A Week in the Life

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I believe in climate change, and I know that our local weather is a blip in the overall worldwide picture, but this winter in Minnesota is turning into an endurance test. Two months of mostly extra cold, often subzero temps. I scan the weather page in the Sunday paper and see that Fairbanks, Alaska enjoyed a high of 32 above yesterday while we tumble toward an overnight low of -20 with the wind blasting out of the north. This week I am extra thankful that most of my work is done in my basement recording studio or teaching at the local music store, with the occasional trip elsewhere for gigs and rehearsals. A busy week it was:

Monday I teach 10 lessons, half an hour each, in the afternoon and evening. They range from 7 year olds to adults, and most have been with me for months or years and we have an easy rapport. A high school senior and I discuss how country music is adding elements of rap and hip hop, while rock and pop is favoring acoustic instruments and folk textures. Later in the evening I am back at my studio for a four hour session with Jeff Crandall. I wrote about Jeff in another post, and it’s the second session of his J. Briozo project. I engineer as Jeff carefully crafts acoustic guitar and vocal tracks which will see overdubs later.

Tuesday, another 10 lessons, but instead of straight through, I have a break in the middle of close to an hour. I spend it trying to make our health insurance more affordable by applying on MNSure, our state health care exchange. As a self employed person I have a big interest in health reform because insurance is very expensive and an unlucky illness could mean bankruptcy. MNSure is suffering from the same startup problems as the federal website and even with helpful guidance via phone, the system crashes both times I attempt to enter my info. I’ll keep trying, but I go back to work for now. After teaching I have a rehearsal with one of my bands, St. Croix Crossing. It gives me a chance to try out the latest version of my pedal board, which is a work in progress.

Wednesday morning I am just finishing scraping the latest inch of snow off my driveway when Jim and Bob arrive for a session. Both are recently retired schoolteachers and long time musicians and songwriters. They are working on a set of music I have dubbed “Sergeant Peppers” because the songs are lush and full of details. We do a drum overdub and start working on mixing a pair of songs they hope will be used in a celebration of their hometown. Just before 1 pm I look at the clock and realize I have just minutes to get to my lessons. I dash off, teach 14 students over 7 hours. I finish the day with 3 hours at the studio editing drums with Peter O’Gorman for our original music project, After Everything.

Thursday, it’s really cold outside. So cold the local schools are closed and two or three students miss their lessons because of car problems and weather issues. I spend the first part of the day recording Sandy’s mandolin parts for a demo we are making for our bluegrass/acoustic group North Shore Trail. After teaching I spend an hour or so listening and getting ready for Friday’s session.

Friday, the temperature has risen close to 50 degrees, about 30 above zero, and Brian Aamot arrives for a long day of mixing. We are back to his project after a long layoff and he has a list of changes to the mixes of his 14 songs. We work 10.5 hours with a lunch break in the middle. I would describe the music as melodic heavy metal and I am impressed at his ear for shaping vocal harmonies.

Saturday, Jim and Bob are back. In four hours we finish the mixes on the two songs started on Wednesday and everyone is pleased with the results. We go out for a late lunch and I spend the rest of the day working on recording my guitar tracks for the North Shore Trail demo.

Sunday I catch up on my blog and look forward to the new episode of Sherlock on public television. The current temperature is zero.

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