Saturday, July 2, 2011

Diaries from Detroit, vol. 2: Kids Songs, Organs, Motown Legends, Recording, and Hippy Group Singing

I am astonished at what a musical community I have found and already become a part of in my first two weeks here in Detroit. For one, as the music director for the day camp I have been teaching music to the kids here each day. Its exhausting, but great to have music be a part of my day-to-day life again. I am working on music with the kids alongside the Music Director and organist of Metro UMC, Andrew Galuska. He's a phenomenal organist playing an incredible instrument. Metro has the second largest pipe organ in the state of Michigan, 30th largest in the U.S., and 80th in the world. I've had the great privilege of playing it and, of course, hearing it almost every day.

Its such a treat to work at Metro UMC with its vibrant community of music. Besides the fantastic organ, it has a weekly jazz concert that brings in Motown legends... for free. So Tuesdays after work I'm treated to a free jazz concert at my workplace. So far I've heard Fernetta Davis sing with her pianist, and this week Maryanne Robinson sang with Rob Jones of the Funk Bros on piano. Simply incredible.

On my first day in Detroit, I was speaking with a security guard at the church and he told me how he was trying to put together a recording studio and he had a few hip-hop artists ready to work with him. I told him about my recording experience, and he gave Parple a listen that night. The next day, he found me to tell me how much he loved our album "But Why, Sir?" and that he was interested in bringing me into his studio to work with his artists. That Saturday I went in and ended up cutting a track with them. We recorded a few loops live on my acoustic guitar, then the producer layed down some beats, and I topped them with some lines on the keyboard. So I have now officially recorded in Motown. Check that one off the bucket list. The track should be up soon. It was an amazing experience to work in a genre I have really very little knowledge of, and it was equally engaging for them as they had never worked with a live musician before. They were truly excited about it, and felt that they were breaking new ground in hip-hop. I love learning experiences that are mutually engaging.

In my neighborhood in South West Detroit, we live in an "intentional community." Basically, a group of hippies moved here decades ago with the intention of living together and supporting each other through community gardening, get togethers, and lifestyle choices. Every Wednesday night we have a community bonfire. Skeptical of this place at first, I went to my first bonfire this past week and had a blast. As it turns out, (unsurprisingly), hippies listen to the same music that I do. So when Julie, a fantastic guitarist and singer (who sounds like Joan Baez), brought her guitar out, the entire community was singing together. I brought my guitar over and became a part of the action. It was a magical night singing and playing together with my new community. Meeting people through music is deeply intimate and binding. After that night, I was invited to play at a fundraiser in Detroit in mid-July.

Its such a delight to find myself in the middle of this beautiful music community so soon after arriving in Detroit.

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