Music Alumnus George Pennington Shares the Highs and Lows of the 2020 Music Industry

Thursday, June 11, 2020

George Pennington holds guitar in studio portrait
For guitarist, vocalist, and music educator George Pennington (BS music education, 2018), the year 2020 began as a bright new era in his music career.

After kicking off the new year with a performance at Armature Works New Years' Eve 2020, he went on the play the famous Whisky A Go-Go venue in West Hollywood and the Brainquility music festival at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

In February, he found himself in the middle of a life-changing jam session with renowned bassists John Ferrara and Victor Wooten while working on behalf of Michael Kelly Guitars at NAMM 2020. In early March, he played at Gasparilla Music Festival. He continued to find new success as he filled his calendar with bookings at festivals and other large events in Florida.

Then, like much of the world, the music industry came to a halt with the temporary disruptions caused by COVID-19. Shows were canceled, and his studio recording dates were postponed. Like others working in a variety of industries, he felt the stress of the uncertainty and disruption caused by the pandemic.

three people standing and playing guitars

George Pennington (center) performs in an impromptu jam session with bassists John Ferrara (left) and Victor Wooten (right) at the Hartke amps booth at NAMM 2020 in Anaheim, CA.

Despite this, he remains committed to the things he can control. Pennington participated in live streams of his performances and moved his entire studio of guitar students to remote instruction. He maintained his connections to others through the use of social media and continued to use it as a tool to share his compositions and instructional content.

Despite the disruptions, Pennington is filled with a new sense of inspiration.

“In the recent months we've shown that as an industry we can adapt and we can pull off some new things really quickly,” said Pennington. “It's been exciting to see everybody is adapting and everybody's going to continue on creating no matter what is thrown at us. ... Everybody's working on improving their art and improving the world around them the best they can.”

He had the chance to develop a lot of new experience in remote instruction. Each week, Pennington teaches 15-20 students of a variety of ages and skill levels. He learned how to teach effectively while using Zoom as his teaching platform and even began to appreciate the new level of efficiency he could have in his lessons.

Whereas before he would spend as long as 30 minutes between lessons driving, through remote instruction, he is able to move seamlessly from one student to the next while enjoying the thrill of the new platform.

“That's one of those things that has popped up to is how exciting virtual instruction is and how much need there is for this in our education system today. … One of the things we can do to improve the quality of education in the United States is to include more virtual instruction, especially for the specialty courses, especially for music,” said Pennington.

He points out how virtual instructional materials, such as videos, can act as a valuable resource to students and enable high-level professionals—the Victor Wooten's and Carlos Santana's of the world—to educate students.

Pennington also maintained a prolific start to the year, releasing two rock 'n' roll singles, “Gypsy Queen” and “Borrowed Soul,” which made its radio debut on WMNF's Traffic Jam on June 1. In addition to these singles, he also released an album of solo acoustic music titled “Daydream Sequence.”

The album brings together a number of compositions he wrote over the years and form a body of work that contrasts with his more heavy rock compositions with large ensembles. Pennington incorporates a variety of guitar techniques that show the versatility of the instrument. It is also his first release to be largely recorded in his own home. With this, he hopes to make the traditions of the guitar accessible to a wider audience.

You can also see Pennington's original compositions in demo videos for instrument manufacturers such as Washburn Guitars, Cort Guitars, and Michael Kelly Guitars.

Never one to sit still for very long, he is eager to share his next recording project, an ambitious album of crafted rock music that represents his current musicality as an artist. The album was scheduled for release in Spring but has since been postponed to a summer release. With the easing of social distancing policies, he is happy to be back in the studio this month and is more eager than before to share his work.

“It's an accurate snapshot of where I'm at right now as an artist, and I want people to see that,” said Pennington. “I want people to know what I've been up to and what I like the most, and see if it resonates with anybody. It's been a long time coming."

For more on Pennington, visit his website or find his recordings on Spotify.