Those question marks mean I am lost for words. I no sooner wrote the previous sentence when something flashed into my mind to talk about: I have a guitar gig tomorrow, noon to 2:00pm. It's at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Watertown, NY. The following is a blurb about the event from the Watertown Chamber of Commerce:
July 13, 2010
2nd Annual JCHS Victorian Garden
The Jefferson County Historical Society’s fashion show and luncheon models are preparing for their appearance in the Victorian Garden on Tuesday, July 13th, 12pm-2:00pm. The luncheon is being catered by Johnny D’s and Bistro 108. Attendees will be treated to the classical guitar styling of Gary Walts. Seating is limited. Paid reservations should be made by July 7. Tickets are $35 for JCHS members, $40 for non-members.
Playing the guitar is a funny thing for me. I often do not know what to make of it. That is, what's the purpose? Who really cares? Many, many times after I play a gig I feel like a kid. The whole process seems silly. But then again I love it. My good friend Greg Lago recently asked me which I like the most, music or photography. I cannot pin down an answer to that. I truly love both pursuits.
Since I was a child I wanted to play a musical instrument, but for a variety of reasons it never happened until adulthood. However, I believe I was born to be a photographer. I wanted that more than anything. I dreamed about getting published in Life magazine. That dream eventually came true, however, with a heavy price. That's a story for another day.
Anyhow, at age 25 I took up the guitar. I did this after seeing Andres Segovia performing at the White House. I think it was around 1979. I had never heard of him befor. He was on old man and played like I had never seen the guitar played before. Before he began I little kid in a tuxedo carried his guitar to him. Who was the kid? Why was this such a big deal? I needed to learn more. There was no internet in those days, so who knows when I would learn the answers to those questions. There was one thought paramount in my mind: This old man, Segovia, had better teach someone else how to play guitar the way he did. Otherwise, he will die and there will be no one to carry on.
OK. About three weeks later I am walking around downtown Watertown with my camera, looking for snaps. You know, snap shots. Photos. Robinson's Book Store was a favorite haunt and I would stop in there during my photography walks. So I walk in and what do I see? A book with a photograph of Segovia on the cover. Titled Segovia: My Book of the Guitar Well, what a surprise. I bought the book instantly. I cannot believe that I had never heard of the man ever, and suddenly I am exposed to him twice in about as many weeks.
From there I borrowed my brother Al's guitar and tried to make sense of it all. Ran into road blocks and went in search of a teacher. From that point on I was hooked. How naive I was. I soon learned that Segovia was the greatest guitarist probably in the entire history of the instrument. He was influential in all aspects of the guitar. He taught hundreds of other guitarists. The boy that handed Segovia the guitar at the White House turned out to be his youngest son. He appeared to be about nine or ten years old. I later learned he had an older son that was fifty years old!
Now, at this point in time my dream of being a photographer appeared to be going no where other than as a wedding photographer. That was OK, but I really wanted to pursue my artsy, personal photography. The big problem with that was the great expense involved. Photography was not an inexpensive hobby. So, the deeper I got into the guitar and music, the lesser time I spent with the photography. It was apparent that no matter which art form I was devoted to, I was going to remain a starving artist, so to speak. Finally, the guitar just became dominant and I thought my photography career was not going to happen. That was a sad but OK realization.
Now about those hundreds of students of Segovias'. One of them was Christopher Parkening. I knew nothing of him either. My guitar teacher, Ron Sacci, told me about him. I went in search of Parkenings' albums. They were vinyl LPs. No CD's yet. What I discovered about him was that he had a goal to retire by age thirty and that was what he did. For five years he never touched his guitar, he recorded nothing, performed no concerts. He gave it up. He just spent his time fly fishing at his ranch in Montana. Well, just a couple of years into my guitar study Parkening decided to come out of retirement. I learned that he would be giving master classes at Messiah College near Harrisburg, PA. How could that be? In my mind I am thinking I just discoverd Segovia, and now his most highly acclaimed student, Christopher Parkening was returning to the guitar world and was teaching again. I applied for a position in the master class and to my astonishment, I got in. There were twelve of us students. I was one of them. I childhood dream of playing music was coming true. And in a big way. I was then, and still am today, blown away and feel that my life has been blessed.
So, I now have pretty much decided to forget about the photography all together and focus on the guitar and music. Something else happens. Was it fate? Let me tell you. It's like this: You can chase your shadow all day long and never catch it. As soon as you give up the chase and forget about it, it follows you around. You cannot shake it. A friend of mine saw an ad that the Post-Standard newspaper was looking for freelance photographers in my region. Well, being a starving musician I contacted them and they tried me out. They liked my work and soon I had some steady money coming in shooting photographs for their daily paper. I enjoyed it. So now I am studying music and making money with my camera. What a wonderful, wonderful existence. Suffice it to say that over the years I have used photography to make money and the guitar to satisfy my artistic expression. There's actually a lot more to it, but that's enough for now. I am so thankful to God for the great life I have been living.