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  • Writer's pictureThomas Doggett

Show announcement + why I play music

Just announced!  I’m very excited to play an afternoon of jazz and soul with Tony McGhee and Carl Morton.

Tony McGhee Project

Sunday May 26

2-5 pm

Cumming, Iowa

Tony McGhee


I'm excited to play songs from Lines + Lineage with Seth Hedquist, Scot Sutherland, and Russ Tomlinson.

Friday June 7

5-7 pm

Opus Cafe

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Listen to the first set on 88.3 FM or livestream anywhere in the world.


Why do I play music?

I’ve been pondering this question lately.  I think it’s a good question to ask.  Ask yourself; why do you do the things you do.  Are you determining the action or is someone or something else?  I’m not equipped to explain the psychology of decision making but I can share my own musical story and experiences.

With music, there is passive enjoyment and active enjoyment.  The most obvious passive enjoyment is listening while playing music is an active enjoyment.  At some point for a musician, these two elements overlap.  For example, passive listening turns into active listening.  Enjoyment also takes on a new meaning.  Much like someone solving a puzzle, the enjoyment becomes serious and tedious.

My first experience and exposure to music took place at Aunt Sally and Grandma Marguerite’s house.  The two sisters lived together and raised me when my parents separated.  Aunt Sally was very structured.  Everything had a right way and wrong way; including music.  The record player was taken out of the buffet table.  It was gently placed on the dining room table.  It was plugged into the extension cord.  The records were gently taken out of the sleeves and the grooves were never touched; only hold the edges of the record.  The record was gently placed on the turntable and the tone arm was gently placed on the record.  Then there was music.  The process was reversed when we were done listening to music.  It seems extreme but every record was in mint condition and I never remember replacing a needle or cartridge.  Aunt Sally, a woman that lived through the Great Depression, taught me how to make things last.

When I joined Band in 6th grade, I approached the clarinet like the turntable; very structured.  Open the case.  Apply cork grease to each cork.  Be cautious when connecting the lower joint to the upper joint because of the bridge key.  Attach the bell, the barrel, and mouthpiece without too much pressure on a key.  Handle the reed with care.  Align the curve of the reed to the curve of the mouthpiece.  My instruments never went to the repair shop.  The clarinet I learned to play belongs to my dad.  It’s the same one that he started on. It’s the same clarinet my nephew is learning to play today. 

If the above describes my structure going into Band, what was my experience in Band?  I attended Beechgrove Elementary in Independence, Kentucky.  We lived in the Beechgrove neighborhood and I enjoyed walking to school.  As a 5th grader, I watched and listened as my older brother in 6th grade practice our dad’s clarinet.  Squeaks and squawks and frequent tears.  He tried.  I was ignorant and oblivious enough to think that I could conquer the instrument.  I was also ignorant and oblivious enough to think that I could jump a ramp on a bike but that’ll be another blog.  Band was an optional activity that took place during the school day.  It took place during math class…this might explain my ability to do math.  In the beginning, there were 32 students in Band.  Within a month, there were five.  I shared this story with my colleagues two years ago and one of them asked “Why did you stay in Band?” “Huh?  Why wouldn’t I stay?” “Yes, but everyone around you quit.” “Yes, but I loved music that music much.”  It didn’t matter that everyone else quit…I loved music…I was solving the puzzle and the enjoyment became serious and tedious.

It was in junior high that things changed…in more ways than one.  But musically speaking, elements began to overlap.  Still oblivious and last chair, I would meet my third band director in three years.  In sixth grade, it was the students that quit.  In seventh grade it was the teacher that quit.  But from the many substitute teachers we had in Band during 7th grade, one of them was hired full-time; the one that inspired me.  Mr. Frank ran rehearsals differently.  Sometimes he would grab any available instrument and sit with us.  Outside of school he did recording sessions and played in the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra.  He encouraged me to play saxophone and to take lessons.  This is when music became my identity.  This is when I still wanted to do more after I practiced my band songs.  This is when the musical curiosity kicked in.

From 8th grade until now hasn’t changed much.  I’m still oblivious.  I’m still trying to solve the puzzle of music.  I’ve been in countless situations where others have abandoned ship.  I’ve met many more inspiring people.  And I still do music for me.

Since 8th grade, I’ve made money playing music and I’ve spent money making music.  Money makes people behave differently.  Take any activity.  Add or subtract money.  How do you feel?  I’ve also had expectations with music: I did this, I put this amount of effort into it and therefore, I should receive this.  Expectations tend to ruin things.  The word “fair” is also dangerous.  I don’t know why some people make more money than others.  I don’t understand the economics of taste.    

Some people go on cruises or to Disneyland.  I play music.  While we tend to justify our actions, our choices are personal.  What we do with our time is our choice.  How we use our resources is our choice.  A future post will be reflections on my album Lines + Lineage.  But for now, I’m going to go up to the attic and see if I can’t solve some more of this puzzle.


I hope to see you at a show or hear from you. Share this with anyone you might think would enjoy it.


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