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Wilke promotes musicianship

Past student now teaches his passion

By Veronica Santos, spotlight editor
On April 16, 2013

  • Andy Wilke persuades his students to excel in music by including a community aspect in the classroom. He also continues to work on personal projects. Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

After discovering ska music, a type of music with a fast tempo including elements of jazz and R&B, Andrew Wilke started his first band Skanonymous in his freshman year at Pinole Valley High School.
"Skanonymous set off every single thing I've ever wanted to do in music," Wilke said. "My goal is to make music and it all stems from that band."
At 15 years old, Wilke learned how to book shows and participate in the process of writing music for no motivation other than wanting to perform.
It was at that young age, Wilke learned how to become a professional musician.
From learning the etiquette of a musician to finding ways to record, Wilke is now an integral part of the Bay Area's community of musicians. Not only with local artists, but also with the children he teaches as well.
Music producer and engineer Brad Dollar, who has worked with local bands such as The Grateful Dead, was a former bandmate of Wilke's. They are now studio colleagues and have worked together for many years.
"I feel like he's living the life of a modern artist. You can't do one thing. He teaches to finance his art, but he loves it and it's all music to him," Dollar said.
Wilke earned his bachelor of arts degree in music with a focus on jazz studies from Cal State-East Bay. He is now a freelance musician, hired for his skills in all facets of the music industry. Dollar said even when others hire Wilke, he expects the same respect because he delivers and takes on every project like his own.
Contra Costa College alumni and 2009-10 Jazzanova member Mac Esposito recently took one of his bands from Reno for a 13-hour tracking process with Wilke.
Esposito said what Wilke is working with today is professional music equipment and he knows how to use it well.
"But it takes more than just buying equipment. He's a fantastic musician and it allows him to communicate well and listen. That's the key point in what makes him a good recording engineer," Esposito said.
Wilke currently teaches a recorder class, elementary band, and a jazz band at Elizabeth Stewart K-8 and Ellerhorst Elementary schools.  He provides music theory and trumpet lessons through the Pinole Valley High School Conservatory.
Wilke resides in El Sobrante with his roommates who are also musicians.
In one room sits a record player and hundreds of vinyl records waiting to be organized.
The 25-year-old Wilke describes himself as a traditionalist. "I like real instruments. There is a record room because records are physical. Records sound like you're really there," Wilke said.
In another room sits a collection of musical equipment Wilke has put together over time. The equipment is not all his. He said the pieces he's collected are "under long-term protective watch" and that everything is communal.
Friends will often call Wilke to borrow equipment and he is more than willing to help.
In his senior year at Pinole Valley, Wilke became part of another band, A Class Act. The skills he learned from Skanonymous were put into use. The band managed to get a small following and eventually booked shows at the Pinole Youth Center, which brought in about 150 to 200 people for their concerts.
A Class Act started networking and booked a multitude of events, even in other states. With the success of its shows, the band used it as an opportunity to contribute to the community.
During a holiday show, the band gave discounted tickets to attendees who brought cans of food to contribute to a holiday food drive.
Esposito recalls working at Fiat Music Company in Pinole with Wilke. "During after hours, and closing up shop, we used to invite musician friends over and jam," Esposito said.
Becoming part of a community is what Wilke tries to teach his students. While playing shows in other states, other bands often let them stay at their homes. They, in turn, booked shows for artists who were not local and returned the favor of giving them a place to stay.
He teaches the concept of community by telling his students that they are all in it together.
"Everyone hears all of us and if one person decides not to practice, we all hear it," Wilke said.
Although he admits it may be strict, he is there because he wants them to learn about music and finds it unfair for anyone to take away from their education.
"I like teaching them and making this community a better place. I can see in five or 10 more years music can come out of this area," Wilke said.
One of Wilke's fourth grade students, Montejar Pare Jr., said, "I have fun in class and learn a lot. He teaches me the notes and tells me the fingering. He acts weird and tells bad jokes. He's really funny."
Pare said Wilke only gets mad when students speak and play when they are not supposed to, "but he's not scary." He plans to continue taking band classes with Wilke and jokingly wonders "how he grows a full mustache in a week."
Currently, Wilke is working on getting his teaching credential. He is also working on two musical projects - one with his roommate and colleague Mark Gee, called Mothball Fleet and a jazz/hip-hop trio (possibly quartet), Descant Trio.
"I just want to make a living doing music. I want to gain mastery on the trumpet and I want to push things but not lose my integrity," Wilke said.

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