Sunday was a perfect day for jazz. The easy going tunes created the ultimate relaxing environment that we all needed during this time. Needless to say, this concert was utterly delightful. Pete Billmann, jazz guitarist and faculty member at UW-Milwaukee, joined our series on November 1st. He serenaded us with standard jazz repertoire and gave us insight into the role of a transcriptionist.
A professional musician of over 25 years, Pete Billmann has maintained an active performing schedule throughout the Milwaukee area and the Midwest. He attended the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992, earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies with honors. Mr. Billmann has studied with several renowned jazz artists including Richard Davis, Gene Bertoncini, Berkeley Fudge, fellow UW-Milwaukee staff member Don Linke, as well as classical guitarists Benjamin Verdery and Javier Calderon. In addition to performing, Pete has also been one of the top guitar transcriptionists for Hal Leonard Publishing, and his work has been featured in dozens of guitar magazines and publications worldwide. As a guitar instructor, Pete Billmann has served on the faculty at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, was a guest clinician at numerous schools and colleges throughout Wisconsin, and has also taught privately for over 30 years. Mr. Billmann joined the UW-Milwaukee Guitar Department in 2007.
Pete played tunes by Jimmy Van Heusen, Eric Clapton, Wes Montgomery, and other works by influential jazz composers and guitarists. He shared that one of the hardest things about writing instrumental music is coming up with a name for the song prior to playing “Fried Pies” by Wes Montgomery. As a transcriptionist for Hal Leonard, he has big responsibilities including transcribing works by Jimmy Hendrix which he mentioned is incredibly difficult due to Hendrix’s squeaks, feedback and intentional missed notes. Pete is most proud of transcribing the complete works of Robert Johnson, a historical Delta blues guitarist who died in 1938, as there are only two hours worth of recorded material that he had to work with.
Someone in the audience asked for advice on what someone should do if they are just starting out on guitar. His response? Make sure to get a real, in-person instructor. There are plenty of online resources that allow a beginner to start, but a real instructor can offer much more guidance and support.
Thank you, Pete Billmann for adding chill, jazzy vibes into our series! We all needed your music on Sunday and are so grateful that you shared it with us.
Make sure to join us again on November 15th for another special guest in our series. The next mystery musician did her first headlining Europe tour last year–so cool!