Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Foundation’

Chris Siebold: Lessons This Guitar Virtuoso Learned

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The versatile, Chicago-based musician reflects on his Elmhurst College days, and how the Gretsch Foundation helped him grow as a student, teacher, and professional musician.

By Ron Denny

Chris Siebold is one of the most versatile musicians working in the business today. Pick a genre–be it rock, jazz, swing, blues, or even bluegrass–and Chris can play it with authority on his guitar or any number of other stringed instruments: mandolin, mandocello, hammer dulcimer, banjo, or even lap steel. Oh, and he can also sing, produce, and is a highly gifted composer and arranger.

The Howard Levy and Chris Siebold Duo. Levy (left) is a legendary harmonica and piano virtuoso.

This versatility, along with his deep knowledge of music, especially Chicago jazz and blues, has kept this working musician very busy the past 20 years. Chris admits he has a lot of outlets for creativity: solo work, leading the group Psycles that he formed in 2010 with some of Chicago’s finest musicians, performing with legendary harmonica master Howard Levy, and playing with The Unknown New, an instrumental folk group or with Lennon’s Tuba, a new two-man guitar and bass duo he just recently formed.

Without a doubt, Chris’s biggest test of his musical chops and versatility has been as a member of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show band the past two years. “It’s been a dream job, playing and traveling with a world-class band and creating music each week that is truly Americana in feel and texture,” Chris said. “That’s the music I absolutely adore. My heroes were Chet Atkins and Les Paul, and Charlie Christian on the jazz side of things. They were just fantastic pickers. And, Willie Nelson. I was also a huge Willie Nelson fan growing up.”

Performing with the House Band for A Prairie Home Companion.

A HOME FILLED OF MUSIC

When asked to describe his home and childhood, Chris summed it up in two words: very musical.

“I owe all of my musical inspiration, identity, and ambition to my parents,” he said. “My mother was a piano player and my dad was a professional drummer at one point. He also played guitar. He was a folkie, but he was also a jazz drummer. I grew up with Buddy Rich and Chick Corea and Santana and the Beatles. Music was always on. Pretty much all the time.”

Thanks to his dad’s vast record collection, Chris admits to rifling through it on a regular basis; sneaking albums up to his bedroom for a closer listen and to read the liner notes. “Yes, I would steal my dad’s records. Chuck Mangione, Sinatra, Dave Brubeck, Joe Morello, Miles Davis, The Modern Jazz Quarter, and many big bands. I’ve had the big band sound in my head for a very long time,” Chris shared. “I think a lot of people rebel against the music their parents listen to, but I was all over it. I just thought it was wonderful.”

MEETING HIS MENTOR

When Chris was a high school senior, his band teacher invited Doug Beach from nearby Elmhurst College in for Career Day. Beach was the Director of the college’s Jazz Studies and its internationally-acclaimed Jazz Band, and was also well known for his work as a composer, arranger, and publisher of educational jazz music.

“I was familiar with Doug’s name. His specialty was writing material for student ensembles and big bands, and I had been playing his charts since the eighth grade,” Chris said. Although Chris had received a scholarship from Berklee College of Music in Boston, he decided to stay in the Chicago area and enrolled at Elmhurst. It was a decision he never regretted.

Chris auditioned for the Jazz Band his first year and made it. The following summer, the band participated in a tour of Europe playing the North Sea Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival, and more. Chris enthusiastically described his days in the Elmhurst College Jazz Band as a fantastic and amazing learning experience.

Chris in 1995 playing with jazz legend Clark Terry at the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival.

Elmhurst is also famous for their annual Jazz Festival, bringing in the best college bands in the country, along with legendary musicians, for three days of performances and education. “The school brought in these amazing artists to collaborate with the Jazz Band,” Chris said. “I was playing with pretty fantastic players like Clark Terry, Randy Brecker, Conte Candoli, and Pete Christlieb. It was just a remarkable experience. “

One of the many benefits of attending Elmhurst was the close friendship Chris formed with Doug Beach, who became not only his teacher, but a mentor and role model as well. “I learned from the absolute best,” Chris shared. “Doug established such a culture of excellence at Elmhurst and really led by example. He helped me after college, too, with all the connections and relationships he has established over the years. Looking back, I’m so glad Doug spoke at my high school’s Career Day. I’m also glad I wasn’t sick that day.”

THE GRETSCH ELECTRIC GUITAR ENSEMBLE

Chris playing his Gretsch Duo Jet--his main guitar for the past year.

After graduating in the spring of 1998 with a degree in Music Performance, Chris was asked to join Elmhurst’s Music Department, where he taught jazz guitar and led both the guitar ensemble and the school’s jazz combo.  “I was teaching mainly jazz improvisation. Teaching fret board theory and harmony and obviously chord/scale relationships, and learning tunes as well,” Chris said. “I also led the guitar ensemble; finding or writing charts or having the students write charts. I loved the ensemble. We did two recitals a year. I also ran a jazz combo which was a lot of fun too.”

Several years into his teaching career, Chris and one of the college’s Trustees arranged a meeting with Fred Gretsch, President of the Gretsch Company and an Elmhurst College alumni, at Fred’s office in Savannah, Georgia. Chris was eager to meet Fred because he had been a fan of Gretsch guitars since he was nine-years-old. He’d grown up admiring George Harrison, Neil Young, and especially Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats, who were all over MTV when Chris was growing up in the 1980s.

Chris shared that he and Fred really hit if off and the meeting went better than expected. “Fred agreed to fund the existing guitar ensemble,” Chris said. “Not only that, but he donated a guitar to the college and let me hand pick it from his studio guitar collection. I’d much rather Fred had donated it to me, because it’s a beautiful Gretsch Country Gentleman Jr., just a fantastic sounding guitar.”

With the donation, Elmhurst’s guitar ensemble was officially named the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, which Chris led for the next seven years. “Having the Gretsch name attached to the ensemble really helped to establish it and give it an identity,” Chris said. “The funding also helped publicize our concerts, which were two per semester, and get exposure and recognition. There wasn’t YouTube or social media around in those days.”

LIFE LESSONS LEARNED

In addition to learning what he called the “nuts and bolts” of music theory, Chris said his four years at Elmhurst and being around his mentor, Doug Beach, also prepared him for becoming a working musician. “The discipline of playing music to the best of your ability; playing in an ensemble, being a member of the team in a sense, and then feeling what it’s actually like to be a working musician,” Chris explained. “Doing gigs. Getting there on time. Having a good attitude. Making sure you’re prepared with the material you’re about to play. Making sure you’re professional. Making sure you do your fair share of lugging equipment afterwards. I did that for four years. It was a remarkable experience. One that I am so thankful for.”

Chris also realizes how much he and other music students have benefitted from Fred and Dinah Gretsch’s generosity to Elmhurst College. By leading the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, Chris knows it made him a better arranger; tackling complex, advanced works ranging from jazz standards to Mozart.  And, Chris admits he also continued learning as he taught students the importance of listening, blending in, and knowing and finding your place within an ensemble of up to six guitars and a rhythm section. Not an easy skill to learn.

The Gretsch Foundation also funded the Sylvia and William Gretsch Memorial Recording Studio, named in memory of Fred’s parents. This state-of-the-art studio is considered a central element of Elmhurst’s music education program and played a critical role in Chris’s education. “When I was a student, I worked in the studio quite a bit for other people and on some of my own music,” Chris said. “And, when I was a teacher, I would sometimes have rehearsals in there or I would sit in and produce some sessions that students would do. I used it a lot. And, learned a lot about the art of recording.”

Chris is just one of hundreds of Elmhurst College alumni to be positively impacted by Fred and Dinah Gretsch’s goal of supporting music education and enriching lives through participation in music. When asked to reflect back on his years at Elmhurst, Chris said, “My Elmhurst College days, both as a student and a teacher for nine years, were quite an experience. It’s very much responsible for me being where I’m at today. It’s who I am. A lot of the culture that I participated in has really made me the musician that I am. Without a question.”

About The Gretsch Foundation and Elmhurst College

The Gretsch Foundation is the charitable arm of the Gretsch family, whose mission is enriching lives through participation in music. In addition to funding the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble and Sylvia and William Gretsch Memorial Recording Studio, the Gretsch Foundation also funds scholarships for students of music and music business, provides Gretsch drums for all music department ensembles, and is a major supporter of the annual Elmhurst College High School Invitational Jazz Festival, which is a regular part of the nationally-acclaimed Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. In honor of his longtime commitment and generosity to his alma mater, Fred Gretsch received an honorary Doctor of Music degree at the school’s Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremony.

Video Clips:

Chris performing his beautiful song “Amor Afastado (for Britt)” on A Prairie Home Companion.

Playing with The Renegades, a popular, entertaining Chicago-area jazz-fusion band. Give a listen to Chris’s blistering solo starting at 2:12.

Chris performing “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” with Chicago’s David Polk Project, a blues, jazz and funk band. Check out Chris’s impressive solo starting at 3:25.

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Fred and Dinah Gretsch Presented With Henry H. Arnold Award

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Fred and Dinah Gretsch Presented With Henry H. Arnold Award and Sponsor First Annual John Calabro Night of the Arts Celebration at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch are presented the Henry H. (Hap) Arnold Award to recognize their support of the John A. Calabro Music and Arts Program at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. From left to right: Brigadier General Timothy Trainor, Dean of the Academic Board; Colonel (Retired) Robert L. McClure, President and CEO, West Point Association of Graduates; Dinah Gretsch, and Fred Gretsch. Photo by Kristin Sorenson, VP of Development, WPAOG.

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Fred and Dinah Gretsch were presented the General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold Award for helping sponsor the First Annual John Calabro Night of the Arts celebration and awards ceremony at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. The April 10 event, coordinated through the Department of English and Philosophy and the Cadet Fine Arts Forum, showcased cadet creativity and talent in music, photography, film, poetry, prose, and fine art.

This year’s event began a new tradition of honoring the late retired Colonel John A. Calabro, Jr., a 1968 USMA graduate and former Academy Professor of English, and Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the West Point Association of Graduates. Calabro, a revered Soldier and scholar, was also an accomplished musician, creative writer, and fine artist, and a strong advocate for the important role the arts played in the overall development of officers. He was a longtime friend of Fred Gretsch, President of the Gretsch Foundation.

“John Calabro was a true Renaissance man, a lifelong learner, and an ideal blend of ‘Athens and Sparta’ here at West Point,” said Gretsch. “We’re very proud that the Gretsch Foundation can support the Music and Arts Program named in John’s honor, and be associated with the United States Military Academy, one of the most respected and historic brands in America for over 200 years.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gretsch were invited to attend the inaugural event at West Point and spent the day touring the museum and many historic buildings at the nation’s oldest continually occupied military post. They enjoyed having lunch with over 4,400 cadets at the Academy’s famous mess hall on the first floor of Washington Hall.

“It was a wonderful experience. How can you not be impressed with the history and tradition of America’s most esteemed military academy,” said Dinah Gretsch. “And the talent and creativity we saw in the cadets, both women and men, at the celebration and awards ceremony was outstanding. The Gretsch Foundation is happy to honor John Calabro’s legacy with this sponsorship.”

The sponsorship not only makes the John Calabro Night of the Arts celebration and awards ceremony an annual event, but also includes an outreach program that will connect members of the Cadet Jazz Forum, the USMA Band’s Jazz Knights, and students from local middle and high schools through music appreciation and performances. This year’s ceremony included a performance by the Jazz Ensemble, a band comprised of USMA cadets and students from West Point Middle School and James I. O’Neill High School.

About the Gretsch Foundation:

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch family, has a mission of enriching lives through participation in music, and has long been involved in music education through its sponsorship of concerts, festivals, clinics, workshops and direct assistance to schools.

In addition to providing music scholarships at Berklee College of Music, Elmhurst College, Georgia Southern University, and the University of West Georgia, the Foundation’s unique GuitarArt program donates guitars to schools for students and major artists to paint, decorate and auction off for fundraising efforts. Please visit www.guitarart.org for more information.

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Gretsch Foundation Underwrites Much-Needed Sound System For Historic South Carolina School

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family, recently underwrote the purchase and installation of a new, state-of-the-art sound system in the auditorium of the 108-year-old Brunson Elementary School in Brunson, S.C.

“We were made aware of this need and wanted to give back to a community near our Ridgeland, South Carolina factory where we’ve been making Gretsch drums for over 30 years,” said Fred Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Foundation. “The goal of the Gretsch Foundation is to enrich lives through participation in music. This small school, known for its fine arts as well as its academics, now has a world-class sound system in their auditorium for the students, parents, and community to enjoy.”

Gretsch said he was able to use industry contacts and had Sweetwater Sounds, Inc. provide the equipment and installation advice. The school received new speakers, an audio mixer, amplifiers, monitors, plus hanging and wireless microphones.

The new system was used for the first time for the school’s recent production of the play, The Ransom of Red Chief. The show also included performances by the school’s Girls Chorus and Blue Steel, the school’s Steel Drum Band.

“Our first show with the new sound system was a big success. The parents were absolutely thrilled,” said Principal Greg Ackerman. “I really do think the sound system added to the students’ confidence. They took a lot of pride in their performance.” Ackerman also shared how important music and arts are for students and said, “People don’t realize the discipline that’s required to learn music and plays. It just makes for a better student.”

The Gretsch Foundation has a long history of helping schools and promoting music participation. In addition to providing music scholarships at Berklee College of Music, Elmhurst College, Georgia Southern University, and the University of West Georgia, the Foundation’s unique GuitarArt program donates used guitars to schools for students and major artists to paint, decorate and auction off for fundraising efforts. It has also donated professional-level Gretsch guitars signed by musicians from bands such as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, Sugarland, and The B-52’s that have also been auctioned to raise funds for various music and arts education programs.

“The Gretsch family has been making drums and guitars for more than 130 years,” added Gretsch. “My wife Dinah and I represent the fourth generation of that family and believe the research that shows how participating in music helps children excel in all areas of learning. When we heard about this school’s specific need, and with all the budget cuts, we decided to step up and make a difference.”

Gretsch also said that the gift of the new sound system has perhaps sparked the generosity of others in the Brunson community. He was recently told that a parent wanted to donate 200 chairs to the school. “Maybe a seed has been planted in the community,” said Gretsch. “I couldn’t be happier for these students. They deserve it.”

Students from Brunson Elementary School's Steel Drum Band

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Christmas 4 Kids Gretsch Guitar Auction 2012

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

The 11th annual Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Christmas 4 Kids Benefit Concert was held on November 19 at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Gretsch Foundation once again provided another classic guitar–the G6118T Anniversary.  This guitar had been in the Gretsch Foundation collection for 10 years and was often used for photographic assignments.  It was modeled after the 1958 75th Anniversary guitar, which had an ultra-cool, two-tone smoke green finish, straight from that era’s Cadillac and featured a “G”-cutout tailpiece.  The Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Concert is the cornerstone of Christmas 4 Kids’ fundraising efforts.

Warren Thinn with Dinah & Fred Gretsch

A big “congratulations” goes out to new owner of this guitar, Warren Thinn, who won the silent auction with a bid of $5,700.

For over twenty years, Christmas 4 Kids has given the joy of Christmas to thousands of Middle Tennessee children who might not otherwise experience it. Each December, local businesses, volunteers, celebrities, recording artists, and their bus drivers set aside two days from their busy schedules for these special children.  Learn more about this great organization at the Christmas 4 Kids website.

Visit the Gretsch Foundation website to learn more about “Enriching Lives Through Participation in Music”.

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Savannah Folk Music Festival a Great Success

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

FROM THE SAVANNAH FOLK MUSIC SOCIETY:

The Annual Savannah Folk Music Festival began with a huge crowd in attendance at 7 pm on Friday, October 12 in Ellis Square with”FOLKFEST” showcasing Savannah Folk Music Society Members. The large audience, seated all around ELLIS Square and in the courtyard at City Market, was entertained with a variety of different styles of music from the many genres that make up folk music.  Savannah Folk Music Society President Chris Desa opened the show and Jim McGaw, Lauren Lapointe, Cynergy, and Pace Brothers performed for and were applauded by an appreciative audience of local area residents and out of town visitors who enjoyed the show.  The best part was the ticket price. . . “ F R E E“.

Noteworthy Art and More Auctions, Friday, October 12 & Sunday October, 14 (Ellis Square & Grayson Stadium)

Chris Desa and Fred Gretsch with Alison Krauss & Union Station signed Gretsch Guitar Auctioned During Festival

All 14 guitars, generously donated by the GRETSCH FOUNDATION and some of which were artfully transformed by local Savannah artists (see below), were sold at silent auction during the Friday and Sunday events.  One brand new playable Gretsch Historic Series guitar, signed by all performers at the Sunday concert was auctioned and sold on October 14 at Grayson Stadium.

Youth Songwriting Competition, Saturday, October 13

The Youth songwriting competition, with $1,000 in prizes sponsored by Portman’s Music Superstore was held at Stewart Hall, First Presbyterian church where 3 finalists performed their original songs.  Declan Berkley of Savannah won First Prize – a $500 gift certificate for his song “North Pike Island”, Catherine Altomare also of Savannah placed second and received a gift certificate of $300 and Kent Woods of Ridgeland, SC was third and received gift certificate of $200.

Blues Guitar Workshop with Doug Macleod, Saturday, October 13

Immediately following the songwriting competition, a two-hour acoustic blues guitar workshop was hosted by headliner DOUG MACLEOD with about 12 local guitarists and listeners in attendance.  It was a great opportunity for attendees to spend quality time and learn from one of the best blues performers in the country.

Old Time Country Dance, Saturday, October 13

Savannah Arts Academy gym was decorated with numerous colorful quilts in preparation for the Festival Dance, which was again very well attended by nearly 250 people.  The “Curley Maple” Band provided excellent music throughout the evening which veteran dance caller Janet Shepherd relied on to “call” and guide novices and veterans alike through a myriad of contras, squares, waltzes, and circle dances.

Concert at Grayson Stadium, Sunday, October 14

The Sunday Festival Concert began on schedule in Grayson Stadium with Deidre McCalla, Curley Maple, Al Petteway & Amy White, and Doug Macleod each performing two sets for the benefit of audience members who could attend only a portion of the concert.  It was a treat to see long time fans of the performers position themselves at vantage seats in the stands to get a close up view.  Every artist gave a stellar performance to an appreciative and attentive audience scattered all over the stands behind home plate at Grayson Stadium.

The Youth Songwriting Competition winner Declan Berkley performed his winning song “North Pike Island” on stage at the Sunday Concert.

Overall, the festival was a great success and next year we will be back again in our usual location at Grayson Stadium said Chris Desa.  The collective efforts of SFMS leadership, members, volunteers, and numerous sponsors is greatly appreciated.

Major Festival Sponsors

City of Savannah Leisure Services Bureau: Dept of Cultural Affairs

The Gretsch Foundation

Portman’s Music Superstore

Quality Rock Q 105.3

Brighter Day Natural Foods

For more information about the Savannah Folk Music Society, call (912) 898-1876 or visit www.savannahfolk.org.

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Four of the beautiful art guitars auctioned during the festival:

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Gretsch Celebrates Its Heritage at Elmhurst Jazz Festival

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Gretsch drums have enjoyed an inseparable link with jazz music for generations. Jazz drumming greats of the past—including Tony Williams, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones—made their reputations on Gretsch drums. Likewise, contemporary jazz stars like Bill Stewart, Cindy Blackman-Santana, and Keith Carlock find their musical expression through That Great Gretsch Sound.

In addition to the legacy of the past and present, Gretsch is also keenly concerned with the future of jazz. In an effort to promote that future, Gretsch Drums and the Gretsch Family recently lent instrumental and financial support to the 45th annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. Elmhurst is the alma mater of current Gretsch Company president Fred W. Gretsch, and the Gretsch Family has a long history of philanthropic support of college activities.

The Elmhurst College Jazz Festival

Each February, the best college jazz bands in the country converge on Elmhurst’s Chicago-suburb campus for three days of performances and education. The bands take turns performing for some of the greatest names in professional jazz today, who offer critiques and award a variety of honors. The professionals cap off each night of the Festival with a rousing performance of their own. The list of performers and adjudicators at this year’s festival included the Jeff Hamilton Trio, Elmhurst College Jazz Faculty member Mark Colby, Denis DiBlasio, Frank Greene, the Elmhurst College Jazz Band, the North Texas State University One O’clock Jazz Band, and The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

One of the many combos that performed during the four-day Jazz Festival.

As a tangible expression of Gretsch’s support for jazz education, all of the performance stages at the Elmhurst Festival were supplied with professional-quality Gretsch drum sets. So in addition to gaining the wisdom imparted by the Festival’s artist/clinicians, students got to experience for themselves the musical joy that only comes from performing on a Gretsch kit.

Taking Support To The High School Level

Gretsch’s support of the Elmhurst Festival didn’t stop at the college-band level. After a Festival hiatus of more than twenty years, a full day was devoted to the Elmhurst College High School Invitational Jazz Festival. This clinic/performance program for high school jazz bands was underwritten by a generous grant from the Sylvia & William W. Gretsch Memorial Foundation (named for the parents of Fred W. Gretsch).

The participating bands came from across Illinois.  They included York High School, Wheeling High School, Hersey High School, St. Charles North High School, and Champaign Central High School. Each was given forty minutes total stage time:  twenty minutes of performance and twenty minutes to work with the judges in a clinic-style setting.  All bands were in the audience listening when not warming up. As a result, each band had the benefit of hearing not only their comments from the judges, but also critiques from three other sessions. Most importantly, the students had the great fortune to perform for and work with some of the greatest American musicians of our time:  Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano), and Christoph Luty (bass).  The experience will surely have a lasting impact on their musical lives.

Jeff Hamilton and Mark Colby address the St. Charles North Jazz Ensemble while the Jeff Hamilton Trio members look on before addressing the group.

Outstanding musician awards were given by the judges, and each band director was given comment sheets to review with their band members.  At the end of the afternoon, the students were treated to a concert by the three judges and the Elmhurst College Jazz Band.  They also received wristbands that allowed them entry to the rest of the college performances as well as the Friday-evening performance of the Jeff Hamilton Trio with the Elmhurst College Jazz Band.  This was a perfect opportunity for budding high school musicians to experience music from up to thirty-seven different college groups from all around the United States.

Response from the high school band directors was universally positive, leading the organizers of the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival to plan on adding the High School Festival day to the overall program for the future. Said Elmhurst College music department chairman Pete Griffin, “We look forward to many years of touching teenagers through music and inspiring them to continue on their educational journey with jazz.”

The Gretsch Foundation—and the Gretsch Family—is proud to help those teenagers on that musical journey by supporting the Elmhurst College High School Invitational Jazz Festival. That support is a tangible illustration of the Gretsch Family’s mission statement, which is to “enrich lives through participation in music.”

Photo above:  Participating directors and Doug Beach in front of one of the Gretsch sets used at the Festival.  From left to right: Scott Casagrande (Hersey High School; Arlington Heights), Bill Riddle (York High School; Elmhurst), Doug Beach (Elmhurst College), Jim Stombres and John Wojciechowski (St. Charles North High School; St. Charles), John Currey (Champaign Central High School; Champaign), (seated) Brian Logan (Wheeling High School; Wheeling).

For more information on Elmhurst College and the Jazz Festival, visit their website.

For more information on The Gretsch Foundation, click here.

Savannah Folk Music Festival Great Success

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

From the Savannah Folk Music Society–

The Annual Savannah Folk Music Festival began with a huge crowd in attendance at 7 pm on Friday, October 7, in Ellis Square with “FOLKFEST” showcasing Savannah Folk Music Society Members. The large audience, seated all around ELLIS Square and in the courtyard at City Market was entertained with a variety of different styles of music from the many genres that make up folk music. The Old Folkers, Jean Paul and Dominique Carton, Jamison Murphy, Hanson & Amburgey, Michael Maddox and Savannah Folk Music Society President Chris Desa performed for and were applauded by an appreciative audience of local area residents and out of town visitors who enjoyed the show.  The best part was the ticket price . . . FREE.

Chris Desa (left) and Fred Gretsch (right) on WTOC11

On October 5th, Chris Desa and Fred Gretsch were hosted by local TV station WTOC on “Mid-Morning Live” to promote the festival and acknowledge the continued generosity and support of the GRETSCH FOUNDATION, with their donations of guitars for the Noteworthy Art Auction, which is the largest fund raiser for the festival. The entire interview and an abridged version of Chris’s rendition of Chet Aktins’ favorite tune “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” can be viewed here.

Noteworthy Art and More Auctions

Friday, October 7, and Sunday, October 9 (Ellis Square and Forsyth Park)

All 14 guitars, generously donated by the GRETSCH FOUNDATION were sold at silent auction during the Friday and Sunday events. One brand new playable Gretsch Historic Series guitar, signed by all performers at the Sunday concert, was auctioned and sold on October 9th at Forsyth Park.

Collage Created by Helen Weitz

Additionally, a special multimedia art collage, created by Helen Weitz, was sold to the highest bidder on Sunday.

Saturday Old Time Country Dance:  October 8th

Notre Dame Academy Gym was decorated with numerous colorful quilts in preparation for the Festival Dance, which was again very well attended by nearly 250 people, which also included a newlywed couple (regulars at SFMS dances) and their wedding party. The April Verch Band provided excellent music throughout the evening with veteran dance caller Janet Shepherd relied on to “call” and guide novices and veterans alike through a myriad of contras, squares, waltzes, and circle dances. April also gave the dancers a demonstration of her excellent dancing and fiddle-playing skills.

Sunday Concert at Forsyth Park: October 9th

Despite the threatening inclement weather, due to a developing gale offshore, the Festival began on schedule in Forsyth Park with Four Shillings Short, Boo Hanks, April Verch Band, and Tom Chapin each performing two sets for the benefit of audience members who could attend only a portion of the concert. It was a treat to see longtime fans of the performers position themselves on the grass in beautiful Forsyth Park, with small picnics and lawn chairs facing the band shell. Many others chose the steps in front of the fountain to gain a closer and better view. Every artiste gave a stellar performance to an appreciative and attentive audience scattered all over Forsyth Park

The wind and rain came down in full force for the latter half of the festival when Four Shillings Short and Boo Hanks took the stage for their second set, but many of the “die hard” folk music fans in rain coats and umbrellas stayed put. The remaining devoted audience members were invited onto the stage under the shelter of the band shell, for an up-close-and-personal concert for the second set of The April Verch Band and Tom Chapin.

Overall, the festival was a great success and next year we will be back in our usual location at Grayson Stadium, which was unavailable to us this year due to a previous commitment by the Sand Gnats said Chris Desa. The collective efforts of our SFMS leadership, members, volunteers, and numerous sponsors are greatly appreciated.

Major Festival Sponsors

City of Savannah Leisure Services Bureau:  Dept of Cultural Affairs

The Gretsch Foundation

Portman’s Music Superstore/ Brighter Day Natural Foods / The River-FM 98.7

For more information call (912) 355-7172 or visit www.savannahfolk.org.

Gretsch Foundation Supports Savannah Folk Music Fest

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The Gretsch Foundation—the charitable arm of The Gretsch Family—is proud to support the 2011 Savannah Folk Music Festival. The event will present concert performances in Savannah’s Ellis Square on Friday, October 7, and in Forsythe Park on Sunday, October 9. In addition, an old-time country dance will be held at the Notre Dame Academy gym on Saturday, October 8.

The Festival serves as a showcase for the quality and diversity in musical talent found among members of the Savannah Folk Music Society. Performances will span the range of traditional, old-time, blues, international, folk revival, and contemporary musical styles. All events are free and open to the public.

"The Garden" by Barbara Gentry

In support of the Festival, the Gretsch Foundation has donated fourteen Historic Series acoustic guitars that have been individually and originally painted, carved, and sculpted by some of Savannah’s most creative and talented artists. All fourteen of these Art Guitars will be sold at silent auction during the Friday and Sunday concert events at Ellis Square and Forsythe Park.

The Sunday concert will also feature a second special auction, at which a playable Gretsch guitar—signed by all the performers—will be the prize item.

“Goodnight Irene” by Joni Bishop

According to Fred Gretsch, president of the Savannah-based Gretsch Company, “Gretsch guitars have been an important element of folk music for generations. So I’m proud that fifteen uniquely crafted Gretsch guitars will be a part of this year’s Folk Music Festival.” Fred himself is currently scheduled to promote the Festival with a personal appearance on WTOC Channel 11’s Mid Morning Live program on Wednesday, October 5.

"Trumpeting the Spring" by Kathy Miller

The Gretsch Art Guitar exhibit is viewable from now until October 7 at the Ellis Square Visitor Center in downtown Savannah. The Center is open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Photos of the guitars are also available for viewing at the Savannah Folk Music Festival’s website.

For more information about the Savannah Folk Music Festival, including performer names and schedules, go to the “Festival” page at savannahfolk.org.