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My farewell message

From: Chris
Sent on: Friday, June 1, 2012 9:41 AM

Hi everyone,


As most of you know, I am moving to Berlin in a couple weeks and will be starting a new international travelling period of my life. After some years in Berlin we will be relocating to another city and so on.


While I can still help keep an eye on things from behind the scenes, Guy is going to be taking the lead in keeping the Westchester Acoustic Guitar Group organized and running. Please help him out however you can, and if you would like to get more involved, by hosting a meetup yourself say, please get in touch with him. One thing I've noticed is that acoustic guitar attracts us shy retiring types and it can be tough for us to both ask for, and to offer, help - so please do so if possible .... with all three original organizers basically out of the picture we need to "groom" the next generation of leadership.


Which brings me to a long winded story I'd like to tell about how this group was started and a major lesson I learned from it that I'd like to share - I hope you can read it as I think it's worth while -


Back in 2006 or so I got an ad for "one free guitar lesson" in the mail. I threw it out. Then I got it again and I kept it on my desk. You see when I was a kid I had a nylon string guitar I bought with paper boy money but it never took off as I don't think tab was around in the early 80s yet and neither was the internet, so figuring out how to play Stairway to Heaven was a pain to say the least - also my parents were too poor to afford guitar lessons, and I was lazy, so my chance to be a teenage heart throb guitar player came and went.


So I looked at this flyer on my desk for weeks before I finally said "what the heck" and called up for the one lesson and met Benoir, a cool guitar teacher in a black cowboy hat who'd drive up from Brooklyn every couple weeks. I bought a nylon string guitar and we started playing. This lead me down a rabbit hole of finding so many fantastic books and internet tabs of songs to play and I started having a lot of fun.


I was never good at chord playing - fingerstyle was my thing, so I looked into playing in a guitar jam group in order to get a chance to play chords. A google search brought me to and Jeff's Rockland County Meetup. I went to it and loved it. I looked closer to home and finding no local options I said "what the heck" and started this Meetup group (initially I called it the "Harrison Acoustic...." then I got grandiose and changed it to "Westchester..." ha!).


The first meetup brought Steve into the picture and soon after Spencer. What I lacked in guitar skills they more than made up for and together the three of us made a good leadership team. From talking to Steve I heard about the Ethical Culture Society in White Plains and how they had a guitar thing too. Winds up they didn't really but after checking them out I found a great place to not only join as a member, but to also finally put my kids into a Sunday School program which they made friends and really enjoyed. My wife and I made good friends there too and ECSW became part of the fabric of our lives here.


Meanwhile the guitar group was humming along and to my great happiness people were also linking up outside of the group too in order to do projects like the Tessera String Band, and to perform together at the Pleasantville group up north. Steve also formed a house band to play at the ECSW meetings. Every Meetup would bring in a new person or two and over time we added to our group of regulars. As it usually happens with groups the socializing and chit-chatting grew over time and it became just as enjoyable to see how everyone was doing as it was to play!


All this time I wasn't just learning new songs to play, I was also learning about famous guitar players, and guitar makers, and one summer my family even attended a Bluegrass Festival up north during a vacation.


Then in November 2010 we did a food drive fund raiser at the Ethical Society in time for Thanksgiving. Along with some members of the Rockland Country Meetup we performed in front of family and friends and raised $500 and boxes of food which were gratefully received in time for the holidays.


Now hang on a second, me doing a fundraiser? Lazy lay-a-bout me? How'd that happen?? In hind sight it was simply just connecting the pieces of the Westchester group, the Rockland Group, the Ethical Society, advertising though emails and so on, but in reality, if you trace it back to the single most important step to making it all happen, it all comes back to that one day when I picked up the flyer for "one free guitar lesson" from my desk and said "What the heck"


So that is what I would like to pass on to everyone here in this group - every now and then get out of your comfort zone and say "What the heck" and try something out. Attend a group. Check out a lecture, a poetry reading, whatever it is. Raise your hand to help Guy out with this group. Be willing to risk potentially "wasting a couple hours" doing something that may not pan out. Because you absolutely never know which one small, seemingly "not worth the effort" event can change the course of not only your life, but more importantly, the lives of people you have yet to meet.


All the best to every single one of you, feel free to reach me at [address removed], and as my first guitar teacher Benoir would always tell me, "JUST PLAY!!!"



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