Monthly Archive for August, 2012

The Kids on the Mountain

I was rained out of a solo gig at Humdingers two weeks ago, but on Saturday August 18, the weather held at cool and sunny for the debut of The Kids on the Mountain, my Irish traditional duo. Perin Ellsworth-Heller fiddled and I played guitar and harmonica, and together we delivered sets of Irish and New England fiddle tunes, plus a handful of vocal numbers.

I alternated between picking melodies and strumming, and also acted as musical tour guide to the minigolfers and ice cream families who joined us on the patio and who may or may not have had any idea what they’d signed up for. Judging from CDs sold and tips in the red bucket, plus several tables of dancing gnomes, we were a hit.

I’m returning to Humdingers for a non-Irish set on Friday Aug 24, and The Kids will be back at the same location on Friday Aug 31. Directions and venue info at the Shows page.

Gallery Walk

I played at the First Friday Gallery Walk in Brattleboro a couple weeks ago, and Debbie Lazar snapped this image of me in front of a GIANT BEARD. If you look closely, you’ll see the word “educate” written in yellow on the portrait. Beard + glasses = educator. I’m a musician who teaches. I’m an educator. Clearly, I need to work on my GIANT BEARD and get some specs.

Of Bands and Backdrops

1. GREETINGS

Howdy! Hard to believe it’s August already. I only just packed up my winter clothes a few days ago. Hopefully I can store the snowsuit for a month or two. Last month, a friend asked me to join his oldies rock’n’roll band for the summer, so I’m alternating between electric guitar and drums with Sonic Tonic for a few shows. Hopefully we’ll get happy, exciting video of that soon. I know I look kinda glum in the picture at left, and while I’m not exactly a master drummer, I do have three beats that I can play reaaaally steady. In other band news, in July I sat in with the young contra dance band Trip to Nelson for a concert, and there’s Youtube proof here. On the solo front, I’m playing a few dates this month at Humdingers, a local minigolf / ice cream joint near the county jail. Next week, I’ll welcome a visit from hometown NC buddy Alex Wilkins, who’s on the road and playing a show with me in Keene. Irish traditional music gets its due with two upcoming duo gigs featuring me and a fiddler, which I’m billing as “The Kids On the Mountain.” What else? I’ve been learning new fiddle tunes (and forgetting old ones), transcribing songs for students, teaching in person and via Skype, making frequent trips to the NH coast, working on harmonicas and other little projects – making sauerkraut, building a video backdrop holder out of PVC. I hope you are having a great summer as well!

2. UPCOMING GIGS

Thu Aug 2 – HANCOCK, NH – Hancock Bandstand – w/Sonic Tonic – 7pm
Fri Aug 3 – BRATTLEBORO, VT – Gallery Walk at BMAC – 6pm
Thu Aug 9 – KEENE, NH – Fritz – w/ Alex Wilkins – 7:30pm
Fri Aug 10 – KEENE, NH – Humdingers – 5pm
Sat Aug 18 – KEENE, NH – Humdingers – 5pm (Irish duo)
Fri Aug 24 – KEENE, NH – Humdingers – 5pm
Fri Aug 31 – KEENE, NH – Humdingers – 5pm (Irish duo)

Maps and directions at the Shows page.

3. LESSON UPDATES

Free Jam Tracks – My uke, guitar, and harmonica students inspired me to create some audio tracks to help folks practice playing scales and jamming. So over a couple mornings, I recorded and posted MP3s of acoustic guitar accompaniment in various keys, which you can stream or download FREE to play along with. Go get em:

Jam Tracks for Guitar
Jam tracks for Harmonica
Jam tracks for Ukulele

Backdrop & Audio Experiments – in the past, I’ve taught Skype music lessons in front of white curtains, or a panoramic view of my music room bookshelves, complete with board games piled precariously ceiling-high. As mentioned earlier however, I recently put together a homemade PVC backdrop stand and have begun teaching online guitar, harmonica and ukulele lessons in front of a simple black background. You can imagine the amazing low-rent greenscreen opportunities this affords: “Look…I’m on a tropical island! Or in the middle of a Star Wars battle scene!” Seriously though, using a backdrop seems to simplify and focus the visual component of what we’re doing, and should help to separate foreground from background so students can see instrumental demonstrations better. As a side note, using jam tracks during Skype lessons seems promising as a way to allow online students to have a similar experience to playing with me live in person. I know I’m geeking out a little here, but I really do enjoy figuring this tech stuff out.

Alright, have a great month and keep in touch!