Gary Wittner began playing the guitar at age 9. As a youth he had a deep affinity for the blues and was drawn to the music of Rural Blues artists such as Lightning Hopkins and Big Bill Broonzy. In college, Gary’s music became the major focus of his life, and when he heard the music of Thelonious Monk it was love at first sound. He enrolled at the Berklee College of Music where he began studying and transcribing Monk’s music in earnest.
Graduating in 1981, Gary moved to Colorado where he began performing all-Monk concerts. After 3 years as a freelance guitarist, Gary began a Master’s Degree program at Washington State University, where he completed his thesis (a study of Monk’s compositional style) in 1986. From Washington, Gary was offered a faculty position at the University of Maine at Augusta. Based there until 1997, Gary taught and developed courses in Jazz History, Rock and Roll History, Jazz Theory, Ear Training, Music Business, Ensembles, and Private Lessons. He was the Jazz and Contemporary Music Department Coordinator in 1996 and was given the University’s Distinguished Scholar Award the same year. As an original faculty member of the International Summer Jazz Academy (1994 – present in Krakow, Poland), Gary has performed througout Poland and taught students from Poland, Denmark, Ukraine, France, Germany, Iceland, Austria, and the USA. Since 1997, Gary has divided his time between New York City, where he performs and teaches privately, and Maine where he is a part time jazz guitar/ensemble instructor at the University of Southern Maine, Bowdoin College and Lincoln Academy.
Outside of the university, Gary continued to develop his presentations on the music and life of Thelonious Monk. To date, he has presented this program at clubs and universities throughout the USA and in Canada, Poland, Russia, England, Wales, Austria, France and S. Africa. Gary has been a featured artist in concerts with Christian McBride, Reggie Workman, Richard Davis, Eddie Gomez, Clark Terry, Art Lande, et. al. He has performed for the Monk family, and been interviewed on the radio with Thelonious Monk, Jr. Gary’s first book “Thelonious Monk for Guitar” , published by the Hal Leonard Corp. was released internationally in 1999 and has received international acclaim. Additional articles have been published by Guitar Player, Coda, and the International Association of Jazz Educators Journal. Gary (as a member of the New York based Trio W.A.G.) has twice been chosen as a Kennedy Center/U.S. Department of State Jazz Ambassador, with performances at the Capital Building, The Kennedy Center, and tours of Serbia/Montenegro/Slovenia (2001) and Papua New Guinea/Fiji (2003). In 2006, Gary received grants from the International Association of Jazz Educators and the Maine Arts Commission for performances/clinics at the S. African National Arts Festival and the University of Cape Town.