$375 per attendee for 14 hours of instruction (non-refundable). Fee includes printed sheet music, and one ticket to Leo Kottke's Friday night concert (Sept. 27) at Central Washington University's acoustically superb Dr. Wayne S. Hertz Concert Hall.

workshop info

The Music of Leo Kottke Workshop

In this state-of-the-art workshop, guitar students of all levels will have an opportunity to work in depth on four compositions by Leo Kottke — “The Tennessee Toad,” “Jib’s Hat,” “Short Wave,” and “William Powell” — with instructors John Stropes, Ben Kammin, Josh Lane, and Macyn Taylor.


Thur. Sept 26  6-9 PM

Fri. Sept 27  9-5 PM

Sat. Sept 28  9-1 PM


Student Union Recreation Center (SURC)

Central Washington University

Ellensburg, WA

If you are interested in auditioning for the  BFA or MM program in finger-style guitar performance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an audition may be scheduled right after the workshop on Saturday afternoon. Contact John Stropes ( for details.

Workshop Description

From instructor John Stropes:


I am looking forward to The Music of Leo Kottke 2019 Workshop. New transcriptions of “The Tennessee Toad,” “Short Wave,” “William Powell,” and “Jib’s Hat” are complete and we turn our attention to the development of teaching materials — something which we enjoy and which is the foundation of our unique program in finger-style guitar at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Our work today takes advantage of everything that we have learned in the past 35 years about the notation of finger-style guitar music. There is a lot more detail in the written music. We now have much more extensive audio and video resources to provide context for our work. And the development of scrolling notation synchronized with performance video is causing quite a stir among students, teachers, and performers.

It’s hard to describe the workshop, except to say that it is a state-of-the-art learning environment that brings together enthusiastic guitar players from around the country and around the world. The workshop is designed to be able to accommodate students at a variety of levels. The progressive presentation of concepts and techniques will bring the music of Leo Kottke into focus. Students should have some facility on the guitar and be able to read tablature. Maximum enrollment: 45.

We are very fortunate to be able to draw on significant new additions to the Leo Kottke Archives including audio recordings and artifacts from the 1960s, US television broadcasts from the 1970s, German and Australian television broadcasts from the 1980s and 1990s, and other contextual materials. As a special feature of the workshop this year, we will screen 30 minutes of rare video of performances by and interviews with Leo Kottke.

I will present this workshop with the assistance of Ben Kammin, Josh Lane, and Macyn Taylor — colleagues and cognoscenti. If you have an interest in learning the music of Leo Kottke, I hope that you will join us. Using extensively-edited written music, specifically designed pedagogical materials, and video, you will be on a straight path to understanding the technique and music of Leo Kottke.

This year the workshop will be held at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, under the auspices of Learn from the Masters Music Outreach, a music philanthropy organization ( And, for the first time, in conjunction with the workshop, Leo Kottke will perform on Friday, September 27, in the elegant Dr. Wayne S. Hertz Concert Hall at Central Washington University.


“The Tennessee Toad”

Kottke’s seminal recording 6- and 12-String Guitar (Takoma C1024), released at the end of 1969, was a fresh admixture of dazzling technique and expressive depth. Altogether, the compositions sketched out a new landscape for the future of finger-style guitar. “The Tennessee Toad” is an evocative composition which creates an unusual atmosphere. The guitar is tuned to open C but the piece sounds in G minor. Playing against the tuning allows new and surprising music to emerge. This detailed transcription corresponds to the original recording.

“Jib’s Hat"

Leo Kottke's fourth LP for the Chrysalis label, Guitar Music (Chrysalis CHR 1328), was released in 1981. At this time, Kottke enjoyed playing a Gibson J-45 sunburst with extra-light strings, and many of the compositions on this recording display an ease and brilliance that is remarkable. The opening of “Jib’s Hat” is lighter than air. It sparkles in the sun. And it sounds like the guitar is in standard tuning. Then, after an edgy transition, it becomes a hard-driving blues in open G. The delight is in the cognitive dissonance. This detailed transcription corresponds to the original recording.

“Short Wave”

This composition in dropped D tuning was featured in Leo Kottke’s concert repertoire in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When introducing this piece in concert, Kottke describes imagining the sound of a guitar style from West Africa called dry guitar. Subtle right-hand technique provides delicate nuances in articulation and tone color to realize his imagination. This transcription corresponds to his performance at the Bathurst Theatre in Toronto on May 7, 1988.

“William Powell”

"William Powell” was written in 1989 and originally released on the recording My Father’s Face (Private Music 2050-2-P). In 1995 it appeared on Leo Kottke Live (Private Music 0100582132-2), recorded at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO. This transcription was developed principally from documentary video recorded on July 28, 1996, with comparative analysis of video recordings made between 1990 and 2008.

On September 1, students who have registered for the workshop will receive preliminary materials to begin exploring these compositions. These materials will be delivered as PDF files via email.

Even though Leo Kottke is considered royalty among 12-string guitarists, I recommend that you bring a six-string guitar to the workshop — for convenience and solidarity (mostly with respect to tuning). And considering the repertoire this year, also bring a slide, a capo, and extra strings.

The support of Learn from the Masters Music Outreach is greatly appreciated. We thank them not only for sponsoring this workshop and bringing Leo Kottke in to perform, but also for acknowledging the groundbreaking work being done by the dedicated research cohort at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and our associates around the world.

We welcome the opportunity to carry this work forward, and it is a great joy to work with the music of one of the great composers of our time.

This is an excellent time to be studying finger-style guitar. I hope you can join us for The Music of Leo Kottke 2019 Workshop. If you have any questions, just let me know.

John Stropes, Director of Guitar Studies, Finger-Style Guitar

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts 

cell: 262-994-8710



Suggested hotels include:

Ellensburg Best Western Hotel:   509-925-4244

Ellensburg Hampton Inn: 509-933-1600

Ellensburg Holiday Inn Express: 509-962-9400


John Stropes is a leading authority on finger-style guitar. Through the historical research, analysis, transcription, teaching and performance of finger-style guitar, he has brought focus to this style as a significant music. His publishing company, Stropes Editions, Ltd., has set a new standard for written music for the guitar and guitar education. His association with many of the leading artists in this style brings depth and vitality to his work.

President of the Milwaukee Classical Guitar Society, 1985-1996. Artistic Director of the American Finger-Style Guitar Festivals, 1985, 1987 and 1989. Performed and taught at the First Chinese Guitar Artistic Festival in the People's Republic of China in 1986. Chairman of the Guitar Department, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1984-1994. Director of Guitar Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, 2004-present. 

Author of Michael Hedges/Rhythm, Sonority, Silence; Leo Kottke/Eight Songs; 20th Century Masters of Finger-Style Guitar; John Fahey's Guitar Christmas Book; and numerous transcriptions of contemporary works for finger-style guitar and related instructional materials.

His students have been successful in guitar competitions including the Canadian Guitar Festival Competition; the Walnut Valley Festival International Finger Style Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas; and the Wilson Center International Finger-Style Guitar Competition.

He continues to work in the interest of the continued renaissance of finger-style guitar, looking back to document its history and bring the most significant repertoire of the past into the canon, and looking forward to transcribe innovative new compositions and to see what technology can do for finger-style guitar.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers the only BFA and MM degree programs in finger-style guitar performance in the world.

To check out the latest program news and events, find us on Facebook at 

To view performances of current and former UWM finger-style guitar students, go to 

For more information about compositions by Leo Kottke which have been published by Stropes Editions, Ltd., please visit 

As a finger-style guitarist, Benjamin Kammin has extensive experience both as a performer and educator. He has immersed himself in the music of Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, Billy McLaughlin, John Fahey, and many other significant finger-style artists. Working closely with leading finger-style guitar authority John Stropes, Benjamin’s focus is on education, transcription, and research on the history and performance of finger-style guitar. He has been an instructor for the Music of Leo Kottke workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 2008. Under the mentorship of Stropes he has done extensive research on the music of Leo Kottke. As part of the requirements for a Master of Music in Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Northern Arizona University he completed his thesis in 2013 titled “The Finger-Style Guitar Music of Leo Kottke: Emerging Methodologies for Research, Transcription, and Pedagogy.” He has participated in master classes with Billy McLaughlin, Alex de Grassi, Pino Forastiere, and Pierre Bensusan. Benjamin is the first student to graduate from the Master of Music in Guitar Performance in Finger-Style Guitar program at UW-Milwaukee, where he continues to be directly involved in primary research in finger-style guitar.

For information and videos, see Ben's Facebook page: and YouTube channel: