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What Makes an Artist?

  • What Makes an Artist?

    Chatting with Matthew Rotker-Lynn

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    At 22, guitarist Matthew Rotker-Lynn, from Milwaukee, WI, is a rising star on the New York jazz scene. He started playing guitar at the age of 8, inspired by his father’s taste in music and the many recordings he was hearing around the house. As a high school student, he was a member of the Downbeat award winning Jazz Lab combo and was introduced to more challenging material in his studies with UW-Milwaukee professor Don Linke. A multi-instrumentalist, Matthew was the winner of the prestigious Wilson Center International Guitar Competition in 2015, recipient of the Jah Jerry Scholarship, the Chuck Hedges Scholarship, and the Bob Kames Scholarship for Music. He has already played with greats such as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Steve Wilson, Mike LeDonne, Rich Perry, Joe Farnsworth, Rodney Green, Ray Gallon, and Joe Sanders.

  • What Makes an Artist?

    Has the word “jazz” has become impotent?

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    Why do otherwise intelligent and talented musicians allow themselves to be used by the “posers” to play a mediocre approximation of what this wonderful music could be.

    Why wouldn’t any capable musician come to a jazz gig ready to play at their highest level instead of being complicit and diluting the art?

    Ultimately isn’t the highest level how you’d want to play, and what the audience would want to hear?

    Why would any “player” compromise themselves and compensate for lesser musicians when they should be expecting everyone on stage to play the highest level? And if they can’t do it simply fire those NPMFs. Lesson learned.

    Is it the money? I don’t think so, especially not if it’s $50 bucks. Is it an ego driven need to be on stage? Maybe. Is it a mendacious concern for the feelings of lesser musicians? I’ve certainly witnessed that. Is it fear of appearing elitist? Is it a lack of confidence in your own ability? I don’t know? I’d actually love to hear your thoughts.

    This issue is obviously not as black and white as my rant would suggest, but this is a real problem in the jazz community.

    Maybe the word jazz has become impotent?

    Maybe we should (as Terence Blanchard proports) call the “real thing” black American art music?

    Have we become satisfied with a bland representation of this amazing Art?

    I sure haven’t!

  • What Makes an Artist?

    Conversation with Classical Guitarist Elina Chekan

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    Elina (Ella) Chekan is currently teaching classical guitar at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she also directs the Suzuki and Pre-College Guitar Program.

    A native of Minsk, Belarus, Ella began studying guitar at the age of 13 with Valeriy Gromov. She graduated from Minsk Music College in 1994, and the Belarus Academy of Music in 1999 under Eugene Gridiushko with a degree in Classical Guitar Performance, Orchestral Conducting, and Guitar Pedagogy.

    In the year 2000 Ella entered Yale University where she received the Louis and Anne Rosoff award and graduated with a degree in Classical Guitar Performance with professor Ben Verdery.

    Combining active performance and teaching careers, Ella has appeared as a soloist, and chamber musician throughout the United States and abroad.

    Some of this year’s appearances include Chamber Music Milwaukee Series, Brussels Royal Museum of Musical Instrument in Belgium, Tucson Classical Guitar Society, Mannes College Guitar Festival in New York.

    In her teaching Ella believes in the individualized approach to every student with tailored instruction based on student needs. Mrs. Chekan has extensive knowledge of guitar pedagogy and repertoire, and has experienced first hand different guitar schools of thought. Ella is also a certified Suzuki instructor registered with the Suzuki Association of Americas. All this experience allows her to find unique approaches and repertoire for each of her students, giving them a solid foundation in technique and musicianship at an early stage.

    Along with conducting Ella has arranged a wide variety of music for solo and chamber music. Since 2005, Ella is on the faculty at “Usdan Center for the Performing Arts” in Long Island, NY. In addition to teaching and performing at USDAN, she conducts the guitar orchestra with up to sixty performers.

    In her quest for present-day student repertoire, Ella comissioned composer Jorge Morel to write a series of student repertoire solo and ensemble pieces that is published by Mel Bay. In her believe that young players are our future, Ella is working with musicians and composers encouraging them to write appealing and musically interesting pieces for the young generation of guitarists.

    Renowned Argentinean Composer Jorge Morel dedicated to Ms. Chekan his composition “Campañas” published by Mell Bay in “The Magnificent Guitar of Jorge Morel”.

    Ella Chekan performs on a John Price guitar and uses Savarez strings.

  • What Makes an Artist?

    What Makes an Artist? – The Manifesto

    Hello my name is Don Linke and I’m here in Milwaukee WI where I’ve spent the last 45 years or so as a professional musician and university instructor learning what I believe it takes to legitimately call oneself an Artist. During this time my growth rings have been quite consistent. However, lacking anything that might be regarded as genius, it’s taken most of those years to reach my goal. Now having the confidence to describe myself as an Artist, I’m dismayed at how often I hear the words artist and art describing people and things that clearly do not measure up to any credible standard. Look, on first hearing you might think “who’s this guy to say what is or isn’t anything?” You may be right but here’s the plan…

    Along with some great friends, fellow musicians and you the audience we’re going to discuss, debate, maybe negotiate and ultimately celebrate what goes into the making of an artist, ergo Art.

    Knowledge, commitment, discipline, passion, pride, respect, accountability, confidence, perseverance, tenacity, affirmation and reaffirmation.

    These descriptive words are all represented in the constitution of an artist. They describe less about the final work, and more about the “how” factor that goes into creating that certain painting, recording or particular performance.

    The great jazz pianist Bill Evans said (I’m paraphrasing) “Jazz isn’t the what it’s the “how”. So it’s not that you can play a certain tune, it’s how you play it that counts”.

    I think we might all agree it’s not a million views on YouTube that defines what art is and you won’t find your inner artist by gazing admiringly in the mirror.

    Michelangelo’s David is one thing, Those wooden cut out silhouettes on sale along the highway are another; they both certainly exist but I think we’d agree one is more “art” than the other. I’d like to get deeper into the differences, again not to denigrate the pop world but to celebrate the art world.

    I do think this “how” thing is what we are allowing to erode. I don’t think dumbing down or excessive inclusion is the solution to success in the arts. My guests and I along with you guys tuning in will investigate and critique what the artists themselves have to share in hopes of stimulating more interest and enthusiasm for the artists among of us.

    Here’s the thing. Anyone can be anything they want to be; but maybe not everyone can be everything they want to be, just cause they “wanna be”. Vision without execution is an illusion.

    So. If you’re an artist, want to be an artist, or you’re interested in artists… Join us and add some, or get some insight as to what it takes to be an artist.