Boy, 2016 was some year, wasn’t it? An unprecedented number of celebrity deaths, an ugly political race which brought out the worst in everyone, and the continued existence of Chrisley Knows Best.

It was also a year which saw my continued marginalization from the northwest Pennsylvania music scene, a “good ol’ boys” network increasingly dominated by millennials. Sales of American Proust stagnated. Local bars refused to book me as a solo act. Repeated attempts to have my music recognized by local media outlets were met with a stony silence.

I’m convinced at least part of the problem is that I’ve had too many birthdays. As a white, heterosexual, Christian male, I’ve admittedly had things pretty good, but this year I discovered a new form of prejudice: age discrimination.

If the Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn had died when he was 50, we’d have never heard of him today. While it would be unfair to call Haydn a “late bloomer” – he composed eleven symphonies by the time he was 30 – music scholars generally agree that his greatest works – e.g. the “London” symphonies – were composed later in life. Having turned 50 myself last year, I, too, feel that my best music is still ahead of me. More about that in a little bit.

Last year, a friend of mine asked for my opinion on a new album by his band The Vinyl Goods. I was pretty rough on the poor guy. Mainly, I criticized the lack of any discernable progress from the band’s earlier efforts. Twenty-five years after their debut album, the musicianship, songwriting, and singing were still where they were in 1991. I summarized my thoughts by noting that, “mediocrity is not the absence of ability, but rather the refusal to acquire it.”

It was only after I clicked the “send” button that it occurred to me that, everything I told him… also applied to me.

Very few rock musicians take lessons, or know anything of music theory. The “rock and roll approach” consists of plugging in your guitar and putting your fingers on the strings. Whatever comes out, comes out. Granted, many people have made remarkable music using this approach; however, I feel that Frank Marzano has gone as far as he can go with this method.

I’ve been vacationing in New York City every year since first visiting the Big Apple in 2001. Among other things, I like to check out the live jazz offerings. (The West Village, in particular, is a veritable “musical Disneyland”.)

A couple of years ago, I finally worked up the courage to speak to the musicians. I was intimidated at first, but once they saw that I was serious about music, they opened up like a book.

During my most recent trip, I made the acquaintance of Paul Meyers, a jazz guitarist who has created a number of online instructional videos covering scales, composing, and improvisation. The following statement may come as a surprise, but, after 35 years of playing guitar and writing songs… I’m taking guitar lessons!

I’ve wanted to do this for years, but the usual reservations held me back: “I’m not good enough.” “It’ll take too long.” “I’m too busy.” But that’s fear talking. If I had let fear rule my life I wouldn’t be where I am today (wherever that may be).

Believe me, fear still rears its ugly head up each and every day. But I know the kind of life I want for myself, and I’m not going to let fear stop me from getting it. And even if it takes me twenty years to get better… those years are going to pass anyway.

Well, that’s about it for this newsletter. Hopefully by the next one, I’ll have some improvements to report, both in my musicianship and in my gig schedule. Between now and then, check out some of Paul’s excellent music:

as well as the most recent album by the Vinyl Goods:

Rock long and prosper,






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