Hello to all of my amazing friends! I promised I would tell you all about my fantastic time in LA meeting new guitar player friends and hanging out with Joe Satriani. I was only in LA for 24 hours but for one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I got on the plane from Seatac to LAX at 10:35 on the morning of November 7. The flight was uneventful, relaxing. I was picked up at the curb of terminal 6. I hopped into the front seat of the van and behind me were four talented guitar players. All chatting away about guitars of course. I was a little shy and intimidated at first. I had seen their mind numbing videos and at one point we were fierce competitors. But on this day we were all winners, elated, excited at what was to come in the next few hours.
We arrived at the hotel. The Standard, 8300 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood. We were sadly informed we wouldn’t be able to check into our rooms until 4:00 p.m. because The American Heart Association had rented out the entire hotel for a conference and everyone had left their rooms that afternoon. No worries, let’s just hang out by the pool!!
What an experience getting to know everyone! We are all so different, all from different states, cultures, backgrounds, musical styles. So much we have in common-guitar and Joe Satriani. We all know his music inside and out. We all had stories of how his music has touched our lives in so many ways. We laughed, played ping pong, enjoyed the sun and took photos.
Someone checked our itinerary and realized they were going to pick us up from the hotel at 4:00. We hadn’t even checked into our rooms yet! I started to panic! I left my house at 5:30 am that morning! I had agonized for weeks wondering what to wear and how I would fix my hair (I am a girl right?) I couldn’t meet Joe looking like a slob. I called Jake, remember him? The awesome man from Guitar Center who so graciously called me to tell me I’d won the contest, took care of my travel arrangements, fight, hotel and car. He saved the day! He said he would tell the driver to pick us up at 4:30. Then at 3:30 I was able to check into my room. I know, silly things girls worry about.
We all met at the elevator and on the way to the car we started singing Why? It’s from Joe’s album the Extremist. Funny thing about guitar players, we can sing our guitar parts. Don’t laugh you know we can and we get all the notes in too! and the harmonies on that song are tight.
We pulled up to Guitar Center and I got a little nervous! They were still setting up for the master class when we arrived so we got to browse around. I can’t think of a better place for guitar players to wait around than at a fully stocked Guitar Center.
We all grabbed guitars off the wall and plugged in. At first everyone was playing all at once but then my motherly instincts kicked in and I organized a nice little jam. It was awesome!! The clerk came over and called us the congress of shred!
Then it was time! We all walked into the vintage guitar room. There were guitars in there ranging from $15,000 up to $50,000! They handed us our brand new JS20s guitars and then Joe came out. He is such a gentle spirited man for a monster guitar hero. He started by congratulating us and saying he already knows we can play guitar so there’s no reason to go over the basics. He decided to tell us all about what he does and the things that work for him. Even his warm up was musical. He played to backing tracks. Each song had a special story about playing it live or crazy things that happened while recording. Many songs had unbeleiveable-how did it even come together-type circumstances in the studio. I loved that Joe wasn’t putting on a show for us. It was more like he was sharing his music with us in the most special, intimate way. So beautiful. And of course he played Always With Me Always With You. I literally had to hold back the tears when he played it. To think it was because I had enough courage to record myself playing this song that I was there in that room holding my brand new guitar. It just blows my mind.
I never have said why I chose that song. It really holds a special place in my heart. I bought Surfing With the Alien on cassette tape. I was a teenager, hormonal, stress and trouble happening within my family. I had a long bus ride to and from school. It was 30 minutes to the bus terminal, 20 minutes waiting for the next bus, then 30 minutes to school. The same on the way home unless I missed the bus from the terminal then I had to wait an extra 20 minutes. So I had my walkman (remember those?) and my Satriani cassette. Sometimes I would listen all the way through side one and all the way through side two. Some days a song would hit me and I would rewind and listen over and over. Not so good for the batteries. Always With Me would hit me many times. I don’t know what it is about that song. Maybe it’s the title. I’ve discovered that rarely things of this world are ALWAYS there. ALWAYS constant. Maybe as a teen I knew that song would ALWAYS be with me. Now I’ve made it mine and it will ALWAYS be mine. That is comfort isn’t it?
After Joe shared his music with us we were able to ask questions. I was so amazed he literally knew our videos inside and out. I didn’t know this but he said there were over 2000 entries and the contest people narrowed it down to 400. Joe watched 400 videos and picked 10 of us as winners!! He told us many people had the notes, many people played really well but we had that extra something special. We took some group photos and we all got to chat with him one on one. When I got my chance to chat with him he told me he thought my version of Always With Me Always With You was beautiful and that I was the only one who danced while playing. He said that’s how it should be. I’m beaming can you tell? What an honor! I gave him one of my CDs and he said ‘Hey! It’s called I Believe!!’ I remembered he has a song called I Believe from the Flying in a Blue Dream album. What a cool connection.
We lingered for a few moments more at the Guitar Center then got into the van. We were somewhat quiet on the way back to the hotel, still chatting but most of us still in awe of what had happened to us for those few hours. Some went back to their hotel rooms. I chose to head out and enjoy the city. A few of us walked around Sunset Blvd, taking in the sights.
The next morning I got up early and went for a run. I enjoyed it so much even though it was pouring down rain. Go figure? As I was running and thinking about how great all the players were and how I’d better go home and practice and learn more really fast licks so I can get better and faster and…I looked up and a woman was walking down the street towards me. She was looking straight ahead holding a sign. It said ‘You Are Perfect’ in beautiful bold letters. WOW! Right place, right time. Thank you perfect lady with your perfect timing. A nice gentle reminder.
Congratulations to Matt King, Sammy Boller, Preston Black, Ronny Gutierrez, Brian Bard, Colin Gailey, Eric Potapenko, Sami Rae, and David Garza my new guitar friends! You can watch all of the videos here! We did it! All glory be to God!