Neil Caulkins

Kittitas County deputy prosecutor Neil Caulkins and his wife Tamara created the Guitars in the Gallery series three years ago. They will be playing the Nov. 16-17 concert at Gallery One in Ellensburg and the Fire on Main Gallery in Soap Lake.

Neil Caulkins’ profession and his passion are as different as day and night, East and West.

By day, Caulkins is a Kittitas County deputy prosecutor that’s been licensed for 18 years and lives in Ellensburg with his wife, Tamara. But his creative side, his passion, includes the sounds of the classical guitar. He has a masters degree in music from the University of Washington and studied at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid.

It was his love of classical guitar that took him all the way to China this past summer where he presented a lecture/recital on the early 19th-century performance practice of improvised preludes July 17 at the International Guitar Research Centre’s conference as part of the Altamira Hong Kong International Guitar Symposium in Hong Kong, China.

“It was nice to meet this group of scholars from all over the world, including England, France, Australia, as well as several from right there in Hong Kong,” said Caulkins, who was making his second trip to China. “It was a festival of largely Western classical music. My presentation was on early 19th century practice of the improvised preludes.

“I shared about what the methods say about practice and played written down examples of these preludes. Then, I talked about how one can reintroduce this practice.”

Where composers and performers from the 19th Century were tremendous improvisers as outlined in method books from the time. The modern classical music stage has focused on the standard and not deviating from it, said Caulkins, who has been playing 55 years.

“Classical music is not an easy thing to define,” he said. “It comes from the fine art tradition, so it’s not pop or folk music. It’s more chamber works or that type of thing.

“It’s technically different. The guitar has a wider neck with nylon strings. You play with the fingernails of the right hand. It’s very involved, both right and left hand, It’s much, much more challenging.”

Neil and Tamara created the Guitar in the Gallery concert series three years ago as a recital series and way to get out and play. Gallery One got involved and it is now in it’s third season.

“We definitely choose who we want to bring in and we have the 2020-21 season already penciled in,” he said. “It’s fun to see how the series has been received. It started as something for Sunday afternoons in Ellensburg.

“Then we connected with the Fire on Main Gallery in Soap Lake to do a Saturday evening show. It’s just lovely, now we bring in someone to play Saturday night in Soap Lake and Sunday afternoon in Ellensburg. Tammy and I always take the November show so people don’t have to deal with the weather in their travels.”

This year’s season opened in October with the work of Mark Wilson. It continues Nov. 16-17 with the music of Scott Kritzer, who has been featured in Japan’s Guitar Magazine, London’s Classical Guitar Magazine and Guitar International as well as in Soundboard Magazine of the Guitar Foundation of America and Guitar Player Magazine.

“I’m really excited about this lineup. Scott (Kritzer) is amazing with his presentation and style,” Caulkins said. “Jessica Papkoff is pretty special. I’m really excited about Oleg Timofeyev coming in May (2020).

“Oleg is one of the few experts in the Russian 7-string guitar, which is a whole different creature. It’s tuned completely differently and he has this huge repertoire from the early 18th century.”

For a look at Tamara and Neil Caulkins visit


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