Sept. 23, 2020

Cogitating about my Guitar Journey

Cogitating about my Guitar Journey

In this episode Ciyadh cogitates about her journey to the guitar and all of the stops in-between .

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Hello, and welcome to musically cogitating, a podcast where we cogitate about the relevance and importance of living in contemporary music of all kinds and how that music impacts our everyday lives. I am your host. Ciyadh Wells. Thank you so much for joining me here today. In today's episode, I am going to cogitate on my guitar story.

As I've previously mentioned, I am a guitarist and today I wanted to take some time to cogitate or to think deeply about my guitar story as it stands thus far. Music has always been in my family and is still a really big part of our family and all of our gatherings. And at any point during any one of our gatherings holidays or anything like that, you could always hear music being played or sung in some way in the background, in the foreground, just everywhere.
And my earliest musical experiences began in the church that I grew up in. My mother was the choir director, which meant that I was always in choir . And my grandmother was in the adult choir, the church. And at various times, my uncle was the piano player there. And he also happened to be a trombonist. So like I said, music was all around me.

I never really remembered listening to too much classical music as a kid. I remember listening to a lot of gospel, a lot of R and B, hip hop, soul, jazz stuff, like that stuff that would be on cassette tapes because that's  a thing, or it was a thing for me, it's still a thing. I have a collection of cassette tapes, but that's a different story for a different day.
Sidenote to this day, Stevie wonder is probably one of my favorite musicians. And I think a lot of that comes from growing up, just listening to music that he wrote and of the people who wrote in the same kind of style and genre. At some point, I want to say maybe around the age of seven or eight, my mom got me piano lessons withmy then piano teacher. His name was mr. Richardson. May he rest in peace. He was so nice and so gentle. And he was so patient with me and I was a terrible, terrible student. Um, but he would always fall asleep during our lessons. I think it was just, they were on Fridays and, and I remember them being, you know, kind of at that period of the day, wherever everyone has that post perennial slump around three or four o'clock and I think he would just be tired and he would just kind of doze off.

So during my lessons, I would always play this game with myself. Where I would press down the key to see how hard I could press it before he would wake up. And he would always kind of wake up suddenly and look around and pretend as though he wasn't sleep. Although sometimes he would be snoring. So that's my piano lesson experience.
I took lessons or I took a piano class as you can  would imagine during my undergraduate, um, that's kinda my piano story, so to speak. I did that for a few years. I'm not really sure how long. Probably like two or three years. And then in third grade I joined the choir at the elementary school that I went to and chose till this day.

I believe that I was one of the best singers in the group, but that is neither here nor there. And then in sixth grade I joined the band because why not? I wanted to learn how to play the drums. I still do because what 6th grader doesn't want to learn how to play the drums. And then I wanted to play the flute, but my band teacher was like, no, we have enough flutes.
Although it was a really small band. Um, so then I ended up playing the saxophone. Yeah. And I played that for a few years in middle school and the beginning of high school, somewhere in between seventh and eighth grade. I can't exactly remember when, but my mom, let me take violin lessons for a little bit, because I had these grand aspirations to learn an instrument of the orchestra. I wanted to be, you know, one of the people sitting in the orchestra at the very front, just bowing away at the violin. Uh, but I had a lot going on then during that time and it just wasn't as satisfying as I thought it was going to be no shade to the violinists of the world.
I love you, but it just, it just wasn't my scene. It wasn't my vibe, so I didn't continue with it. Totally, okay. Eventually I found my way to the guitar and well, the rest is history, which we're cogitating about right now. So I was still in choir and  band doing my thing and one Christmas, my parents got me a first act electric guitar.

And for those of you who don't know, first act was a brand of instruments that they would sell at Walmart. They were just. I don't want to call them toys because I think people can seriously learn how to play guitar on them. But for me, it was a toy. I didn't take it very seriously. And so eventually one of the strings broke, it was busted.

And that was my first attempt at learning how to play the guitar. I tried to play with the book that came with it and it had, you know, these really big lines and spaces, but it just, it didn't work for me. Totally fine. And then high school started. And instead of doing both choir and band, which I had done up until that point, I did choir from third grade and through eighth grade and then band from sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Uh, I did marching band, my freshman year of high school, which was the longest season of my life. And as swiftly as I came, it went and I auditioned for choir again and started doing that. So it was at this time at the start of high school, when I started playing the guitar, which was almost 14 years ago.

I remember a few months before I started lessons, I had saved up enough money to buy an acoustic guitar. And I just bought it from this random music shop that was in Nashville. And then my mom, again, shout out to her, for whatever reason, agreed to get me guitar lessons at our local music and arts store.

And so on my first day of high school, I had my very first guitar lesson and it was love at  first strum, I guess you could say ,truly. I have strummed every day. Since then my first guitar teacher was named Dave and he was this cool jazz guy. You know what I mean? Like people who play jazz guitar, they always have a vibe,uh, really cool, really gentle. And he always wore these not so stylish hats, like for doors and things like that. Um, but I really enjoyed my lessons with him.

And then one day. Like six months into taking lessons with him. He just quits and I never heard from him again. Like I literally went, to my Monday lesson the week before and they went back the next week and I had a new guitar teacher. My next guitar teacher after Dave was Patrick and Patrick was a fantastic guitar teacher.

He would let me do whatever I wanted to do. We worked our way through jazz books because I loved jazz. We did lots of song writing, which I was really, really into at the time because I was angsty. And that's what you do when you're angsty and in high school, well, you write songs. Uh, so I learned songs from Rent, which I ended up playing in my ever first solo guitar, performance, fun fact about me and just all the things.

And I really enjoyed that time. With him. I think it takes a really special teacher. Do you let the student guide their own learning and pick the things right. They're interested in. So I would just hop around and he was like, alright, cool. That's fine. I think that allows a student to learn, to do with they love and maybe not do so much of the things they don't want to do.
Um, but you always end up finding a balance there. And then I think around my junior year of high school, after we explored all of the genres of guitar playing, I landed on the classical guitar. And I remember Patrick telling me that that was his major in college. And at that point, I had decided that I no longer wanted to pursue being a doctor journalist or Beyoncé.
So I was going to go to college and major in music performance or music ed, and then become a classical guitarist? Okay. It was really one of the first people that I met, who made a full -time living, being a musician. And that was so, so inspiring and motivating to me in so many ways. So that's what I pursued.

So probably two more years went by. And then I auditioned for my undergraduate degree at the University of Memphis. Like many parents, mine were in many ways and realistically, so concerned about how I would support myself with a performance degree in classical guitar. So I decided to take their advice and to pursue the music ed route, which hindsight is always 20/20, because I would say that this is one of the best decisions that I ever made, uh, but will cogitate on my work as an educator and about being a music ed major on another day.
So anyways, I went to the University of Memphis, to get my undergraduate degree in music education, where I studied classical guitar as my primary instrument did that thing. It was cool .During all of this though, I knew that I wanted to spend most of my time performing in the future and would want to eventually pursue to a masters in performance.

That was always a goal throughout my undergrad. Just get the four years done and then go and do the thing that I really wanted to do. And I ended up doing that. So finally, in 2017, I graduated from the University of Louisville where I pursued my masters. And that was a really transformative time for me. I love, love, love Louisville so much.

It is, is an amazing city. Uh, but aside from the great city and the great music school that I went to, I think that  that time allows me the space and opportunity for me to begin exploring and understanding what it meant for me to become the artist that I wanted to be. I'm an artist and I want to make art.

And during that time I was able to learn and grow and understand what that meant for me. And while I am and will always be figuring out what it means for me. I think that time really jump-started that. I started playing concerts. I started listening to music. I would  borrow stacks and stacks and stacks of CDs from the music library, I would borrow scores and the music library at U of L is fantastic.

So that was a really awesome time for me. I was super involved in the guitar society there. I also taught, so it was just, it was a time in my life that really changed how I saw myself as an artist in a great way there. I met my musical partner, Jamie, who I'm in a duo with him, who I'm sure you'll meet on this show at some point too so all of that wonderful stuff happened there.
And during this time I decided that I wanted to go get a doctorate. Jokes on me. No, I mean, in all seriousness, uh, in 2017, I started my  Doctorate of Musical Arts in Guitar performance from the University of Georgia. And I'm still pursuing that. I just started my fourth year there. And so I'm still doing the guitar, playing music, playing thing, and it's really cool.
And like I said, yes, you can get a doctorate in music and that doctorate can be, in the guitar. So one day, hopefully, sometime I will become a guitar doctor. It's a thing. And it was in 2018 that I started the Margins Guitar Collective. And I'll talk more about that at another time, but it's an organization that works to create and support a diverse and inclusive guitar community, because that's something that I feel the guitar community needs.

And so I'm willing to work to do whatever is necessary to make sure that our community is open and accepting and inclusive. And so starting that I think was another pivotal and transformational moment for me, because it helped me to understand how I can support the community, how I can create the music that I want to see being you know, a person who loves music, um, but also the music that I want to play and how to support that. Through the collective and, and through a lot of my other projects as well, I get to help support artists in creating the art that they want to make. And I there's so much that I love about that process.

Um, you know, one of the things that. I love doing when I'm not practicing, but I probably should be, is dreaming up all of the programs that I want to perform and play. And let me tell you, there are some real zingers on those programs. You know, I'm also premiering works. Folks are joining the collective.

The collective is creating community and that's really everything that I want. And so for me, that's what it's all about the journey and the playing the guitar. Isn't really about. me being able to play scales at quarter note equals 130 alternating I amd M fingers, although that is something that I am still working on. 

It's really about art. It's about the journey. It's about the story. It's about the community and that's really my guitar journey thus far. So that's it folks. This has been my journey as a guitarist and just kind of a little bit of background as a musician in general, which has been endless amounts of fun.

Many instruments started and quit. Um, started from the choir. Now I'm going in a duo, I mean, I guess that works again. Shout out to my mom for putting me in all those guitar lessons, all those music lessons, um, without her probably wouldn't be cogitating about this today. So Hey. Shout out. This has been so much fun.

Really! I hope you liked hearing a little bit about my story today. Don't forget to follow the podcast on social media, YouTube and visit the website. Musically We also have a newsletter which you can subscribe to you where you will receive some additional and bonus content from the show.

And if you're listening to this on Apple podcasts, please give us a rating and like interview as it helps to make the show better. Again, thank you for listening to me, cogitate about my guitar journey thus far, and we will be back in two weeks with a new episode. Until then, enjoy.