Oct
18

Guitar man



Ellen Leahy, Editor/City Eagle 10/18/06More articles
Dick Ward finally gets to focus on first love

The ‘thank you’ on Dick Ward’s CD “Strings Attached,” begins with a little history:
“To whomever left the ukulele that I found in my grandmother’s closet in 1954.”

This tiny guitar-like-instrument started a lifelong love affair with the guitar, not necessarily one he could constantly indulge in, but it was always there nevertheless.

Ward will be the featured performer at Creekside Books and Coffee at 7 p.m. Oct. 28. This is Ward’s first time back since his CD release party for “Strings Attached.”

He said he learned so much from the process of making the CD that he can’t wait to make a second one. He already has a title “Everyone needs a little wiggle room.”

Ward is the grandson of H.O. Clark who had a camp on Skaneateles Lake for many years and a car dealership in Elbridge. Ward is an Elbridge resident, retired from a 31-year stint as an English teacher from the Jordan Elbridge Middle School. He and Paul McCartney are 64 years old.
“This is our year,” he said referencing the Beatles, “When I’m 64.”

Ward’s focus since retirement has been music and he hangs with a particular brand of guitarists. He said Chet Atkins is the man from whom all of this flows.

“We play the guitar more like a piano, we put a bass line in with our thumb, the melody is put on top with another finger that shall remain nameless,” Ward said.

Ever heard of the Guitar League?
Ward helped start the Guitar League a year and a half ago. It’s a Central New York organization for guitarists, and the meetings are based on continued learning. Ward said Jim Horseman of Center Stage Events had the idea to start a get together of guitar players. He contacted Ward and Loren Barrigar (another Elbridge born guitarist from the same school of playing) and got the word out, 18 showed up including Billy Delaney, Don Meixner and Larry Hoyt. Now the membership is 150 strong.

The meetings start with a featured speaker and then split up into rookies, minors and majors with a program for each. It meets at the Center for the Arts on Genesee Street in Syracuse, which is the domed building one can see from interstate 81 looking Eastward up Genesee Street.

The League also brings in accomplished guitarists for concerts and workshops. The first concert, in 2002, was by an Australian guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel, whom they discovered at a guitar players’ conference in Nashville.
“He changed my life,” Ward said.

As before this he dabbled in many things, after hearing Emmanuel, he made playing the guitar, in this particular style, his focus.

The League put Emmanuel up at the Packwood House in Skaneateles. He performed in Syracuse, Rochester and Ithaca, as well as sat in with Loren Barrigar at the Sherwood Inn.
Emmanuel wants to come back and do it again, basically for one reason - Doug’s Fish Fry in Skaneateles. “Tommy said that when he pulled into Skaneateles, he would have told you that he thought he was, ‘as happy as a man could be.’ Then he discovered Doug’s Fish Fry. He ate lunch there every day. He could not stop talking about it. He even insisted on driving back to Doug’s for dinner from his Rochester gig.”

On music
“It moves us, it is something hardwired into us, a baby responds to music,” Ward said, “and we respond to bad music too.”

Ward doesn’t much play in bars anymore, “They treated it as background music and that is not what I am into anymore,” he said.

Ward has a home studio. He plays out at the Creekside Books and Coffee in Skaneateles, Burritts in Weedsport, which is an old garage machine shop converted into a café and Mulberrys in Elbridge.

A musical family
Ward is married to Carol Bryant who has a degree in Concert Piano. They met as teachers at JE. Ward was a widower at the time with five children. He had been married to his high school sweetheart. She passed away from cancer.

“My legacy: Tom, Andy, Jenny, Meg, and Matt,” Ward said.
Bryant also retired from teaching and is now into Arts Management. She worked with the Skaneateles Festival this past summer.

Ward said, “Carol is also the chick singer with Ithaca’s ‘Ageless Jazz Band.’”

She is very supportive of his playing and his kids have listened to him play their whole lives. Actually, after their mom died, three of his children formed a band with him “The Ward Band.”


On guitars
Ward’s main instrument is a Maton, an Australian guitar. He credits five other guitars used on “Strings Attached” on the CD jacket. In addition he has a new guitar called a Travis, which was handmade in Midwest. He met the maker at the yearly convention where he also met Emmanuel.

“I did not go to Nashville expecting to buy a guitar,” Ward said. “I told my wife it followed me home.”

For more information on the guitar league go to www.guitarleague.com

On writing
The music always comes first when Ward writes a song. He said something from the music will suggest the lyrics. He writes alone and collaborates too.

“I belong to the Willie Nelson school of writing: there are songs floating by, just reach up and grab one,” Ward said
He plays all the time and while he’s playing if he gets an idea, he’ll play it into the tape recorder. He said some people say if it is good it will come back, but he believes in the capture.

Ward has found his own voice, now it is just a matter of following it.

“I derive a lot of pleasure from reading my writing,” Ward said. “I’m my own worst critic, but I really like what is on that CD.”

He added, “I have a basement full of crap that I don’t like too.”


'Strings Attached’ is dedicated to:
Dick Ward was in the United States Air Force in early 1960’s. He worked as a Chinese linguist and was stationed in Japan. One night while strumming his guitar a guy stuck his head in the door and said, “You really ought to learn to play that thing.”

Karl Oncke took Ward in under his pick after he proved he was really interested in learning more.

“At the beginning I wasn’t allowed to play,” Ward said. “I’d watch and go back to my room and practice. I learned a lot by listening. He saw I was serious.”

They eventually played in a band together while in the service. Ward played bass.

The two have remained in touch ever since with Ward dedicating his CD to Oncken.

“This album is dedicated to Karl Oncken, my guitar mentor, my strongest supporter, my most constructive critic, and above all, my friend for 40 years.”




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