Musician Michael Kollwitz is a Stickman, but he’s no drummer. He is one of very few living musicians who have mastered an instrument called “The Chapman Stick,” and for the past 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 1970’s, Michael was fortunate to cross paths with The Stick’s inventor, Emmett Chapman. With a gift from his father, he purchased his very own Stick. 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 would last ten years.
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. The expressive instrument gives players endless possibilities, and Michael has harnessed these with virtuosic effect. Now a world-class musician, he has built a storied and thriving career.
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 2000’s, 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, performing on his Stick dressed as an 19th century gold miner. 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.
Influenced by early memories of his parents’ love of Arthur Lyman’s music, Hawaii proved to be a musically fertile place for Michael. He crossed paths with Carlos Santana while playing a gig on Maui, and Santana 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. It was Fleetwood who planted the seed that traditional Hawaiian music would sound amazing played on The Stick, and Michael went on to record six albums during his time on the island.
Inspired by musicians who pushed beyond what was thought possible with guitars and keyboards, such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steely Dan and Herbie Hancock, Michael has since taken that love of the offbeat to new heights, recording music in such diverse genres as Jazz, Classic Rock, Latin, Hawaiian, and Americana. Michael’s 21st album, “Serenity”, marks a change in course for his music. From the album art of the famous Sedona landmark, Bell Rock, to the rich, versatile songs, Michael’s goal with his latest release is to create a sonically healing experience, and evoke simplicity and relaxation for his listeners. (‘Serenity’ was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of 2017 by One World Music Radio- UK) Michael plans to continue recording and traveling, spreading the joy of The Stick, and the inimitable music he coaxes from it, one listener at a time.
Meanwhile his 22nd release ‘Serenity II- More Peaceful Music on The Chapman Stick’ is scheduled for release on 4/13/18 and will be available in all the usual places: Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, etc.
“You have a gift from the heart and your music made me feel good the moment I heard it” ~ Carlos Santana
“You’re awesome on that Stick!” ~ Herbie Hancock
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