Happy New Year! Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last year…
January – I played two gigs, one at the Blue Rock Restaurant in Shelburne Falls, MA, and one at Jesse’s, in Hanover NH. At the Blue Rock, I usually play strictly instrumental guitar music, but last January I was encouraged to sing, to great response. Not a big surprise, since playing and singing’s my usual format, but it was new to do it there, since they had asked me early on just to play instrumental music. At Jesse’s, I always sing. Two fun gigs, both within an hour of home.
February – Even closer to home, I played banjo ukulele and guitar for a contra dance at Stonewall Farm, along with Samuel Foucher on accordion, with calling by the great Nils Fredland. Stonewall Farm is about ten minutes from my home in downtown Keene, and it actually took longer to pack and unload gear than it did to travel to the gig :) Later that month, I played guitar instrumentals at The Waterhouse in Peterborough NH for their Sunday brunch music series. It’s a beautiful location, with big windows overlooking the river, which in February was partially frozen. I’m told otters have been spotted there by diners.
March – No gigs in March, but I did travel to North Carolina to attend a four-day harmonica workshop with Howard Levy. We played jazz and blues, worked on playing odd time signatures, broke down some really complex licks into breathing patterns, looked at various world musics, and hung out. Early mornings, late nights. Since she lives in the area, I got to visit my mom briefly in between workshop days!
April – I played guitar at a wedding in Walpole, NH at a beautiful apple orchard. Rain was imminent all afternoon, but it cleared up in time for the ceremony. The next day, I was back at The Waterhouse in Peterborough for brunch. No ice this time.
May – I attended a memorial for Bob McQuillen, pianist, composer, and treasure of the New England contra dance music world. Later that day it was an honor to take the stage with many of Bob’s musical friends and students in Peterborough afterward to play for a giant contra crowd in his memory. Also in May, my students gave their annual performance at Fritz, in Keene. Everybody played really well, families took over the room. Lots of applause, and a big finale song with maybe fifteen musicians playing together. At the end of the month, I flew to Indianapolis for the second year in a row, to attend the Harmonica Collective, another four-day harmonica intensive, featuring Jason Ricci, Winslow Yerxa, and James Conway, among others. Conway, in particular, has been a real inspiration to me to learn tongue blocking, since it allows for incredibly fast and clean playing on complex fiddle tunes on harmonica.
June – Played at the Walpole Farmers Market for the second time, and made another trip to The Waterhouse in Peterborough. At the end of the month, I feel I got to attend another great harmonica event by proxy – at my suggestion, one of my own harmonica students, who lives in Canada, attended a workshop in the Toronto area hosted by Carlos Del Junco and Adam Gussow, two of the biggest names in blues harp. Though I didn’t get to participate, I was happy for my student, because I know how inspiring and broadening it can be to meet and learn from great teachers and connect with other fellow harmonica-obssessed friends.
July – No gigs in July. According to my notes, I got my teeth cleaned and considered attending a music festival in Massachussetts (but didn’t go).
August – I played at Blue Rock in Shelburne Falls MA again, and this time it was all vocal, all night. In an intense three-week period, I went on a family vacation with my partner’s family, then went to my cousin’s wedding in Florida, then attended an amazing long weekend workshop in Bellows Fall VT on rhythm and improvisation with Eugene Friesen, Glen Velez, and the singer Loire. Five or six cellists, a couple singers, and me on guitar, vocals, harmonica.
September – no gigs.
October – Blue Rock in Shelburne Falls, again. Also, a pumpkin-carving Halloween party at a business in Keene, prior to the pumpkin festival. Yes, I attended the festival the night of the rioting, but noticed nothing because all the obnoxiousness and destruction took place withing a couple blocks of the Keene State campus, and the festival was apparently isolated from it. One thing I remember, though – I was trying and trying to call a friend to meet up, and my calls wouldn’t go through. I know now that this was probably because of all the cell usage in the area that night – both because folks were reporting crazy behavior, and because others were spreading the word and inviting in more partiers via social media.
November – in November I started attending a weekly class on early jazz at the Vermont Jazz Center, playing diatonic harmonica. The class was perfectly timed for me, since all year, I’d been collecting and exploring recordings of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bichet, and others. The class lasted a couple months, and it was humbling and inspiring. Thanks to my bandmates for enduring my pitch wobbles, and for welcoming me as a fellow horn player.
December – at the beginning of the month, the early jazz ensemble gave its debut performance at the VT Jazz Center’s open house, and an encore a couple weeks later. I played harmonica, and secretly began practicing jazz guitar at home again, which I’ve continued in the new year :)
Ongoing Activities – I should mention that while these notes represent my solo “Tad Dreis” performance highlights from 2014, I continue to play every Monday night at the Nelson town hall with a volunteer contra dance band, and to lead jams in Keene when the Monday dance moved there over the summer, and in Peterborough before the monthly first Saturday dance there.
Teaching – And of course, I teach private lessons every week, in my home studio in Keene, and online with students in Canada, France and various US states. Playing and singing with my students has been a big part of how I’ve stayed sharp, music-wise, since I stopped touring long-distance five years ago. A new development in my teaching world has been my recent hiring as Upper School music teacher at The Well School in Peterborough NH, where I lead music classes for 5th – 8th grade, using rock band instrumentation – voice, guitar, bass, piano, drums – plus ukuleles.
Looking Ahead – I plan on playing more jazz this spring, with the Early Jazz ensemble, and in a duo with my drummer friend Garrett. I’ve acquired a sampler pedal and an octave shifter and it’s been pretty neat to be the bass player AND the guitarist AND the harmonica player in a jazz duo setting. I’m also teaching at the Dance Flurry in Saratoga Springs NY in February, which is a huge deal in the traditional music world. Offering classes on blues and fiddle tunes on harmonica at the festival, and hopefully getting some dancing in to some great live bands, plus visiting with area friends. If you’ve read this far, thanks for your interest in what I’m up to, and I wish you a wonderful 2015!