#1 - Hello, and welcome to my JustinGuitar Learning Log.
A little about me - I worked in higher ed for 34 years, a combination of project coordinator for a grant that helped K-12 get technology in the classroom. I edited a cartoon newspaper feature for kids for 5 years. And then I was a web designer/developer for an electron microscopy lab at UC San Diego for 7 years. I spent most of my time studying to be an English professor, but I crapped out of the Ph.D. studies after 8 years (long story) and didn’t finished a second M.A. in Linguistics, but I taught English composition/writing at 8 colleges and universities in every time zone of the continental United States for 23 years, both in person and online, hundreds of classes and thousands of students. A hostile student and an institution that wouldn’t support me (student was violent and the institution said she could stay in the class because “she had paid for it”) finally made me quit, at which point I was freed from endless grading and started my writing career. I just finished a memoir (started Oct 31, 2018 and finished Jan 14, 2022). It’s been a long, bumpy ride… I’m sure I’ll discuss some of it here. And when/if the book gets published, y’all will get a link to it, of course. That’ the short story. I was born in southern California, in the Valley, like ya know, just over the hill from Hollywood, and I’m now in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.
I have a musical background. My dad played piano - so well, not in a concert pianist kind of way, but more in a self-taught, I can play anything I hear old-timey bar piano kind of way. We had stacks of sheet music from my great grandmother dating back to the 1890s. All us kids learned piano. A very large woman (who was buried in a piano case) came to our house once a week. I’m not sure what my parents paid her. She was nice and taught us all to read music. But she was awful about teaching us to keep time. But I loved playing, and the great tradition was fighting with my sisters over whose turn it was to practice. If one of us wanted to practice, we all wanted to.
I was the late child, so they all moved out and it was just me. Mrs. Perry died, and I got another piano teacher, the man across the street with two Steinways in his converted garage to a piano studio. He was a teacher at a school of children with disabilities. He taught them band. And he was a great person and good teacher, but I was not a good student, a teenager who didn’t practice. Once, a friend in high school was competing in a music competition, playing the viola. I was to accompany here. She picked a Mozart piece (I was more of a Beethoven person - easier). Anyway, I practiced and practiced and practiced. My friend was so busy with extracurricular activities that we only practiced together a couple times. So at the time of the event, my entire family showed up, like 8 people to watch. She had no one there. I had to play an entire page of music before she ever came in. It was like 12 pages long, with 3 or 4 pages repeated. When I got to the end of the first page, I was so off, that she didn’t know where to come in. She glared at me, and I had to start over. At the end of the session, they praised her, and the judge gave me a piano lesson on the spot in front of all the people. I had been playing and taking lessons for 12 or 13 years at that point. Very embarrassing.
My first recital happened when I was 7. I had memorized Fur Elise, the first part on the piano. Mrs. Perry used the lobby of a bank with its great acoustics and invited family and friends to come watch her students. I practiced and practiced and knew the piece. But when I performed, I forgot where I was on the last line of the music. Normally, I had the music closed and on the stand in front of me. But at the recital, my piano teacher held the music. I waited about a minute, and then had to ask for the music back to look at it before I could finish the piece. I was so embarrassed then too.
So … this is still a problem, 50 years later, in playing in front of people. I play guitar in front of my girlfriend, but she hears me practice too. She knows when I’m having good days and bad days and she’s waiting until it’s less bad days.
Next part, how a piano player becomes a guitar player.
Thanks for reading.
p.s. Vinnie is a nickname I got when I was 15. My given name is Lee. I answer to both. But I use Vinnie for almost all of my online activity.