Durban jazz fans will experience a performance by well – travelled American guitarist and music teacher Gary Wittner at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)’s Howard College Campus on Wednesday the 15 May starting at 18h00. He has worked with some of the big names in the music industry from USA, Poland, Denmark, Ukraine, France, Germany, Iceland and Austria. Now is the turn of Durban to witness a performance by this accomplished guitarist.
When Gary began playing the guitar, he had deep affinity for the blues and was drawn to the music of Rural Blues artists such as Lightning Hopkins and Big Bill Broonzy. He studied at the Berklee College of Music where he began studying and transcribing Thelonious Monk’s music in earnest. Graduating in 1981, Gary moved to Colorado where he began performing all-Monk concerts. After 3 years as a freelance guitarist, Gary began a Master’s Degree program at Washington State University, where he completed his thesis (a study of Monk’s compositional style) in 1986.
From Washington, Gary was offered a faculty position at the University of Maine at Augusta. Based there until 1997, Gary taught and developed courses in Jazz History, Rock and Roll History, Jazz Theory, Ear Training, Music Business, Ensembles, and Private Lessons. He was the Jazz and Contemporary Music Department Coordinator in 1996 and was given the University’s Distinguished Scholar Award the same year. Gary is also an original faculty member of the International Summer Jazz Academy from 1994 – present.
Gary has performed throughout Poland and taught students from Poland, Denmark, Ukraine, France, Germany, Iceland, Austria, and the USA. Since 1997, Gary has divided his time between New York City, where he performs and teaches privately, and Maine where he is a part time jazz guitar and ensemble instructor at the University of Southern Maine, Bowdoin College and Lincoln Academy.
Outside of the university, Gary continued to develop his presentations on the music and life Thelonius Monk. To date, he has presented this program at clubs and universities throughout the USA and in Canada, Poland, Russia, England, Wales, Austria, France and South Africa. Gary has been featured by many artists in concerts including Christian McBride, Reggie Workman, Richard Davis, Eddie Gomez, Clark Terry, Art Lande to name a few. He has performed for the Monk family, and been interviewed on the radio with Thelonious Monk, Jr. Gary’s first book “Thelonious Monk for Guitar”, published by the Hal Leonard Corp was released internationally in 1999 and has received international acclaim.
Additional articles have been published by Guitar Player, Coda, and the International Association of Jazz Educators Journal. Gary (as a member of the New York based Trio W.A.G.) has twice been chosen as a Kennedy Center/U.S. Department and tours of Serbia/Montenego/Slovenia (2001) and Papua New Guinea/Fiji (2003).
In 2006, Gary received grants from the International Association of Jazz Educators and the Maine Arts Commission for performances/clinics at the South African National Arts Festival and the University of Cape Town. Gary has also developed a program that he presents for lower, middle and high school students called “Our American Musical Heritage”. This presentation is both entertaining and informative, and has become very popular with students and faculty members.
For the UKZN concert, his band will feature Dalisu Ndlanzi on bass, Salim Washington on saxophone, and Bruce Baker on drums. The cover charge is R80 for general public, R50 for pensioners and R25 for students.