Shamrocks and Redrocks

I am looking forward to playing at this event on Friday! I’ve got some new material I’m working on, and I’m sure you’ll…

Posted by Ken Rhodes | Southern Utah on Monday, March 7, 2016

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No matter what anyone says, there is one thing that great artists all have in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Vincent van Gogh, Michelangelo, or Dave Grohl.

To reach the highest levels of artistic expression requires a truly deep passion about your art form. Very often, the story of true masters of artistic expression involves a passion that drives them to the brink of insanity, sometimes over the brink into an abyss from which they never fully return.

One of my favorite YouTube artists, for a few years now, has been the Piano Guys. I think my favorite video of theirs was filmed about an hour and a half from where I lived in high school, when I finally learned how to play guitar after years of trying. At the beginning of the video there is a quote from Ludwig van Beethoven that goes like this:

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.

For anyone who aspires to master any art form, these words ring with such insistence that they cannot be ignored. You can watch this video here:

When you watch these two videos (really, take the time to watch them – now!), notice the faces of Dave Grohl and Steven Sharp Nelson (the cello player for the PIano Guys). Their faces reflect a state of transcendence. Music exists as energy that is independent of human involvement. Musicians and composers are conduits by which that energy is translated into a form that our conscious minds can perceive.

I have never yet watched a live performance by Dave Grohl where this passion doesn’t come out. Even watching old videos of Nirvana performances you can see it.

And I don’t even know where to start with Mr. Nelson. The sheer joy reflected on his face when he plays is nothing short of inspiring to me. They even have a video that addresses this specifically:

This kind of passion is infectious. It’s contagious. It not only fills the artist, but it spills out of them in great floods that envelope everyone around them, simultaneously immersing you and lifting you up. Performers share it with their audience, teachers share it with their students, and it makes the world a better place for all of us.

It is imperative that I not only use this passion for my own music, but that I pass it on to my students. I don’t think I always manage to do that with my students, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting better at it.ūüėÄ

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A Gig!!

I am going to play my first performance in more than 20 years! I’m more excited about this than I can articulate at the moment!¬† It wasn’t quite so real until last night. But here’s the while story (it’s short – for me).

The mother of one of my students teaches cosmetology at Snow College, where I’m teaching some CIS classes. She came by my classroom a couple of weeks ago with one of her students, Anna. They tell me how Anna has been asked to sing “something patriotic” at this event coming up for “the elderly” and she needs a guitarist to accompany her. It’s on a Monday, so I tell her I can do it if it doesn’t interfere with my class schedule. She agrees to get me the information I need, (like the exact time, what song she wants to sing, etc.) and life goes on. A couple of days ago, she confirms the time and says she wants to do “Proud To Be An American” by Lee Greenwood. I’ve never even thought about playing this song before, so it’s a challenge, but I think I’m up to it.

So, Tuesday night, I’m looking at internet tabs for this sing, and they’re all just simple chord charts, which is fine because that’s the kind of song this is, but when I try to play it along with the recording, in order to learn the arrangement and timing, it’s just all wrong. I tried figuring out the bass notes, and it’s like F# to A#, and I’m trying to figure out how he’s doing that with what sounds like open string chord fingerings, and why is every tab I find insisting that it’s something else, none of them sounding correct, and none of them saying anything about using alternate tunings or capo.

Then I found it! Using a capo at the 3rd feet, the chords fall very easily into some rather common chord fingerings, and I’m off to the races. Unfortunately, in order to get a decent night’s sleep, I had set a timer for my practice, and by the time I found accurate sheet music, I only had time to go through it once or twice before my time was up.

So, Wednesday night, I meet Anna at her house and play the song for the first time. Years ago, this was a fairly regular thing for me, but it hasn’t happened in so long, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I’m glad to report that, although the arrangement we’ve decided on isn’t 100% in my fingers yet, and I did stumble a few times, I’m still pretty damn good at learning a new song very quickly, and it suddenly feels much more real that I’m actually going to perform again!

Turns out, this event coming up is the annual Veteran’s Day celebration in the Sevier Valley Center theater here in Richfield, and it’s kind of a big deal. This town is pretty small, and the level of patriotism is pretty high, so an event like this is very well attended. This makes it that much better for me, ’cause I’ve always had more fun when there are more people in the audience.

So now, I just have to practice!ūüôā

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A New Life Is Taking Hold

The new chapter in my is starting to unfold, now, and it’s great!

Today will be my second day in the classroom at Snow College, and we’ll be doing more than just introductions – I’ll actually get to teach something! Although it isn’t teaching guitar, it’s a lot closer to that than my old job was. I know it’s still new, but I already have so much more in common with the personalities that I work with here. Don’t get me wrong, I made some wonderful friends at my old job, but when every person you come in contract with seems to genuinely care about you and what you’re thinking and doing, it makes for a very pleasant work environment.

But, speaking about guitar teaching, last night’s lessons were awesome! All for of the students I saw last night showed significant improvements, and I’m extremely proud to say that they are my students! This actually happens quite often, when I think about it now, but I’m not always as aware of it as I was yesterday.

I’m looking forward to having more days like that!

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New life chapter beginning

If you have read any of the previous posts in this blog, then you know that I haven’t been very good at consistent posting – ever. That is going to change soon. You see, for the last 4 years, I’ve been trying to figure out one thing. How to be able to teach more students. The single biggest obstacle to that goal, in my mind, has been the requirement of my day job. On a “normal” work day, I am committing a minimum of 9.5 hours to my job. Granted, I’m only getting paid for 8 of those hours, and granted, everyone at my workplace is in the same boat, but it severely restricts the amount of time I have left over for teaching and family time.

My mindset was further hampered by the fact that I can do my job from a computer anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a cell phone signal, but because of archaic mindsets about being able to verify that I’m actually working by visually confirming my physical presence at the office, I have the rather arbitrary requirement imposed upon me that I don’t get paid if I’m not at the office or travelling for a work-related reason. And this in a time when more and more of America’s workforce is working “from home.”

A year ago, the situation was aggravated by my wife’s getting a job in a place where she is valued and made to feel valuable by her co-workers. The only problem with Lisa’s new job was that it required her and our two daughters to live in another city, 110 miles away.

So I had to step up my game. I had to find a way to leave my day job without imposing a financial hardship on my family. Let me tell you, this is not easy to do when you’ve been with the same company for more than 20 years, and doing the same job for more than 10 of those years.

So, I’ve been living in Cedar City now for 23 years. In February 2011 I had the “brilliant” idea that if I had students in Kanab, where my mom lives, I could use that to pay for my gas to go and visit my mom on a regular basis. I managed to get one student, and it was a really good thing, but it was hard driving there after work one day, sleeping there, and then getting up early enough the next day to make the 80-mile drive back in time for my normal work schedule. When Lisa got her job in Richfield, we decided it made sense to find students there, so that we could try to speed up the process of my leaving my day job so I could live full-time with the family in Richfield. This started a viscously brutal weekly schedule for me where I was working in Cedar on Monday, driving to Richfield that night after work to teach students there, then driving back to Cedar for work Tuesday morning. Then I would go to Kanab on Wednesday after work, teach my students there, then drive back to Cedar on Thursday morning. This was getting old fast, and the powers that be at work were preventing my boss from allowing me to have a more flexible work schedule. I finally had to go outside of my own chain of command to one of the vice presidents in Vegas to work out a “trial” work-from-home schedule where I got to work “from home” two days each week. This made things a lot better for my work schedule and family life, but brought a lot of grief down on my boss, which doesn’t make me terribly happy since he’s stood behind me now for almost 13 years whenever I needed any support. But when you have a sleep disorder, getting up at 4 am on a regular basis is hard to do, and I still wasn’t living full-time with my family

But now, all of that is going to change. In two weeks, I will work my last day at that job. I’m going to teach CIS classes at the same college where Lisa is working! I’m only going to be adjunct, so it’s not a full-time gig, and I won’t get benefits, but Lisa’s benefits are better than what I was getting from my current employer anyway. The classes I’m teaching don’t start until 1 pm, and they are only 3 days a week, so no more 4 am wake ups, and I’ll be able to schedule students at earlier times of the day, giving them more flexibility with me.

This long-winded post then comes down to the fact that I will have a lot more time to spend on things that I want to do, such as posting on my blog.ūüôā

Ok, mostly I’ll have more time with my family, but I’ll be able to grab more time to pursue other things as well.

So, in two weeks,I begin a bold new chapter in my life. I can’t wait to tell you all how this ones turns out, because I know it’s going to be great!

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How My Musical Journey Started – Part 5

So, now that it’s been more than a year since my last post here, I’m finally making time for this.

After we survived my folly of a college education, I was just a little bit lost.¬† Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a very high respect for a college education.¬† My mom graduated from two colleges and taught public school for 40 years.¬† One of my aunts is an adviser in the MBA program for the University of Southern California, and Lisa holds two bachelor degrees¬†and a masters and has worked in higher education since 1998, as both staff and faculty.¬† It was folly for me because I was not pursuing something that would bring me closer to my long-term goals.¬† I was basically just fulfilling a personal need to get a sense of completion.¬† I ended up with two associate degrees, but they were in computer information systems, not music.¬† I learned a lot about business practices that I wish I had known about when we had the store, and I can use that with my future business efforts.¬† But it didn’t get me a raise at work, it didn’t contribute to my musical skills, and it made me realize that, no matter how much I liked doing my job, I really didn’t like being at work when there were other people there.¬† I found my own productivity increased a lot when I wasn’t distracted by the sights and sounds of my co-workers around me.¬† This did not make me feel better about all the time I spent away from my family.

During this time, however, I discovered a website unlike any other guitar website I had ever come across before.¬† The website was run by Jamie Andreas, and it was primarily for supporting Jamie’s book, “The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar,”¬† I highly recommend Jamie’s book if you are struggling with excess tension in your guitar playing.¬† The GP forums turned out to be a great place to share ideas about guitar playing, learn new stuff, and meet other guitar players with similar tastes, goals¬†and experiences.¬† Just some of the people I first “met” online at the GP Forums include Karla Fisher, Donna Zitzelberger, Sharon Netzley, Trevor Darmody, Brent VanFossen, Antony Reynaert, Leanne Regalla, and Mike Philippov.

After a couple of years on those forums, Karla arranged for Donna and Sharon to visit her for a long weekend during an annual hand-made instrument trade show in Protland, OR.¬† The three had such a great time playing guitar and learning new things, that they decided to make it an annual event.¬† Karla’s guitar teacher, Scott Kritzer, had the brilliant idea for his Classical Guitar Immersion (CGI) event, in 2006.

By this time, Karla and Sharon had talked Scott into teaching students via the internet, and I was proud to be one of the first few distance students Scott had.¬† I attended CGI 2007, and I got to meet so many online friends in person; especially Karla, Donna, Brent, and other long distance students of Scott’s; as well as some of his more local students; and Perfecto DeCastro.¬† But, what changed my life the most during that week was rooming with Trevor.¬† Trevor and I really seemed to have so much in common on so many different levels.¬† The workshop that he and Donna did on teaching kids was invaluable to me, and when the two of them ganged up on me to convince me to just start teaching already, I finally decided I had done enough research and I needed to just get going with it.

Thus, Kolob Music Instruction was born!¬† I came back from Portland energized like I had not been in years, and ready to take on the world.¬† I started advertising for students, but didn’t get any for a while.

Trevor had told me about his electric guitar teacher, Tom Hess, and I checked out his website, but I just wasn’t looking for what Tom offered yet.¬† Trevor was enrolled in Tom’s Music Careers Mentoring Program (MCMP), and Trevor sent me a link to a page advertising a new program Tom was starting.¬† The Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle was, Tom promised, a place where he would share all the secrets about¬†how he built his guitar teaching business into a six-figure income for himself.

I enrolled in Tom’s correspondence lessons and in the MCMP to be sure that I was on the “inside” when the EGTIC launched so I wouldn’t miss any of it.¬† I sold a¬†bunch of stuff¬†on eBay to pay for Tom’s programs, and I was instantly addicted to the forums at Tom’s site.

The first year that I taught was an extremely rough year.¬† I managed to kick myself in the ass and get something done.¬† My MCMP group produced a compilation CD, and this became my first published recording!¬† The CD is called “Under The Same Sky” and if you send me your mailing address, I’ll send you a copy!ūüėÄ

Although I’m proud of that accomplishment, I’m not terribly happy with some of the more technical aspects of my track on the disc.¬† So, I am looking forward to doing a better job the next time around!

Currently, I’m teaching students in Iron county and Kanab, and I’m always looking for new students.¬† If you’ve read my story so far, thanks for taking an interest!¬† Keep reading here to follow me as I move forward and continue to work at building a business that will sustain itself and provide for my family!

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How My Musical Journey Started – Part 4b

Emboldened by my experiences with the battle of the bands and the fact that I had finally gotten paid to play my guitar with Sceptor, I continued to search for a band that was a good fit.¬† Considering that I had grown up listening to everything from Simon & Garfunkel,¬†Buck Owens,¬†the Beatles, AC/DC, Judas Priest, ABBA, Duran Duran, and nearly everything in between; I didn’t think it would be too hard to find another band.¬† This is probably the reason that I didn’t work very hard at this "search".¬† I mostly just continued to practice and get better as a player – although I only really progressed when I had a teacher directing me.
Then one day, kind of out of the blue, Shannon Otte calls me up.  He was divorced from Tracy by now, and he was in a band called Shilo.  I knew of Shilo because my friend Kevin had been their drummer for a short time, and also because their original lead guitarist, Darren "Hawkeye" Pearce, was another friend of mine.  Hawkeye and Kevin had both quit the band by then, but Shannon called me up because they were looking for a new gutiarist.  The short story from here is that I came to a rehearsal, met the guy who was going to be the new drummer (it was his frist time meeting the band as well), Eric Wilson, and found out that they were going in a more pop/rock direction.  For about a year they had been making a name for themselves as a country band, but Shannon felt the need to expand the repertoire and change the name to reflect that.  The other members of the band at that time were Bill Sherritt and Stacy Taylor, both of whom were very country oriented.  Eric and I were decidedly rock oriented, and Shannon was bit of a mix of both.  During that first meeting, it was decided that the new name of the band would be C. C. Ryder Рa name Shannon came up with based on a song that Elvis used to use to open all of his concerts.
About the same time, I started dating Lisa.¬† The only member of Sceptor that I kept contact with was the other guitarist, Lynn Dennett.¬† He was local, and he lived with his parents just around the corner from my apartment building.¬† He also worked on the college newspaper with my cousin, Nicole Bonham, and he and I started hanging out together and jamming once in a while.¬† He introduced me to Lisa one day, when she was at his house, and we got along pretty well.¬† We had met previously, when she and Nicole ran into me and Kevin after the first Sceptor gig.¬† She teases me about this because I don’t remember any details about "Nicole’s friend" that night.¬† I don’t remember Nicole introducing us.¬† I had just played my first four-hour gig, it was about 2am, and all I wanted was to get a drink and a hot dog and go home to think about the gig.
That summer,¬†Lisa was one of the few people that I knew well enough to call up socially that hadn’t left town until the next fall, and we started going to movies together.¬† At first I thought of it as just a friendship, even though I was attracted to her almost immediately.¬† We would talk for long periods about politics and social issues, and it was the first time that I remember having a conversation (that wasn’t about music) with¬†a peer who knew more about what they were saying than I did.¬† Well, it was the first time since the last time I had seen my high school friend John.¬† Before Lisa, he was the only person I ever spoke with that got into the same kind of discussions.
I lasted as a member of C. C. Ryder for two years.¬† During that time we added Shannon’s girlfriend, Lise Mills, as a backup singer, Stacy got married and moved to Missouri, and we replaced her with Michele Pinoch and added keyboardist/guitarist Mike Myers.¬† Mike worked at the new chemical plant that was just starting up, WECCO, as the IT director.¬† I was "taking a break" from college, working as a dish washer, and trying to make loan and insurance payments on a used car that was a replacement for the one I wrecked the previous summer.¬† Mike knew that I was studying computer science in college, and he needed an assistant with a small amount of computer knowledge for a temporary project.¬† I needed a better job than washing dishes, and I figured Mike would be a good boss to work for, so I got hired as a temporary employee for Western Electrochemical Company (WECCO), a subsidiary of American Pacific Corporation (AMPAC).¬† Mike’s mom, Rhea,¬†was the plant secretary, and was in charge of processing all the paper work.¬† Lisa and I were living together, planning to get married soon, and Rhea took it upon herself to process all of my paperwork as a permanent hire, instead of a temp,¬†so that I was enrolled in the pension and insurance benefits.
During my time with C. C. Ryder, we played a lot.¬† It was the norm for bands to play both Friday and Saturday night at most places, and some places would have you play on Wednesday, too, for ladies night; and we played three out of every four weekends.¬† We had our ups and downs, but between Shannon looking like a stunt double for Patrick Swayze and a song list that spanned several genres and was always adding current hits, we ended up being the biggest draw in the area.¬† This was good, because we nearly always played for a cut of the door.¬† Now, being the biggest draw in southern Utah isn’t nearly as prestigeous (or profitable) as it may sound.¬† But we had a good time.¬† It didn’t take long, though, before I began to see that Shannon was an asshole, and he and I did not see eye-to-eye on many things where the band was concerned.¬† As time went on, I began to resent him more and more, to the point where I only played my guitar at band rehearsals and gigs.¬† Every time I picked it up at home, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of how much I hated Shannon.¬† I didn’t like feeling that way, and being too emotionally immature to deal with it properly, I dealt with it by not playing my guitar.¬† Michele felt the same way, and she was constantly campaigning to have Shannon replaced, but I was the only one that felt strongly enough about it to support her openly.¬† One day Shannon just up and fired her from the band, and then the next Monday at work, after playing our first gig without a female lead vocalist, Mike told me that Shannon and Bill were auditioning guitarists to replace me.
I remember thinking that it was a good thing that I was finally going to get out of that band.¬† I wasn’t a strong enough person to quit on my own, and Mike and Eric were such great friends and musicians to work with, that I kept holding out for Shannon to leave.¬† But Eric was going to be going on a mission for his church in a couple of weeks, so I was feeling less committed to sticking around.¬† I remember thinking that if Shannon and Bill – especially if Bill had done so – but if they had come to me and said that they didn’t feel I was a good fit any longer, I would have agreed with them.¬† If they had asked me to stick around and play the scheduled gigs while they find someone to fill in and/or replace me, I’d have been happy for the chance to play more.¬† But with them going behind my back, I decided that I didn’t owe them a damn thing.¬† I told Mike to tell them that I quit, and that was that.
For the next two years, however, I was still consumed with hatred for Shannon every time I picked up my guitar, so I didn’t ever pick it up.¬† I finally got over myself and found the desire to play again, but I had a young child now.¬† Lisa and I had been married for more than two years, Charlie was almost a year old, and we had finally moved out of our apartment and into our first house.¬† I was practicing in the bedroom, and watching Charlie.¬† He crawled up to my amp and, before I knew what he was doing, he cranked the master volume up to about 8 or 9.¬† Poor little guy was scared half to death and started bawling right away.¬† I made a mental note that I wouldn’t practice while he was up and around, and that I would focus on giving him my attention instead.¬† It didn’t take long before I realized that, by the time Charlie was down for the night, I was too damn tired to think straight, let alone practice my guitar.¬† I also had been moved into production at the plant by this time, and my work schedule didn’t make it easy for me to commit to a band, so I had no motivation.
For the next eight years, about once a month, or so, I would get my guitar out, spend about 10 to 15 minutes remembering bits and pieces of my old repertoire, and then put the guitar away for another few weeks.  That is, until I had an accident at work one day.  I got my finger pinched in a peice of equipment and split open my left hand ring finger.  It was only four stitches, but it was right on the part of the finger that contacts the strings when you play power chords.  Being primarily a hard rock and metal guitarist, I played more power chords than anything else, and the part of my finger that is used for scales was also affected.  It took more than a year before I was brave enough to force the flesh to toughen up so I could play steel strings again.
By then I was working a desk job at work, and I was really starting to enjoy work again.  I had a "regular" schedule, which made it possible to consider looking for another band, but then I went and started going back to school for a degree, which sucked up way too much time away from my family.  Lisa struggled with three children at home, while working a full-time job at the university, and I was always either in class or at work, working long hours to make up for the time I was at school.
It was a difficult time for our family, and our marriage, but we survived it.
Next time:  Part 5, the conclusion that brings us up to date.
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