Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Gift of Music

FREE Summer Guitar Gear Give-Away!!! Win great guitar accessories from Planet Waves and C.F. Martin Guitar starting July 1 st, 2009

Dr. M. & her Martin D-16 perform at schools, hospitals, nursing homes and extended care facilities.

One of the unfortunate fall-outs from this "iffy" economy is when people begin to put the brakes on giving to charity. Now it isn't a wise thing to go into debt just to make a huge contribution to a favorite cause. However, we can't allow ourselves to be self-absorbed either. I remember Jesus saying something about observing the sparrows and lilies of the field. They don't sow, reap nor store in barns but our heavenly Father cares for them. Yes, we're worth much more than them! While we want to be good stewards of our funds, there are things that we can offer to our communities that don't involve large sums of cash. The catch is that YOU and your music are the donation.

PLAYING FOR A LIVE AUDIENCE The first thing is that you'll want to get away from the idea that you're skills are not good enough to play for an audience, paying or otherwise. Forget that sort of thinking. It is not just your musical skills you are displaying when you do a charity concert or performance. Your personality, sense of humor and life experiences are also on stage and can offer much to the overall presentation. I've seen musicians with incredible virtuosity who nonetheless had no stage presence or rapport with the audience. They appeared uncomfortable and no one seemed to be enjoying themselves. Get a couple of songs in your set list that really rock and that others have said they like hearing you sing. Take your time and learn these cold. In between songs, take the time to introduce the next tune perhaps giving a little history about it. Talk to your audience!

SEE THE LIGHT One thing that I have found is you often can not predict what the lighting conditions are going to be on stage or at the facility you are playing. Therefore I have learned to keep a music light such as the GigLight by Lampcraft shown here. It folds very compactly in its own carrying case which then is chucked into my gig bag. I use the Super GigLight in the studio and it is amazingly bright. Same thing for your signal processors, stomp boxes or other effects if you use electric instruments. Make sure they are well lit enough so you can see them even on a dark stage. As far a a guitar multi-effector, I'd have to say my BOSS GT-10 is perhaps the brightest. Units that have an on board tuner with a silent bypass are also golden as is this unit and my DigiTech Vocalist Live 4.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE If you are playing for, let's say a Veteran's Center or VFW Post, consider putting in a few well known patriotic songs. This is a musical touchstone for your audience to encourage them to participate by singing along. Don't be stuck on yourself. You are an entertainer. Getting the audience involved in the show is an important aspect providing that entertainment. If you are playing for a nursing home or hospital, keep in mind that the medical staff, visitors and family may also be present. Play something for them too. Don't assume for instance that extended care facilities consist only of the elderly. There are many young patients admitted for short stays as they convalesce from injuries or receive physical therapy before being able to live on their own again. Unless it is specifically designated as a retirement home, you will do well to include some modern pieces. Same thing applies for children's charities such as a youth home or orphanage. What do you think they would like to hear?

INSTRUMENTS I started out my music ministry with an American made Oscar Schmidt Autoharp with a split in the top. It didn't matter. I went with what I had and over time God blessed me with ALL the equipment and more that you see here at Eclectic Sound. Much of it stays in the studio and is used for recording but my other instruments such as this beautiful Martin D-18 in sustainable cherry are constantly on the road. When doing charity programs, you might want to bring out your "work horse" rather than your "show horse". I witnessed one young man accidentally kick over his prized Taylor acoustic-electric guitar during his performance. I felt so bad for him because it was an expensive gift from his father. Now it was chipped and scratched. If you are performing for physically impaired or mentally disabled individuals, do not take your best instruments there. You'll be so uptight worrying about you gear that you might as well have stayed home. Both my Martin D-16GT and my D-18 are extremely well made. They have little or no ornamentation but are both great sounding instruments. That's what you want on the road. If a disabled person or child wants to strum the strings, I'm not worried. You want people to reach out to you and your music. Since my electric Autoharp is such a rare instrument, I have often taken it around after the program so that people in the audience can both see and touch it. In that way you reach them in a very deep and meaningful way.

THE WRAP One of the main blocks to creativity and effective problem solving is negative thinking. Grumbling, complaining and being unthankful never got anyone out of anything. I have found that by taking the focus off of myself and placing it on people who really have challenges, I can put things in proper perspective. It also helps me to remember that God will never leave nor forsake us. Think of people right in your own community who have lost the use of their legs or arms. This is something that an improved economy will not change. Get involved! Most facilities of this type have a recreation director whom you could speak with about volunteering. You can bring much joy to your neighbors who no matter what the economic times, have so little.

Check out Martin's FREE Guitar Clinics this summer with Blues-Rags musician, Kenny Sultan! Dates for Kenny's performances and the 2009 Martin's Owner's Club Event are listed under SHOWS-WORKSHOPS-JAMS in the banner ad section. FREE Guitar Gear Give-Away starts on JULY 1st, 2009 so check back!

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