I am very grateful that my core group of students has remained with me from the start of the pandemic. They made one of those decisions I’m talking about: deciding what was really important in their lives and guitar playing seems to be one of those important things. I am grateful not only because the modest income my teaching generates would certainly be missed if I suddenly had no more students but also because it keeps me on my toes. Just about all my students are at the very least at the intermediate level (although I’d love to have a few beginners) and some are well beyond that and I consider them advanced guitarists. Searching out new material for them is a constant challenge because I have to consider many things such as their general interests and taste in music; making things challenging so they see some progress – but not too challenging, which leads to frustration; physical limitations (I have some older students who just can’t move their hands like they used to); and in some cases, even the quality of the instruments that are being used.
But this is all good! I’ve learned many new songs and discovered artists I might not have by doing my research. Sometimes I even discover songs by well-known artists that have been around for a while. Case in point: Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’ll Tag Along.” I just discovered that one while watching a recent documentary about him and that tune was playing at the end when the credits were rolling. I was never a huge Lightfoot fan but this is a really nice song and just the type and level I seek for some of my better students. How did I miss that one 40+ years ago? It took me about three hours to figure out most of the little embellishments Lightfoot uses, chart out the song and write out detailed explanations of everything but it was worth it.
I’ve now completed a month of giving lessons upstairs at my home-away-from-home, the Daily Brew Café where I’ve been performing just about every weekend for the last 11 years. The owner did me a huge favor by offering this space for my lessons after the café has closed for the day. I was seriously afraid I was going to have to suspend all lessons for the winter because I could no longer keep the doors and windows open in my studio, as per Covid protocols. The upstairs area at the Brew is not being used by customers and is quite large so my students feel safe there, as do I. I still thoroughly sanitize the area before, between and after lessons but the extra effort is worth it. So lessons will continue in that space for the foreseeable future. Of course, nothing is truly foreseeable these days……
A guitar that I used to own has returned to the fold, an Eastman AC422CE. I sold it to a former student about a year or so ago after using it as my primary gigging guitar for a couple years. I contacted him recently and asked if he had any interest in selling it (he also has a Martin 000-18, which he loves) and he was kind enough to offer it back to me at a very attractive price. I jumped on it because I could remember how great it sounded when amplified and also thinking it would make a nice stable mate for my three Martins, all of which are great but with entirely different voices. I used my Martin M-36 for the first half of my Daily Brew gig yesterday morning and the second half with that Eastman. Oh my goodness, that Eastman sounded fantastic and played like a dream, just as I remembered. I did recall however that the sound was a bit muffled when played acoustically and my guess is that is the result of a nut that needs replacing. That I will do in the very near future. In the last couple of years, Eastman has gained a very large following based on their superb fit and finish, high quality materials, great sound and fairly reasonable price for a totally hand-made guitar. I feel strongly that they are the equal or even better than some American-made guitars costing two to three times as much or more. Check them out if you’re in the market for a very fine guitar but have a case of sticker shock from looking at the current prices of Martin, Gibson and Taylor instruments.
Meanwhile, back at the Daily Brew I trotted out a set of holiday tunes yesterday and will keep mixing them in with my regular tunes all month. Most people love “songs of the season” and some even sing along, kids especially when I break into “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bells.” This year, more than ever, I think people are looking forward to the joy of Christmas with so few things to be joyous about. Music of the season is a big part of that and I really enjoy bringing a few smiles to a few faces when I play those tunes. I tend to lean on carols more than pop-type Christmas songs, probably because they were such an integral part of my childhood while being very involved with the local Episcopal church. I’m especially proud of the arrangement I worked out for “Oh, Holy Night.” If you want to hear those songs and others, check out my Cape Cod Acoustics Facebook page on Sunday mornings from 10 until 11 or so for my live session.
I wish everyone a happy and peaceful holiday season. I am feeling a genuine sense of hope for the first time in a long while, with a number of viable vaccines coming soon and the departure of the worst president in American history. My wonderful, precious granddaughters, daughter and her husband and my son whom we have not seen in person in a year will be here for Christmas and that fills me with more joy than I can express.
As always, I will sign off for now with this: Stay safe, stay well, stay sane.
And let music lift you up.
Peace & good music,