeggios in harmonics faster than I could do those notes as actual notes on the frets. He was the first person to introduce me to harmonics on the guitar, and also to jazz. I would sit rapt for hours being astonished by what he could do. If you don’t know who he is, check out his double album “Live On Bourbon Street” with Dave Young on bass. Chet Atkins called Lenny the “most important guitarist in North America.” Indeed he was that. Also, back in 1971 when I was in college, Bola Sete (of Black Orpheus fame) did a week long workshop for the music department on Brazilian jazz. Of course that introduced me to Vince Guaraldi and real live honest to gawd Bossa Nova above and beyond what the Girl From Ipanema brought to us.
Favorite musicians? On top would have to be Bill Evans (My Man’s Gone Now has to be one of the most beautiful songs ever played) - the colors he gets in those chords - wow. Vince Guaraldi, Art Tatum, Liz Story (saw her with Michael Hedges here at the Bates Chapel a few months before he died) her tune - Without You - again, wow. All the other greats, Mcoy Tyner, Ellington, Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, Stan Getz, João Gilberto, Donald Fagan, Cole Porter, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Michel Legrande, of course Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Diana Krall, Brubeck, Bob James, Joe Sample, Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Fats Waller, Marian McPartland, Stevie Wonder, and I’d have to add in Joni Mitchell near the top of my list as her songwriting is so remarkable, she has been such a strong influence to me personally, and because of her work with such jazz notables as Lyle Mays, Pat Methany and Jaco Pastorius, as well as her end-of-life collaboration with Mingus. Kenny Kirkland, who I saw with Sting on the Dream of the Blue Turtles tour, that was a great band. Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones, Branford Marsalis. Neil Larsen - master of the wonderful snarly-growly Hammond B3.
I like a lot of different kinds of music and that list only brushes in some broad strokes. there’s really way more - the list goes on.
So my situation is much like a number of other folks here. My hands on piano may as well be those of a 7 year old snot-nosed boy in terms of physical capability and muscle memory. My brain is far more advanced. I’ve listened to some of your intermediate videos (Blue In Green Improv lesson for instance) and I understand nearly all of what you said and did, but I’ll be damned if I could say it back to you out loud. It’s kind of like living in India and having a decent understanding of Punjabi or Urdu, but not being able to speak it because you only have about 20 words. That’s actually kind of encouraging because I really get it what you are up to here.
I’m also going to have to start with relearning to sight-read music (staves, notes, symbols and all that) right from scratch (do you have any videos on that?) and start to develop beginner’s muscle memory for scales and triads so I can get it into my hands the same way I did with guitar when I was a kid. I get the chords on the top no sweat, but those melody lines are a reach. Meanwhile I will probably keep watching the intermediate and advanced courses because they are fun and interesting, useful and informative, not to mention just to keep my crazy jumping-jack mind from going to sleep. Unfortunately when I see a chord symbol in a chart for Dm7flat5 my hand effortlessly wants to make the fretboard shape. On the piano I’ll have to count keys. I know where C and F are at a glance, so that’s a start. Hah! Part of the good news is that my right and left hands have decades of doing very complex and very different kinds of movements, so it seems to me that part of my brain is already well developed and just needs to adapt to these new shapes and movements.
What do I want out of this? Well here’s the thing. I’ve got this thousand-year-old big hairy guy who lives in the pond at the bottom of my brain pan. Every morning when I wake up he rises to the surface, shakes himself off, walks into the woods nearby and starts singing. His songs have no words but that music echoes inside my head every second I’m awake all day every day and often even in dreams. It’s like a shining river of sound and I’m standing in the middle of that flow. My earliest memories are of that endless stream of music in my head. I’d like to be more able to catch more of it as it passes by. I’ve been doing that with guitar for decades but as lovely as it is and as much as I love it, it’s never been quite the right fit for me. I’ve known forever I should learn piano but I’ve been occupied by other things, career, family and kids, the wild world outside my door and so on.
I suppose I’m looking to be a more capable composer - and really - I have no interest in putting on airs when I say that. I’m not Gershwin or Bach, and at my age I have no pull towards fame or fortune. I’m just a guy with something to say musically, and I’d like to know more about what that is…
So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it… (nudgenudge winkwink say no more)
Warm Regards, and thanks for listening, Wonderful to meet you all.