School Wasn’t Cool

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If I remember right it was the summer of 2007. I still lived in my father’s house in Los Angeles and had no idea it would be the last summer I’d spend with my Dad before he died just after my 19th birthday. I was all in when it came to playing guitar and the only pursuit that came in a close second to my love affair with music was the epic sport of surfing. But I’ll say more on that later..

I’d spent some years listening to Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits was my first musical influence to bridge the gap between rock music and jazz. Knopfler’s guitar playing moved me to practice even harder and start listening to music outside of the rock genre. And oh did that mindset serve me well over the years as I got acquainted with the sounds of jazz legends who would inspire me to go all the way in when it came to playing music.

But first I had to find out who I truly was and free myself from the grip of one of the great scandals of our time: the education system.

As I practiced incessantly every day I knew persistence and patience were the second two P’s in that pod of 3 vital ingredients in the musician’s cookbook. But things got difficult when I started college. Within the first 6 months of my freshman year at UCLA, I realized that music school at a gigantic university was not what I thought it would be. Despite the fancy name (The Herb Alpert School of Music) and a new 20 million dollar grant, it was easy to see the school had bigger priorities than helping us musicians start off a real career in music. The amount of ‘general education’ classes we were forced to take seemed like a contradiction to the goal of specializing as a professional musician. My peers seemed less focused on playing and practicing each week. Despite the school’s faculty of known jazz musicians such as guitar legend Kenny Burrell, I was having a hard time jiving with it all. At the end of my freshmen year my father died and it really turned things upside down for me and my entire family. Listening to and memorizing Charlie Parker riffs and practicing them on the guitar became my only sanctuary from the sudden loss of my Dad and the pressures of an apathetic and frustrating system.

I stayed in school but just barely. Countless were the times I was close to dropping out. I consumed my share of drugs and alcohol as an escape, before later realizing it wasn’t a sustainable way to live. I got into a little trouble for failing classes and was put on academic probation by the administration, who promptly had my music scholarship revoked. But the irony was that I was hard at work during that time, spending 8-10 hours a day practicing. My level of musicianship skyrocketed. But music school couldn’t have cared less about my growing achievements as a musician.. all they saw were problems and a low Grade Point Average.

To this day, I can credit those 4 months of failed classes as the most productive of my musical training, and I owe a percentage of my proficiency on the guitar to that period where I practiced all day and got F’s in my statistics, art history and communications classes.

I eventually graduated college and swore I’d never set foot in a university again as a student.

I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago. This seemed to confuse a lot of people, and understandably so. They’d ask me “.. Why would you move from sunny California to frigid Chicago winters? You must be crazy!” And I replied that it was true I’d sacrificed a lot to make the move, especially days of sun, sand and surf. But I added that I wasn’t actually crazy, just committed to giving my music career a real shot in a foreign and unfamiliar environment which promised a thriving music scene. I went on to play hundreds of shows under my own name and record a handful of albums over the course of the 5 years I spent in Chicago. Shows till 3 in the morning.. dealing with boisterous and drunk bar patrons.. all the while leading a band as we knocked back draft beers and bourbon.. becoming less naive and seeing how the politics in a jam session were similar to those of Chicago’s mayor and politicians.

I sometimes felt I was in a time warp, living as if in the golden age of jazz of the 1930’s and 40’s while co- existing with the parallel world of the 21st century: a world of shopping malls, oceans full of plastic and reality TV shows.

And I was having a ball.

But when the gigs started to dry up and the checks stopped coming in, I had to ask myself on a freezing cold February day “What am I doing here?” And it was then that the ocean and the sun called me back to California. But those frigid Chicago days of living the life of a professional jazz musician gave me the chops and conviction that I’d like to think are audible in my sound today.

I felt my true education was allowed to flourish after I finished school. I tried things I’d only dreamed of and learned to just fucking go for it. Life is quite a show, and an incredible one at that. But only when we teach ourselves to change our patterns as individuals, and choose to use our critical thinking and learn from past errors..

So to me music is the summation of all those wild, beautiful and often difficult life experiences that you and I have.

And it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it even more exciting.

I look forward to many more sometimes- difficult, sometimes- hilarious, always- epic experiences along this journey in life and music. Here’s to hoping you are a part of that journey.

If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent album: ‘Lost Realm’.

Thanks for listening and for making it all matter.


  • Heidi Hoard says:

    You know when you go threw extreme life events, sometimes you get lost for awhile, caught up in everyone else’s chaos. It’s then when you find yourself, and remember what you love, and that begins another chapter in this epic life eventure 😊 Your music reflects that. I noticed right away the jazzy blues, and rock undertones of your music, and that is awesome! Easy to listen to, and has a temporary that helps us listeners complete tasks, keep on schedule, and finish what we’re doing! Glad for the earbud ask, thank you for that! Have a world where adult music can’t be played up here, my class of little ears! Thanks for your time and sharing! What an amazing gift you have. I too lost loved ones around that same time. It’s good that your music elevates!!

    • Andrew Longaker says:

      I’m very glad that upon hearing my music it resonated with you and that it impacted you in various ways. It’s really made for those reasons you listed; to help get tasks done more effectively and calmly and therefore have more time, focus and peace of mind to do the things you love. And also, thanks for sharing that you understand the experience of losing loved ones in that same era. Did you get a chance to hear the full album?

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