“They Pulled Me Up To Their Level”

10 04 2012

I’m a big fan of the late Dan Fogelberg.  When I was younger, Dan had a string of hits, among them “Longer” and “Leader of the Band”—my personal favorite.  I loved his well-crafted lyrics, his multi-instrumental versatility and his quest for excellence when he hit the studio and the stage.

When Dan was an art student at the University of Illinois, he played coffee houses and bars at night.  While doing so, he was discovered by a local booking agent, Irving Azoff.  Azoff managed to get Dan a record deal and eventually sent him to Nashville to prepare to record his debut album Home Free.

During this time in Nashville, Dan was able to get a lot of work playing sessions as a studio musician.  Years later he reflected on his time as a young studio musician playing with older, established session guys, “I was only 21 years old and I was part of the band, these maniacs who were amazingly good players. These guys were much better than me, and they pulled me up to their level.”

Numerous times over the past six years, I have played guitar in the pit band of local musical theatre productions for some great shows, among them “Crazy For You” and “Damn Yankees”.  Most recently, I was part of the production of the hilarious and macabre show, “Little Shop of Horrors.”

These kinds of gigs force me to grow as a musician.  Broadway musicals are often fast-paced, with many numbers in cut (2/4) time.  The music is always challenging and sophisticated so it gives one’s sight-reading quite a workout.  I remember one Gershwin overture in particular, four minutes long, which contained over one hundred different chords.  It’s not easy work and sometimes quite stressful.  But I grow.  My colleagues and the music itself pull me up to another level.

What kinds of environments do you regularly put yourself in that challenge you and help you grow?  That pull you up to a higher level?

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7 responses

10 04 2012
Kristin Barton Cuthriell

I, too, try to put myself in situations and environments that will promote growth. It is so important. Too often people limit themselves unnecessarily. I also like Dan Fogelberg. Great post.

10 04 2012
Christian Fahey

Thank you Kristin! These kinds of situations are certainly a challenge but it does help us grow. Big Fogelberg fan as well. Sad to see him die so young. Thanks for stopping by!

10 04 2012
LaDona's Music Studio

The best musicians – and I’m sure this goes for any number of fields – are the ones who surround themselves with others that are better than themselves. No room for any pride here!

I swear I have every Dan Fogelberg album – on vinyl! It was so sad to hear of his death. My very favourite song of his Nether Lands – it never fails to inspire me.

11 04 2012
Christian Fahey

Fantastic LaDona. I have all his vinyl through “Exiles” as well. Netherlands was a pivotal record. 69 piece orchestra and the whole bit. Fogelberg said he was really getting his wings when he wrote and made that one. Thanks for reading!

10 04 2012
LaDona's Music Studio

Oops – correction to the above – I stopped buying his albums after Exiles in 1987 – my life took a remarkably classical turn at that point. But I have ALL the old ones.

11 04 2012
David Kanigan

Great post. Great song. Thanks for sharing Christian.

11 04 2012
Christian Fahey

Thank you David. DF has long been a favorite. Saw him in concert in 1985. “Leader of the Band” is perhaps my favorite song of all time. Straight to the heart. Thanks for reading!

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