Music of Leo Kottke Workshop

Finger-style guitar style students have had to travel to Milwaukee for the Music of Leo Kottke Workshop. But the 12th annual workshop will be held in Ellensburg Sept. 26-28 at the Central Washington University student union building.

There’s a couple of things different about the 12th annual Music of Leo Kottke Guitar Workshop this year.

For starters, the three-day, 14-hour extensive workshop for guitar players of all levels is in Ellensburg for the first time. But maybe the best part of learning how to play music by the Guitar Players Hall of Famer is that the price of the registration includes a ticket to hear the man play it live when Kottke makes his Ellensburg debut Friday night (Sept. 27) at the Wayne S. Hertz Concert Hall at Central Washington University.

For a guitarist, to be able to study the legend’s work, see the man do it live, then take it back to the room and try it some more is like having Russell Wilson help you with your passing game. Where previous workshops have included a multimedia lecture and presentations on compositions, and technique through a rare archival video, guitarists in the Pacific Northwest will get the chance to watch and say, “How does he do that?” when they see it live.

“With this being the first time we’ve ever had the workshop outside Milwaukee, the response has been delightful,” instructor John Stropes said, who is a leading authority on finger-style guitar and director of guitar studies at the Peck School of Arts at UW-Milwaukee.

“It’s nice to get the response we’ve had. I started working with Leo Kottke in the early ‘80s and it’s been a great pleasure. We’ve developed a number of different teaching materials. We’ve had a opportunity to break it down to work with people on many different levels. Even people that are just getting started can take away something very valuable.”

The Music of Leo Kottke Guitar Workshop begins on Sept. 26, runs all day Sept. 27 and concludes on Sept. 28. There are currently 32 registered with the youngest being 16 and the oldest 70 years old. People who previously traveled to Milwaukee are now on their way to Ellensburg from as far away as Alaska or South Carolina, New York and Vermont or Arizona. Stropes said several are coming out West from Wisconsin for the three days with some of the best instruction in the world.

Kottke’s blend of jazz, rock, bluegrass and Appalachian folk has put him center stage for a finger-style approach for decades He was voted Best Folk Guitarist for five consecutive years by the readers of “Guitar Player Magazine” and “Performance Magazine’s” Best Instrumentalist.

His delivery on guitar may look like a sea of fingers fluttering at mind boggling speed, but it’s calculated genius that seems to combine the sound of John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Mississippi John Hurt all at once.

Kottke was inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame in 1978 and had a couple of Grammy nominations in 1988 and 1991. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in music performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts.

He’s earned his stripes, laying it down hot and just keeps on ticking. Now Stropes and others are helping the next generation of guitar players in their journey using extensively edited written music specifically designed to address the needs of players of all levels.

Registration includes printed music for four compositions by Kottke, “The Tennessee Toad,” “Jib’s Hat,” “Short Wave,” and “William Powell.”


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