Oh what a night!

So last week I found myself doing something I had not done in quite some time. After a long day at the office, I raced home to change clothes, pack up a couple of guitars, my amp, cables, music stand, and headed to spend the evening in front of a packed house.

Butterflies swirling, sweat beginning to bead on my forehead, pulse picking up a bit, I toiled away at soundcheck hoping to get things set up before the crowd filed in…most performers know that feeling we get just before the lights go on and we hit the stage. There was that minor panic when I flipped on the amp to find nothing coming out but it turned out to me a simple flip of a switch.

Oliver, my new roadie, is still getting the hang of things but I think he’s got real potential!

This was no run-of-the-mill gig though. Nope. I’ve played packed shows at the Arena Theater and George R. Brown, I’ve played in empty dive bars. But this ladies and gentlemen…this was The Night.

I was invited to sit in with Girl Scouts troop 114011, aka the “Sweet Squirrels” to help them earn their music badge.

That’s right, no smoky bar full of disinterested girlfriends staring at their phones, band mates complaining about the sound, or getting the stink eye from other bands on the bill. Nope, last night was perfect.

I spent the evening at their weekly meeting and helped these lovely and wildly enthusiastic young ladies earn their “Junior Music Badges” and “Music Fun Patches”.

I gave a brief presentation on the history of acoustic and electric guitars, how harmonicas work, and some of the great players and songwriters associated with each instrument with particular attention paid to some trailblazing women like Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and a couple of modern artists like Norah Jones and St. Vincent.

We listened to “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles and compared it to three international versions. We enjoyed “Gul Gul Gul Är Var Undervattningsbat” by Sweedish singer/songwriter Per Myrberg, “Submarino Amarillo” by the famed Barcelona group Los Mustang, and then we listened to Willy Chirino’s salsa-flavored take from his 2011 album, My Beatles Heart.

We discussed the differences and similarities and then turned to lyrics and songwriting before taking our own stab at writing a verse using the same meter and melody of Yellow Submarine. Lastly the girls each took turns exploring the different instruments we had: guitars, piano, a little organ, some percussion instruments, and I made sure that each of them went home with their own miniature harmonica. (Parents, no need to thank me. The pained and knowing faces you made when you realized you now lived with a passionate harmonica player is thanks enough haha)

These young ladies were so engaged and enthusiastic that I could have spent all night answering their fantastic questions. They picked up on some of the most subtle nuances between the different versions of “Yellow Submarine.” One girl noticed that there was a tambourine buried in the mix of Los Mustang’s version while another picked up on a slight echo on Per Myrberg’s vocal.

Their questions came in rapid-fire bursts, hands rocketing upward in hopes of being the first to be acknowledged.

“Why is that guitar hollow, but that one isn’t?”

“What is that made out of?”

“When did electric guitars start getting really popular?”

“Who invented the guitar?”

So too were their answers bursting with thoughtful enthusiasm when prompted with a question.

“So who likes to write poems or stories?”

That question was greeted with a loud chorus of “ME! ME! ME!”

“Ok, so where do you get the words from?”

One girl’s answer exploded more quickly than her hand could even raise, “Oh I know, I know, I KNOW! My head!”

Another girl answered that she got her inspiration from reading other stories and poems while another shot up, almost jumping off the floor to say, “I get them from my heart!”

Are you kidding me?!

How can anyone sit in front of a group of kids like that and not be inspired, humbled, and thankful?

It was truly one of the most gratifying and joyful evenings I’ve spent as a musician in I don’t know how long. One of Cathedral Records’central goals is to cultivate creativity and music appreciation among kids who may have the interest but not necessarily access or guidance. It’s not just about promoting and assisting current artists, it’s about helping guide the next crop of players who are just getting started.

 

I’m truly grateful to the troop leaders for inviting me into their circle for the evening and letting me spend a little while sharing what little I have to offer with their wonderful daughters. I’m also very thankful to the young ladies themselves for being so wonderful and engaged. It really warms this cold heart and inspires me in so many ways.

I hope to have more opportunities like this because I believe nothing keeps us young and inspired like being around young and inspired people.
I encourage ALL of my fellow musicians throughout the community to seek out and embrace these kinds of opportunities. It’s good for the community, it’s good for the kids, and it’s good for you.

Until next time….

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

Hello….how are you? Have you been alright?

 

Wow…what a few months.

If it seems like I’ve been away or like things have been quiet it’s because things have been more than a little busy…tumultuous even.

Quick rundown: I had a brief health scare that turned out to be nothing I can’t manage, nothing tooo serious. I quit smoking, and I hurt my back (again).

I’ve been drowning in school work, but the end is in sight to the point that I was able to take part in commencement. I even got to visit New Hampshire to visit the university campus. It was awesome!

 

 

I have to say, the Irish pub there in Manchester, NH poured me the most beautiful pint of Guinness I’ve ever had!

 

 

 

 

My home continues to be a hive of activity with Young Master Oliver evolving from a tiny baby to a not-so-tiny kid.

He’s stretching out, his weight redistributed and what was once a chubby adorable baby is now a lean, incredibly active little boy who lights up my tired, broken soul even when I think I’m about to drop.

How about them Astros?! My son and I greatly enjoy each evening as we cuddle up for bed and watch what might be my favorite incarnation of my beloved Astros. We even managed to go to a game with my dad a couple weeks back and we’ll be going again in June and July!

As far as music goes well…me personally I’ve not had a ton of time to write or record, save for a demo I posted to SoundCloud a couple weeks back. It’s called “Drink to Forget” and you can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/jason-r-becerra.

I still hope to do proper recordings and work with some of my friends within the Houston music community with final mixing/mastering to release my first EP hopefully by year’s end but if there’s something I’ve learned over the course of this year it’s that I have to be careful about placing deadlines on myself.

With a baby and a house to run and a full-time career and everything that comes with all of that, it can be more stressful than anything to try and set deadlines.

One thing is setting a goal and striving for it. Another thing is setting a deadline and stressing about meeting it and then feeling awful because you missed it. Right?

So as of now, my plan is to finish up these last few weeks of school assignments and then take a nice break from everything. I want to take a month or two, or three and just relax knowing I don’t have weekly assignments to turn in, no research to do, no frantic weekends scrambling to write term papers…and more important than all that I want to enjoy what I’ve achieved.

People tell me all the time that they don’t know “how I do it.” They tell me how commendable it is to get a masters degree while working full time, raising a baby, serving as the operations manager for a household and trying to do something with my little Cathedral Records project and writing professional pieces for www.jasonrbecerra.com and LinkedIn.

So while I’ve never thought much of it and don’t typically stop long enough to congratulate myself, I think I want to do just that. I think I want to kind of sit around and see what it feels like to feel successful, like I’ve accomplished something.

But not for too long mind you. Hopefully by the fall/early winter I’ll hole up in the Cathedral and sift through songs and begin the process of making proper recordings with polished lyrics and arrangements. At that point I’ll be making phone calls to see who wants to help mix/master and then we’ll see.

I think it would awesome to do a digital release and have a few LPs pressed.

As for performing…I don’t think I have it in me to do it extensively but if the opportunity arises to share a bill or take part in a series of shows in a cool intimate storytelling setting then I may just jump on that…once Oliver is old enough and I don’t feel guilty about not being around for bedtime. We’ll see. Again…my new thing is trying not to put artificial, unrealistic, or stressful deadlines or expectations on myself.

That doesn’t mean I want to be lazy and remove all goals but it does mean I want to do a better job of managing stress and how much I take on at once.

Anyway – in the next few days I’ll be publishing what I hope will be a very well-received article about the one and only MIEARS! She was kind enough to take some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to discuss a variety of topics related to music, life, the universe, and everything.

Shortly thereafter the promised album review of The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve listened to it several times on 180 gram vinyl and it’s just excellent. I’m fascinated by the technical undertaking involved with making that record what it is and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you.

Also, I’m putting my thoughts together regarding a look back on the Singles film and soundtrack. That album is essential listening for me and I seem to listen to it at least monthly.

Chris Cornell’s death has hit me harder than most deaths…his, Robin Williams, and Prince’s deaths have really impacted me.

I’ve been unable to really put pen to paper about it all in any formal way but I think it’s time I did…for my benefit more than anything.

Finally, support your favorite musicians and get out to live shows when you can.

MIEARS just announced a gig at Eleanor Tinsley Park on June 4th. That should be a great start to these incredibly hot and sweaty days of summer. Her EP continues to make for an dynamic and impactful listen. If you haven’t listed to “Who Will Save You” then make that top of list.

I just found out Ian Moore is playing Main Street Crossing in Tomball TX of all places! Mark your calendars, August 18th.

All of us outer-loopers love to talk about how none of the great bands come out to the ‘burbs…well, The Glass played Spring’s 19th hole a few weeks ago and Ian is hitting Tomball. TOMBALL!?

Raquel Cepeda played Katy not too long ago. KATY!?

We can’t expect these artists to come back to the ‘burbs if no one shows up to see them play right? So let’s do our part.

So that’s about it for now.

Until next time folks…

Be Well and Kind,

Jason