Guitarist brings melodies to Rootstown bene?t

Seth Roy

Guitarist Richard Gilewitz has played with the likes of Steve Mor se, Kenny G and The Indigo Girls. He will be playing a concert to benefit rootstown middleschool tonight.

Credit: Seth Roy

vorite cereal,” Richard Gilewitz said. I spoke with the fingerstyle guitar virtuoso over the phone earlier this week, although the conversation mostly strayed from breakfast foods.

Gilewitz (Gil-a-witz) is coming to Rootstown Middle School for a concert benefiting Rootstown Schools’ bands at 7 tonight.

Gilewitz has been playing guitar for over 30 years and touring for the past 15.

He went to college at the University of Alabama, where he started playing at clubs and open mic nights with friends.

“We were completely unaware of security,” Gilewitz said. They were just happy to be playing.

This is also where he discovered the wonders of flat-picking and classical guitar.

Since his college days, Gilewitz has come a long way. He now owns 16 guitars, including a banjitar, which is a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar. He has released four albums of original and covered material.

“I even put an LP out back when I had hair,” he said, citing a vinyl record he recorded years ago.

In addition to his records, Gilewitz has done many instructional videos and books, including the soon-to-be-released Acoustic Fingerstyle Workshop that popular instructional book publisher Mel Bay will put out later this year. He also hosts many seminars, and even hosted his own guitar camp just this past weekend.

Gilewitz believes there is nothing bad about music, “but there is bad music.”

“Music is great therapy,” he said. “It triggers the imagination. You can teach, entertain or record. (It) is also good to create or ruin sex lives. It’s infectious.”

He has toured and given over 1,000 shows and seminars in seven countries, opening for such established musicians as Kenny G, The Indigo Girls and Steve Morse.

Gilewitz is very interested in the history of guitar, and incorporates that interest into his concerts. He takes his audience on a journey from the music of Bach through the Delta Blues and into more popular music like Jefferson Airplane.

“I try and make it fun,” he said. The concert “is for the general public; age doesn’t seem to matter.”

Gilewitz’s most recent album, Thumbsing, is a soothing journey through many different styles and techniques of music. Each song is instrumental. “I only sing when people annoy me,” he said. He is the only person on his album, and he only plays one instrument, usually a regular acoustic guitar, sometimes a 12-string or his banjitar, on each song.

His inspiration for the title track came from watching the Star Wars parody, Thumb Wars.

“I wondered what I could do with just my right thumb,” Gilewitz said, rather than picking with his whole hand.

He doesn’t use a guitar pick because he “still drop(s) it in the hole” of the acoustic guitar.

Gilewitz has also been featured on the soundtrack to the independent horror film, Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction, in which he also makes his acting debut.

He “stars” as Agent Cupcake, getting a few lines in one scene.

The film is basically a spoof of alien and horror movies, with stereotypical rednecks fending off the aliens. Gilewitz’s character is a spin-off of Agent Smith.

Alien Abduction fits Gilewitz’s slightly off-center sense of humor that he incorporates into his concerts.

His show is largely spontaneous and plays out similar to an episode of VH1’s “Storytellers.”

The concert is being sponsored by Tema Guitars out of Ravenna, as well as the Rootstown Middle School Music Department. Tickets are $10, with proceeds going to the school system’s music program.

Contact pop arts reporter Seth Roy at [email protected].