Thursday, September 27, 2018

Redefining Myself-From Musician to Author

When I was in seventh grade I wanted to be a Veterinarian.  Then I saw a film in my science class where they were operating on a cow's brain.  I couldn't watch it and with that event, I left those dreams die in the toilet with the other stuff. 

I have always liked to write and was encouraged by my 10th grade (or maybe it was 11th I'm not sure)  English Teacher.  However, my mom and my piano teacher conspired to push me into music.  I was a decent piano player, I could learn almost anything and memorize it quickly.  After six (yes six, I fooled around for two) years of college, I finally graduated with a Piano Pedagogy degree.  

I soon learned that, though I could play almost anything, except maybe jazz and improvisation, I didn't know much about music.  I didn't think in terms of harmony, chord progression, key, or form.  I just memorized the melody, shape of the music and my fingerings.  I remember playing in a competition in high school. I was in the middle of a Bach prelude and got lost.  I had to start from the beginning again, since I had no idea what notes to play.   I knew enough to teach beginners and at one point had 40 of them. In all that time, I had one high school student, and I feel that I failed to inspire him to learn more. 

After returning from our last tour in Germany in 2006, I decided to get a "real" job.  I started at Ferguson Enterprises.  During the next 11 years, I tried teaching a little, but never got into it.  In 2009 I joined a photography club. My life goals changed drastically.  Now I just wanted to take pictures. I could not quit the real job because, by this time, kids were starting college. 

One of the neat things about the Hampton Roads Digital Photography club is that it is a teaching organization.  I met many great photographers, learned of others, went on photo walks and listened to informative presentations on camera basics and ways to improve your photos. I received encouragement to branch out and to go out of my comfort zone.  At one point we were encouraged to find a niche on which to focus our talents.  I started volunteering at the SPCA to get more experience photographing pets, since that's the direction I wanted to go.  

In 2016 one of my co-workers was getting married and asked me to photograph her wedding.  "Not me, I don't do weddings!" was my response.  However, she persisted and I caved.  The wedding photos were lovely and she was very happy.  It was a scary experience but also an enjoyable one.  Since the pet photography wasn't going anywhere, I decided to try becoming a wedding photographer.  

I have photographed about 14 weddings, mostly on the referral of other photographers who were booked on those dates.  Some came via Weddingwire.com or The Knot, but marketing yourself as a wedding photographer takes persistence and with my full time job, I just didn't feel like it. Besides, I'm not very good at telling others to use me, to "Pick me!".  (Probably from all the days of being picked last for sports in PE).  I joined the Smithfield Center for a year as a preferred vendor and sat through two of their "Expos" and was not happy with doing that.  Plus, there were some really good photographers represented who had gadgets galore and pretty packages.  I am a person that likes to keep it simple.  I'll photograph your event for this much, you get the pictures... done...  That is great in theory, but it doesn't sell well, even when you offer it at a cheaper price.   

In 2015 we got a dog, Jazzy.  I had a goal, to get a picture of her each month next to her stuffed, pink dog. We had to replace and then hide the toy in between shots because she would eat it. Taking her photos prompted me to start "pet" photography again, but I had the same problem with that as weddings.  I did not like to market myself. 

In March of 2016 I put together all the monthly photos.  It was a cute little book that inspired me to make it more than just a picture book.  So I chose a few different pictures, added some text and called it "GROWING UP JAZZY".  My daughter worked for a print company in Baltimore and she helped me get in touch with a representative there. He helped me print multiple copies for a reasonable price, so I had something cute to give or sell.  A product is easier for me to market than marketing myself. 

Then came the idea for the counting backwards book, "COUNTING DOWN JAZZY".  After that I revamped GROWING UP JAZZY to be easier to read and more dedicated to the concept of months.  My next idea was creating a book about the alphabet and ABC JAZZY was created.   In a week I will receive the first editions of LITTLE RED JAZZYHOOD and JAZZY TIME.  

Who would have known that after all that music and floundering around as a "wedding/pet photographer"  I would become an author via my love of photography.  

I will always be willing to photograph an event for someone, but I won't go out of my way to find that kind of work.  On August 10, 2018, I retired from Ferguson.   I will be putting most of my energy in to getting my books out there to children who will enjoy them and learn from them.

You can see more about my books at http://www.jazzysbooks.com/

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