Michael Kollwitz is one of the pioneer players of a relatively little-known American stringed instrument known as The Chapman Stick®. Capable of astounding expressiveness and simultaneous multi-part arrangements, ‘The Stick’ combines elements of guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion into one instrument that is played more like a piano than a guitar. Currently, Michael has had 23 independent releases. The music from his last three albums, ‘Serenity, I, II & III’ have received considerable international airplay, many nominations and are also being played on airlines and in hospitals.
In April 2018 ‘Serenity II’ made its debut at #8 on the Billboard Top Ten New Age Albums chart and received Grammy nomination consideration. Since then ‘Serenity II has also received nominations for Best New Age Album of 2018 from the Independent Music Awards and Best Instrumental Acoustic Album of 2018 from Zone Music Reporter. In January and February 2019, ‘Serenity III’ debuted in the Top 5 of all three of the world’s major New Age charts starting with Billboard at #3 in January before moving up to #2 in February. Carlos Santana once ‘blessed’ Michael’s music on The Stick in Hawaii and called it “a gift of the heart” that made him feel good. ￼
Top Ten Billboard charting New Age artist Michael Kollwitz is a Stickman, but he’s no drummer. He is one of very few musicians who has mastered an unusual stringed instrument called ‘The Chapman Stick,’ and for over forty years, he has stayed true to his mission to bring The Stick’s unique music to as many people as he can. He may have been born under a lucky star, or it might have been good old serendipity, but in the 1970s, Michael was fortunate to cross paths with The Stick’s inventor, Emmett Chapman. To Michael’s delight, Emmett was more than willing to take him under his wing, and the two embarked on a teacher-student journey that has lasted to this day.
Though Michael’s music career began back in high school as a talented trumpet player, once The Stick was in his hands, he didn’t look back. The Chapman Stick is the only instrument he now plays and records on. The Stick’s magic may well lie in the simplicity of its design: it’s part of the guitar family, and indeed, resembles the neck and head of a guitar, but is played more like a piano with two-handed tapping, and has an incredibly versatile range of sounds. With powerful, expressive qualities, the instrument provides players with endless possibilities, and Michael has harnessed these with virtuosic effect.
Being a first-generation Stickman came with decided benefits for Michael. Consistently booked for musical gigs, he traveled extensively, opening for the Beach Boys one year, and earning raves for his one-of-a-kind performances along the way. By the early 2000s, he had amassed such a following that he decided to record his first solo album and join the festival and fair circuit to play music full time. Sacramento became home base for a time, and with his typical flair, Michael became a fixture in the community as a street performer in Old Sacramento. He had numerous television appearances, radio interviews and even starred as the subject of the award-winning documentary, “Stick Man.” In 2007, seeking new adventures, he relocated to Hawaii.
Hawaii proved to be a musically fertile place for Michael. He crossed paths with Carlos Santana while playing a gig on Maui, who was visibly moved by Michael’s music. Fresh off the glow of having a personal musical idol respond so well to him, Mick Fleetwood also happened upon Michael during a performance. Fleetwood planted the seed that Hawaiian music would sound amazing played on The Stick, and Michael went on to record six albums (with the help of triple Grammy award winning Steely Dan engineer, Dave Russell) during his time on Maui.
Michael has since taken The Stick to new heights, recording music in such diverse genres as Jazz, Classic Rock, Latin, Hawaiian, Americana, and even Christmas music. All three ‘Serenity’ albums consist of a full hour of peaceful, relaxing music and all the tracks were recorded in one continuous take without overdubs. Kollwitz wields his considerable talents on The Stick to create unique sonic tapestries that evoke calmness, healing, and reflection- just like the red rocks of his hometown in Sedona, Arizona.
Michael’s 21st album, ‘Serenity- Peaceful Music on The Chapman Stick,’ marked a change in course for his music and enthralled listeners worldwide, It continues to receive international airplay while introducing many to The Stick’s astounding expressiveness and versatility. From the cover art featuring the iconic Sedona landmark, Bell Rock to the rich, versatile songs, Michael’s goal was to create a sonically healing experience to evoke soothing simplicity and peaceful relaxation for his listeners. ‘Serenity I’ reached #8 on the Zone Music Reporter chart in Sept. 2017 and was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of 2017 by One World Music Radio in the United Kingdom. It also gained placements on the ‘Spa’ channels of seven international airlines and the video for the track “Mystic Vista” received a nomination from the Hollywood Music In Media awards in early 2018.
Receiving consideration for a Grammy nomination, Michael’s 22nd album ‘Serenity II’ was the Billboard Top Ten New Age charting followup album to ‘Serenity I’ that reached #8 on Billboard one week after its release in April 2018 and remained #10 on the ZMR New Age charts for two months during April & May 2018. In 2019 it also received two big nominations: Best New Age Album of 2018 from the Independent Music Awards and Best Instrumental Acoustic Album of 2018 from Zone Music Reporter. It was also licensed by the C.A.R.E. Channel to play in hundreds of hospitals across the US from 2019 to 2021 and can be heard on the ‘Spa’ channels of many airlines. The track “Wrapped In Love” received a nomination in the New Age category from The Global Peace Song Awards.
Michael’s 23rd release and, the last album in the Serenity trilogy, ‘Serenity III’ was released worldwide on January 18, 2019, to rave reviews and immediately began receiving considerable international airplay. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 10 New Age Albums chart in January and moved up to #2 in February. It also debuted in the Top 5 of both the ZMR and New Age Music charts at #5 and #3 respectively and remained in the Top Ten for several months. Indeed a monumental accomplishment.
In the last twenty years, Michael has performed at more than a thousand festivals, fairs, civic & corporate events. At a chance meeting in Hawaii, Carlos Santana was visibly impressed by Michael’s music on The Stick and described it as “a gift from the heart” that made him feel good the moment he heard it. He’s been an opening act for The Beach Boys, The Goo Goo Dolls, Henry Kapono and has introduced many other musicians to the new instrument over the years including Keith Emerson, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Morse, and Herbie Hancock.
His albums and music have spread worldwide thanks to international and national airplay including “All Things Considered” on NPR. He is a veteran of many television appearances, and he was the subject of an award-winning short documentary by filmmaker Roy Plisko which captured First Place on CurrentTV in May of 2007.
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