Finger-picking guitar down at Lake Merritt
on March 17, 2009
I went down to Lake Merritt last weekend with my friend Jack Woodruff to shoot this audio-profile video of him working his recession-time gig as a street musician. He has played acoustic guitar for 12 years. Recently he had shoulder surgery and since he’s having a hard time finding a job in the service industry, he decided to pass some time as a street musician.
When we pulled up to Lake Merritt, I noticed that it was fairly empty except for the occasional joggers. That was Jack’s intention; too many people make him nervous. “Sonic privacy becomes an issue,” he said. If people are relaxing he doesn’t want to bother them.
But it seemed that the real difficulty was capturing people’s attention. For the most part, the folks who walked by explicitly avoided eye contact or they were plugged into their own tunes. “These days you’re competing with the iPod,” Woodruff said.
On the street, he typically sings and plays jazzier tunes than the song in this video, but I love this nameless finger-picking song he wrote. When I asked him if he had aspirations to fame, he said, “a lifelong goal of mine is to get better and better and be a really good old man.”
Woodruff plays because he enjoys it, which is essential, because on a good day he makes $3.50 an hour, even when he follows his rules on how to make more dough, like dressing nicer. “I think people don’t like to give money to hobos, but they do like giving money to struggling musicians,” he said.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.