For professor of English Tom Greenfield, being a musician is about much more than flawless chord progressions or rhythmic perfection; it’s about writing songs that explore human experience – including the experience of taking humanities classes – and pure enjoyment. “I play my mistakes, and I own them,” he said.
While Greenfield will be the first to tell anyone that he’s “in no danger of making any money at [performing],” his folky guitar compositions have earned him gigs at venues throughout Livingston County and New York State.
He played guitar from a young age, joining in on the guitar craze that ensued between The Beach Boys era in 1960 and that of The Beatles in 1966.
“Probably for people my age, the question is, ‘How did you not get started on guitar?’” he said.
Unlike many others, however, Greenfield didn’t quit playing guitar as he grew up. He estimated that he’s written 40 to 50 songs to date, 20 of which he is willing to play on the spot. In 2000, he recorded an album called Is This On? that sold at Buzzo Music on Main Street.
Greenfield has an entire wall of his office devoted to pictures of great folk musicians, many of whom he interviewed for a radio program on WXXI Rochester. He recorded the show at Geneseo over the course of two years, interviewing as many visiting folk artists as he could, and packaged the media content with help of student members of WGSU 89.3 FM.
Greenfield calls himself an “unrehabilitated folkie,” but he said it’s the snarky and insignificant nature of his music – songs old and new – that kept him from leaving it behind. Whether he’s singing about feelings of uncertainty or inadequacy, television or watching movies during class, Greenfield is in it for the fun of putting on a show for other people.
“[Music] is a hobby that’s grown old with me, and I’ve been able to use it in my work and other important aspects of my life,” he said. “It’s become a serious part of my life, although the songs themselves are rarely ever serious.”