David Berchtold Makes Fingerpicking Look Easy – and Sound Great

Minier, Illinois guitarist David Berchtold

By Craig Stocks / Photography by Craig Stocks

A skilled artist makes their craft look easy, and that’s the impression you get when you watch Minier, Illinois musician David Berchtold play the guitar using his signature fingerpicking style. His right hand barely moves – appearing to simply hover over the strings; but he’s actually making quick, short plucking movements with his thumb and fingertips. The technique allows David to play several parts simultaneously – bass, harmony, accompaniment, melody and percussion, all playing at once from just one instrument.

David is a native of Groveland, Illinois, but moved to Lexington, Massachusetts to live with relatives after losing his parents in a car accident when he was 11 years old. He had never thought much about music until he started playing guitar with his best friend in Lexington. “He was very talented, playing and writing songs, and he taught me to play,” David said. “But it took many years for me to realize that this was becoming a big part of my life.”

After moving back to Central Illinois, David finished high school in Pekin, but he wasn’t playing as much then. “I’d hear some stuff I’d like, and I’d learn it,” he explained. “But it got to the point where I was frustrated because of my technique. I’d reached as far as I could get, so I stopped playing heavily. Mostly what I was doing was strumming and maybe pick a note here and there, and that just got to be old hat for me.”

Eventually he found a friend in Central Illinois who got him started playing again. That was when he became fascinated with the music of the old blues artists, and especially the music of Jorma Kaukonen, former lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and his current band, Hot Tuna. “I heard that and thought, “Oh my gosh, you can do that on a guitar?”  I spent many frustrating, long hours trying to learn to do that.” He was further inspired by local musician Bob Applegate of Applegate and Company.  “I heard he was playing at a Brown Bag Lunch, so I took off work to drive to Peoria to listen to him. He was doing fingerpicking and it just floored me!”

For the first time in his musical career, David signed up for formal lessons from Applegate, and drove from Minier to Peoria over two winters. “I learned enough theory and technique that it took my music to a whole new level.  I’ve never looked back from there on. I can thank Bob Applegate for what I’ve accomplished because he got me going in a direction that music became thoroughly enjoyable.”

David performs music from a wide variety of genres, everything from Chet Atkins and Doc Watson to Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Doobie Brothers. He also writes some of his own music, including “Serenity” which David made available as the soundtrack for a video from ArtsPartners of Central Illinois.  “But,” David said, “Every song I do is some style of fingerpicking.”

David plays solo as well as with small groups. “I’m basically a solo artist,” David said, “But in the last couple of years I’ve met some really talented people whom I play with also. There are some talented people out there, and being able to perform music with them is a real treat.”

“Learning to communicate came really late for me,” David said, “And playing the guitar was really the first way I could communicate in a way that meant something to me. I never would have believed that something so beautiful could come out of my hands.”

You can hear David perform in numerous local venues, including the Rhythm Kitchen Music Café (November 29 and December 13) and Old Towne Bar and Grille in Delavan (December 8). He also performs frequently at The Harvest Café (December 21) in Delavan. Visit David’s website at www.davidberchtold.com for more information and a complete list of upcoming performance dates.

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Blown Glass Artist Jeremie Draper Transforms Glass into Art

Central Illinois blown glass artist Jeremie Draper

By Craig Stocks / Photography by Craig Stocks

For Central Illinois artist Jeremie Draper, blowing glass is both an art and a form of dance. Each piece begins with an initial gather of glass from the 50 pounds of molten glass she maintains in her furnace. The dance starts as she rolls the molten glass blob into its first form. She then blows a strong puff of air to start the bubble, and twirls the pipe in a circle using centrifugal force to elongate the shape. The dance continues as she moves quickly but carefully between the reheat chamber and the bench where she expands and shapes the glass into a finished work of art.

Jeremie is a native of Pekin, Illinois. As a child, she would spend hours drawing or painting. On nice days, you might have seen her in the front yard with her easel.  Other times, she’d leave the easel inside and draw right on the driveway with large, colorful sidewalk chalks. By high school, she was beginning to explore art more seriously, and knew that she wanted to spend her life pursuing art, both as an artist and as an educator.

After graduating from high school and Illinois Central College, Jeremie attended Southern Illinois University intending to study art education. As she explored a wide variety of mediums, she became captivated by fiber art and color.  Eventually, she was attracted to glass.  She decided to change her focus from fiber to glass after hanging around the glass studio to watch the graduate students. “When I took my first glass class I was bit by the bug.”

Jeremie loves the process of creating glass art. “There are no limits,” she says. “When you’re gathering glass, you’re the one creating something.”  She also likes the intensity of the process. “You cannot walk away,” she said. “Unlike a painting where you can step back, glass is in the moment. You don’t have a second chance.”

Other than the furnaces required to heat the glass, the tools used in glass blowing are remarkably simple. Once the glass is heated, Jeremie uses very few tools to shape the glass. “It’s mostly using your breath of air, gravity and centrifugal force. It’s the simplicity of having a steel table, a couple pieces of wood, a bench to work at and your glass in hot form”

Jeremie loves to continue to challenge herself to learn new forms and skills. After spending time exploring the rock formations of the American Southwest desert in Utah, she was inspired to figure out how to recreate the look of layers of sedimentary rock. The result was her “Landscape” series where earth tone colors are applied in simple but striking bands circling around the piece.

The art of glass blowing has been around for centuries, but the studio art glass movement in the United States is rather young, generally credited to two artists in Toledo, Ohio. Prior to 1962, most glass work was done by teams of workers who relied on large industrial equipment to heat the glass. It was Harvey Littelton and Dominick Labino who devised the means to move glass to a smaller scale that could be managed by a single artist in their own studio. Since the movement is so young, Jeremie enjoys the opportunity to attend workshops taught by the pioneers of the movement in the US.

Besides creating her own art, Jeremie absolutely loves to teach. She will be holding an open house on Friday, November 9, 2012 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The public is welcome to take advantage of this free opportunity to see the process first hand. Jeremie will also be holding classes this fall where students will begin by making simple objects like paper weights and ornaments.

For more information, visit Jeremie’s website at www.echovalleyglass.com.  Jeremie’s studio is located at 608 W. Garfield in Bartonville adjacent to Echo Valley Meats where she is the Catering and Events Coordinator.  Her work can also be seen at The Moon Dancer Boutique Grand PrairieExhibit A Gallery in Junction City, and in her gallery by appointment.