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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Local musician hits Der Rathskeller stage for a night of jazz

Madison guitarist organizes improvisational groups, heads to Memorial Union March 15
Photo courtesy of Bryan Bingham

The University of Wisconsin Union Directorate will bring guitarist Charlie Painter, along with Brian Grimm and Tim Cieplowski to Memorial Union’s Der Rathskeller March 15.

Painter has been a guitarist in Madison for over 15 years. Presently, Painter teaches and plays trios often composed of UW students.

“It is pretty old school the way that I have been doing it because I just put bands together,” Painter said. “We don’t rehearse or anything. I sent out an email about what I wanted to happen in the song.”


The show will include Grimm on bass and contra-cello, Cieplowski on the drums.

The event is expected to have three solos, one each from Painter, Grimm and Cieplowski.

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Much of Painter’s early inspiration for music came from his neighbor Paul C. Schlieman, who was also a musician. He went by “Grizz” and would have Painter over for musical campfires.

“I used to go over to [Grizz’s] house and he would have campfires in his yard and the older men would sit in a circle singing and strumming the guitar,” Painter said. “They would bend over backwards to show me how to play. Then eventually he bought me my first guitar.”

Grizz would also go on to buy Painter his second guitar.

He saw Painter’s struggle playing the guitar he had originally bought him.

“That guitar was so hard to play. I mean my fingers bled,” Painter said. “The actual strings were very high on the fretboard and I could barely play it”

Grizz later bought him a brand new electric guitar, getting Painter started with his journey in music.

Grizz died at at the age of 57 in June 2015, but Grizz’s legacy lives on through Painter.

“Grizz inspired me and supported me and believed in me,” Painter said. “He was supportive to me. And that’s what people need when they’re young… they just need someone who believes and supports them, and Grizz always believed in me.”

Painter also recognizes his mother because without her his musical journey would not have taken its turn into jazz.

His mother used to take him to watch jazz concerts and other bands. She was also encouraging and supportive of him pursuing his passion.

“My [mother] has always been supportive no matter what,” Painter said. “She never pushed me to get a degree or to be a doctor or to be whatever. She wanted me to be happy. And she knew that music made me happy.”

Painter always livestreams his shows on Instagram for her and his family to see.

Painter began his journey in music listening to the tunes of Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang and Aerosmith among many others, inspiring him to play rock, country and classical music among others.

He would be first introduced to jazz by the record “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, which his mother purchased. Listening to it for the first time, Painter described the experience as something he could not brush away.

“It was mystifying. perplexing,” Painter said. “I couldn’t tell what parts were improvised and what parts were not … Eventually it just started to work its way into my soul.”

His experience visiting live jazz performances in Madison and especially that of songwriter and composer Louka Patenaude played an influential role for Painter. They would inspire him to take a jazz class at Madison Area Technical College, forging his career in jazz.

“You have to be there in person to really feel it,” Painter said. “Jazz is like a beautiful gentle waterfall or a breeze — it can be the most simple, airy, gentle, beautiful thing and it can also be like swords and shields clashing in the battlefield.”

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In jazz, Painter found something unique. He found a language — a conversation between various instruments. Something that represents freedom other forms of music such as classical do not give.

Painter describes it as democracy in a musical form, giving each instrument freedom to assert their own independence and character and strife together for a united excellence.

“There is the individual who gets to solo and the band is backing them up and supporting them,” Painter said. “We are doing it as a team and there can be tension within and it’s acceptable. It’s democracy in musical form.”

Painter invites the people of Madison and especially the student community to visit his trio performance March 15 and experience jazz.

He emphasizes the importance of young people being part of jazz and carrying it on. When Painter is not performing, he continues to learn the art form from New York jazz guitarist Jordan Klemons and teaches guitar, electric bass and ukulele to kids and adults.

Painter wishes to continue contributing to the jazz scene in Madison and to show the world of jazz by teaching and performing. He recognizes the efforts of his mother, Schlieman and many others who have inspired him and allowed him to pursue what he loves and hopes he can do the same. 

The show is free and open to the public March 15 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Der Rathskeller in Memorial Union.

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