Ask most SCAD students for their impression of Pete Christman, and youll get a variety of answers.
To some his graying ponytail and thick eyeglasses have made up one of the most familiar faces on the colleges campus for the past two decades. To others, hes a dazzlingly talented visual artist who does exemplary work in a variety of mediums, from digital manipulation to painting. To still others, hes one of the photography departments most experienced and idiosyncratic professors.
But theres another facet of Christmans personality and background that most of his students are unaware of.
That would be his musical side.
While many of us who attended the school in the mid to late 1980s knew that Pete was something of a lapsed guitarist through conversations with his six-string playing son Ian (who gained some notoriety as the guitarist for pioneering Savannah alternative bands Something and A Disturbed Jennifer), it is surprising to hear him now describe his earlier exploits as a young man caught up in the American Blues and Folk Revival of the mid-20th Century.
I spent my teenage years from 56 to 66 on Marthas Vineyard, he relates.
I was hanging out and playing with Tom Rush, Jeff Muldaur, Peter Coyote, and numerous other people who would become the Boston and New York Folk Scene in the early 1960s. In graduate school, I played in several electric blues bands, most notably Empire State Harry & The New Chicago Blues Band. In the late 60s, I played in Key West, before anyone had heard of Jimmy Buffet. Then I moved to New York and started a career. This put music on the back burner for many years... The last time I played on stage was with my oldest son, Ian who was at that time the lead guitarist for Something. That was similar to what I am planning for the Photo Department Prom.
The Prom hes referring to is a concert and dance being thrown by students and faculty of SCADs Photography Department, as a novel sort of consolation prize for having to deal with the impending G-8 Summits intrusion upon their class schedule.
This Saturday, May 15, Christman will unveil to the public at large his latest art project one that his literally been in the making for almost fifteen years.
The Fathers & Sons Blues Band finds Christman and his fourteen year-old son Max joining with Petes dear friend Billy and his thirteen year-old son Linc to form an old-fashioned blues-rock band like the very kind Pete and Billy played in during their formative years.
According to Christman, he never really planned to get out of the music business. It just sort of happened that way, and one gets the feeling that hes missed that creative outlet quite a bit.
At long last he seems to finally have found a way to come full circle.
Ive always had a day job which has left me free to pursue whatever artistic pursuit I am interested in, he says.
For the past twenty years, I have devoted my creative energy toward painting and photography. Now, I havent done a painting in three months, but I have played the guitar and put a band together for about four hours every day.
Ironically, it seems that it was the act of encouraging his son to take up music that resulted in Christmans reawakening.
Last fall I bought Max a vintage drum set for his fourteenth birthday. This gave me the option of completely losing my mind from the noise, or joining in. I have always exposed Max to the music that I like: Folk Blues; Chicago Blues; and early Rock & Roll and I feel I have been relatively successful in cultivating his taste.
Max started a band with several friends at Mercer Middle school, which went through several personnel changes before their first public performance.
Ultimately, says Christman, the band narrowed to only two kids Max and Linc. They still entered, with nothing but a minimal lineup of drums and keyboards.
They had a cafeteria of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders screaming with excitement, beams Christman.
And the two wound up winning.
The Fathers & Sons Blues Band was born upon the success of a middle school talent show, Christman continues, and the subsequent question, where do we go from here? I handle the guitar and lead vocals. Linc plays keyboards. Max is on drums. But, we needed a bass player. I had played a number of times with Mark Uzmann, a SCAD colleague and personal friend, and one phone call was all it took. Mark is never late for rehearsals which have meant every day for two or three hours. Hes the glue that holds us together, both musically and personally. Thats the job of all good bassists. Well also be joined on some songs by my daughter Ceci, and Becky, Lincs mom.
According to Becky, the project has afforded her the opportunity of a lifetime.
Well, this is my first foray into singing, she smiles. Its something Id always wanted to do, but I guess I never had the chutzpah. One afternoon, Pete just said, do you sing? I said, no. And he said, well, you do now.
Becky says the sense of teamwork that has come from this lies at the crux of what makes the band so special. Its actually quite fun to have a family-type thing where we all get together. My husband Billys very much the musical director, and thats worked out well.
Billy is the other father in this band. Currently he is not appearing on stage, but he is very much part of the group. He is the musical director, honest critic and technical consultant.
Becky says that her husband is quite happy to remain behind the scenes.
That was his decision, she offers. Theres still some talk that he might sit in on one or two songs. If Linc decides theres enough time to do In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, he may play the drum solo.
The group plans on playing four half-hour sets made up mostly of old blues numbers written decades before some of the members were born.
Says Christman proudly, with the exception of two original songs, our set list was all written before 1965.
Adds Becky, I think its very, very true to the blues. We didnt want something slick and polished. We wanted to have fun.
She says theyve also taken pains to rehearse the show away from prying eyes. No one outside of immediate family has been privy to the preparations.
Nobodys seen this at all, she confides. Weve kept it absolutely private. Its going to be a big surprise to everyone.