"One of the most prolific jazz guitarists and educators emanating out of the Southeastern region of the United States..." Glenn Astarita, Modern Jazz Editor, All About Jazz.com
Tom Wolfe has been performing for over 40 years - playing in 'garage bands,' school bands, and in church. He first began performing professionally at the age of 17.
"I saw a flyer in the choral rehearsal room at my high school announcing auditions for Kings Island, a theme park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Not really understanding what the process was, i went to the audition, played my guitar, answered a few questions and they took my picture. I had no idea what i was doing. Initially, they turned me down. But later in the spring, they had a cancellation and so they called me and offered me a job as the bassist for the country review show."
This opportunity opened the door for Wolfe to a world he had never experienced before. It taught him early in his career the need for professionalism, and most importantly, exposed him to the joy of making music.
"At that point, I knew I wanted to be a musician. Other members of the band at Kings Island were older than me and most were music majors in college at the time. Their willingness to share the experience of a musical life proved invaluable to me." says Wolfe.
Shortly after, Wolfe was accepted into the Jazz Studies Program at Capital University. There he studied guitar with Stan Smith and Tom Carroll. Soon after his enrollment in the program, his teachers began to recommend him for gigs when they were unavailable to play. In a very short time, Wolfe had begun to perform with artists such as Bob Hope, Englebert Humperdink, Chita Rivera, Jerry Van Dyke, Rosemary Clooney and touring shows such as Grease, Annie, etc.
"It certainly wasn't because I was the strongest player by any means. But I did have the ability to sight read which is a skill that landed me these opportunities."
Wolfe attended the Eastman School of Music for his graduate studies. There he had the opportunity to work with Rayburn Wright, Bill Dobbins and Gene Bertoncini. Challenged by their intense love of the music and the competitive drive of his classmates, Wolfe quickly realized the potential for growth and learning in this program.
"Frankly, I am still amazed that I was accepted into the program in the first place. When I first arrived, I heard my classmates practicing and auditioning for the bands, and I immediately realized I was going to have to work extremely hard just to keep up. Fortunately, my teachers and mentors had patience with me and guided me through - I will always be grateful for the gift of music they gave me."
While at Eastman, Wolfe studied jazz arranging and composition with Rayburn Wright and Bill Dobbins and guitar with Gene Bertoncini. He also had the opportunity to perform and work with many jazz greats: Manny Albam, Rufus Ried, Lew Soloff, John LaBarbera, etc. These opportunities set the framework for Wolfe's future as a performer and educator.
Having completed his studies at the Eastman School of Music, Wolfe moved back Columbus, Ohio and taught part-time for Otterbein College and Kenyon College and later moved to Lafayette, Louisiana to serve on the faculty at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette).
Says Wolfe, "It was at USL where I first began to teach full-time, and to develop an understanding of the academy. I learned a great deal there and am very grateful for the experience and the incredible students I worked with."
In 1994, Wolfe took a position at the University of Alabama School of Music as director of the Jazz Studies Program. "At that time, the School of Music did not offer a degree in jazz studies. My first priority was to create and establish a jazz curriculum."
Through the years at UA, Wolfe has worn many academic 'hats.' Says Wolfe, "After directing the jazz program for 10 years, I was appointed as Associate Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences. It was a departure from music, but allowed me the opportunity to serve my colleagues in the college. It was an awesome opportunity and responsibility and I'm grateful to have served."
After stepping down from the Dean's Office, Wolfe also served as interim chair of the Department of Art and Art History and the Department of American Studies for a year each. "The Dean asked me to assist while the departments were in leadership transition. Getting to know the departments, faculty, staff and students was really wonderful. And I'm glad I could help."
Currently, Wolfe is back in the School of Music teaching in the new program, Musical Audio Recording. This curriculum is a split major, formally in the College of Engineering Department of Electrical Engineering, it is also immersed in the School of Music. The students study the science of electrical engineering and design and the art of audio recording and mixing. "It's a really unique program," says Wolfe. "Students get the opportunity to work in the studio and lab - this combination of studies can open doors in several venues for the graduates of the program. I'm really excited to be back in the classroom with the students and working in the studio!"
This is my new educational video that explores the performance styles of Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Herb Ellis and other fabulous guitarists from the '60's. Enjoy!!!