Bio

I have been strongly attracted to and influenced by music for as long as I have memories, and have been playing the guitar since I was eleven years old. As a teenager I heard a lot of great live music in the New York area, and my formal musical career started when I became a music major at William Paterson College in New Jersey (now a University) in 1975. I was quite active during those years as a student, but also as a free-lance guitarist and music instructor. I graduated from the Jazz Studies and Performance program in 1978 and consider myself very lucky to have studied with Thad Jones during that time, and also my private guitar teacher Bob DeVos. My lessons with Bob were the connecting link through those years and I felt then, and still do, that studying with him was one of the lucky events of my life. He is a guitarist’s guitarist, and a great teacher and mentor.

While at William Paterson I also took the opportunity to explore classical music in depth.  I studied piano at the time with Gary Kirkpatrick, and composition privately with Jeffrey Kresky.  In my last year I composed a string quartet that was performed on a series of contemporary music concerts at the school and was very well received.  I then applied to the graduate program in composition at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and began studies there in 1978.

At Stony Brook I first studied with Billy Jim Layton and then John Lessard, and also had several pieces performed including a sextet for percussion, chamber music for various combinations of instruments, and a piece composed for the Graduate Orchestra in 1983.  I earned a Master of Arts in composition and then entered the Ph. D. program however jazz was still a large interest of mine and I continued to pursue it along with my formal studies.

In 1980 I met jazz bassist Sonny Dallas, and formed a friendship and association that continued until his death in 2007.  Sonny was a great catalyst in my continuing development as a jazz player, and led me to eventually meet and study with tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh.  I began studying improvisation with Warne in New York in 1982, continued studying with him until 1984, and also performed with him sporadically in 1983.  Our friendship and association lasted until his death in 1987.

While studying with Warne I continued teaching in Port Jefferson and built a busy private practice with students across a wide range of ages.  I also was affiliated with Suffolk County Community College, the Port Jefferson Adult Education program, and the Shoreham-Wading River School District during those years.  Change was coming for me though, and I decided to move to San Francisco in June of 1988. This was partially due to a desire to change the scenery after Warne’s death in late 1987, and also to make a fresh start with my music career.

I enjoyed living in San Francisco but breaking into the music scene was difficult, and starting in 1988 I have worked in a series of interesting non-music jobs.  But I did continue to practice, teach privately for some time, and perform when I could.   In 2005 I heard from a guitarist who had read Safford Chamberlain’s biography on Warne and contacted me about possible distance lessons.  (This person lived in the Midwest.)  As a result I started typing notes on my studies and this led me to start writing my own book detailing my experiences as a student.  The book took four years to complete, and there is much information on it contained in the "Book Info" section of this site.

I have also long thought about doing a jazz recording, and events in 2015 have made this a happy reality.  The CD is called “Project 59” and is scheduled for a Spring 2016 release.  There is much information on the recording in the "Music" and "Music Video" sections of the site, please have a listen and look!

The third component of my website concerns family information about my Polish lineage.  I started studying Polish in 2013 and in significant ways it has been somewhat of a spiritual journey for me. By spiritual I don’t mean religious, but rather that as a partial result of studying the language I very much sense around me the spirit of the Polish family that I never was able to know.   I have included information on our history in the "Family History" section of the site, and am hoping to visit Poland some time in the coming years.

I am delighted to hear from anyone on any of these topics – old and/or new friends, anyone interested in my music or book, and anyone interested in my Polish studies.  Please contact me and I will reply.  I also will add current events and news on a regular basis, along with blog entries and podcasts on topics of interest.  Thank you very much for spending time on my site, I am grateful for your time and attention!

With best wishes,

John Klopotowski

Oakland, CA 2016