Jack Petersen (guitarist)

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Jack Petersen
Born Jack Leroy Petersen
(1933-10-25) October 25, 1933 (age 84)
Elk City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Occupation Jazz guitarist, collegiate jazz educator, composer, pianist, arranger, clinician
Employer Berklee (1963–1965)
North Texas (1970s–1988)
North Florida (1988–1999)

Jack Leroy Petersen (born October 25, 1933 Elk City, Oklahoma) is an American jazz guitarist, pianist, composer, arranger, music publisher, music clinician, and renowned pioneer in jazz education who revolutionized guitar education.[1] He was a pedagogical architect for jazz guitar and jazz improvisation at three institutions of higher learning:

First full-time jazz guitar teacher at the Berklee College of Music (1962–1965 – Inaugural Chair, Guitar Department)

Longstanding and influential jazz guitar artist in residence at the University of North Texas College of Music (1976–1988 – Resident Artist, Jazz Guitar, Improv).

Joining his close colleague, Rich Matteson, who was recruited from North Texas to build a new program at the University of North Florida focusing on jazz, Petersen built a jazz guitar program (1988–1995; fully retiring 1999 – Resident Artist and Associate Professor).


Family background[edit]

His father, Harold Petersen (April 24, 1904 Beemer, Nebraska – December 28, 1971 Denton, Texas) had worked for LTV and his mother, Effie Ellen Petersen, née Smith (July 7, 1900 Hammon, Oklahoma — May 29, 1974 Denton, Texas) had worked at Russel-Newman Manufacturing Company for 19 years.

When Jack Petersen was 5, his family moved to Denton, Texas. He began playing guitar when he was 16 (about 1949), his initial influence being Western Swing.

Early guitar education[edit]

Petersen won a course in guitar from a radio contest. The teacher was Bob Hames, an ex-GI attending North Texas from Wolfe City, TX.[2] Hames introduced Petersen – and Petersen's friend, Dick Crockett – to jazz recordings of Carl Kress, Tal Farlow, Chuck Wayne, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Barry Galbraith, Remo Palmieri, Oscar Moore, and Charlie Christian.

During Petersen's high school years, he and his friend and guitarist, Dick Crockett (né Richard Neville Crockett; born 1934), spent a lot of time listening to the North Texas Lab Bands and small groups that performed on campus.[3] Petersen graduated from Denton High School 1951.[4]

U.S. Army[edit]

In 1955, Petersen enlisted in the Army to perform with the 8th US Army Band in Seoul, Korea. While in Seoul, Petersen met a lot of musicians and played 11 gigs a week.[1]


After leaving the Army, Petersen attended North Texas to study music, playing cello and double bass in the orchestra and guitar and piano in the jazz ensemble where he collaborated closely with faculty members Gene Hall and Floyd Graham.

Petersen was proficient on double bass, cello, and piano, all of which gave him sight reading skills, a differentiating edge for guitarists of the day who were earning money in recording studios and dance orchestras. Sight reading and being able to maneuver jazz progressions (beyond blues, pentatonic, and classic rock) made Petersen a sought-after guitarist in recording studios, with big bands, and performing artists who had little time to teach parts to sidemen.


  • 1960: Petersen married Shirley Ann Wilkinson of Dallas, September 18.[5]
  • Early 1960s: Having divorced his first wife, Petersen, while at Berklee, met and married Claudette Elizabeth Lemire (b. approx 1938), who, at the time, had been a secretary at Berklee. Jack and Claudette had two children:
  1. Cheryl A. Petersen (b. Boston, MA) now of Prescott Valley, AZ
  2. Scott Petersen (b 1970, Dallas, TX) aka Catharsis, is an electronic music recording artist, studio engineer, DJ, and member of PC Synergy, a group signed with Om Records and Scott's own imprint partnership, Soul Support Recordings, with engineer Phil Green of Greenteam Media Inc. Publisher Greentiger Publishing ASCAP


Demand for Petersen's talent as a guitarist lured him away from college before he finished his degree, but he never lost contact with or mutual admiration for his collegiate mentors. Some say that, despite having no degree, Petersen's early influences from North Texas gave him the talent, vision, inspiration, and connections to make jazz guitar a highly respected discipline at major academic institutions of higher learning.[citation needed] Petersen laid foundations at three such institutions for future generations of guitarists to emerge well rounded in music and with academic diplomas.

  • 1957: Petersen joined the Hal McIntyre Orchestra on September 8, 1957, in Knoxville, Tennessee, for its upcoming European tour.[6]
  • 1958-1962: Petersen was a Dallas studio musician recording jingles, first as a guitarist and sometimes pianist, then as producer, composer. Much of the work was making IDs for radio stations all over the country. Petersen once remarked in an interview that people don't realize the work that goes into it — "In 20 seconds, you've got to write a whole symphony".[1]
  • 1960: Gene Hall recruited Petersen to teach with him at Stan Kenton Band Clinics. As of 1977, Petersen has been with Stan Kenton Band Clinics for some 17 years.
  • 1962: Petersen accepted an invitation by Lawrence Berk, founder of Berklee, to design and chair the first formal guitar curriculum at Berklee College of Music. Berk discovered Petersen through his affiliation with the Stan Kenton Band Clinics.
  • 1965: Petersen returned to Dallas because of high demand to work as a performer and studio musician. While in Dallas, Jack and Claudette had a son — Scott Petersen (b. 1970, Dallas County, TX, now of Florida).
  • Mid 1970s: Leon Breeden invited Petersen to develop the jazz guitar program at North Texas.[7] Petersen, with jazz pianist Dan Haerle, helped lead a jazz improv curriculum that Rich Matteson had revamped.
  • 1974: Petersen, along with Rich Matteson and Phil Wilson, founded the music publishing company, Outrageous Mother, Inc., a Texas corporation, to distribute their arrangements.
  • 1988: Matteson recruited Petersen, his longtime colleague, to build a jazz guitar program. Rich Matteson, who had been teaching jazz at the University of North Texas for 13 years, was recruited in 1986 by the University of North Florida to build program focusing on America's legacy in music, jazz. Petersen taught at UNF as resident artist and associate professor until his retirement in 1995, retiring fully in 1999.
  • 2003: Petersen moved to Prescott, Arizona, and performs regularly, particularly as guest artist and clinician around the country.

Guitar lab innovation[edit]

While at Berklee, Petersen introduced a guitar lab concept that transformed guitar education, particularly jazz guitar, with respect to sight reading and with respect to accommodating large numbers of guitar students. He created a big band composed of 12 guitars in three units of four – one unit would cover the woodwinds of a big band, one would cover the trombones, and one would cover the trumpets. The guitar players read single notes, just like horn players — no chords.[1] Later, Petersen helped his colleague at North Texas, Rich Matteson develop a similar concept for low brass, creating a big band composed solely of low brass instruments. The Matteson-Phillips Tubajazz Consort was composed mostly of renowned professional artists and educators.

Performance associations[edit]

Petersen's professional performance associations include the following:

Former students[edit]

Berklee College of Music

University of North Texas

University of North Florida

Prescott, AZ

  • Matt Buttermann

Select discography[edit]


Petersen's primary jazz guitar is a Benedetto Fratello Archtop.[8]

Benedetto Guitars

See also[edit]

Compositions & arrangements[edit]


  • c1979: Jack Petersen, Jazz styles & analysis, guitar: a history of the jazz guitar via recorded solos, transcribed and annotated, Vols. I & II, Maher Publications
  • 1980: Jack Petersen, "Django Reinhardt's Guitar in 'Festival 48'", Down Beat Music '80, p. 52-53
  • 1981: Jack Petersen & Rich Matteson, Up Tight
  • 1981: Rich Matteson & Jack Petersen, Art of melodic motion: an improvisational study
  • c1983: Dan Haerle, Jack Petersen, Rich Matteson, Jazz Tunes for Improvisation: A Graduated course of study for the jazz musician, Alfred Publishing
  • 1995: Rich Matteson, Jack Petersen, Music Minus One: The Art of Improvisation, Vol. 1, Music Minus One
  • 1995: Jack Petersen, Magic of Brazil
  • 2002: Jack Petersen, Beginning Guitar: Mastering the Keys: The Jack Petersen Guitar Series, Mel Bay
  • 2003: Jack Petersen, Chords Galore: A Systematic Approach to Voicing Chords on Guitar, Mel Bay


  1. ^ a b c d Tim Schneckloth, Jack Petersen, Down Beat, pgs. 32-33 (March 24, 1977)
  2. ^ After WW II, many service musicians entered higher education on the G.I. Bill (colleges that foresaw and met the demand for specialized training in jazz were North Texas State U, Berklee College of Music, and U of Miami and rose to prominence in the field) – "Jazz Studies in American Schools and Colleges: a Brief History" by Daniel Murphy – Jazz Educators Journal, Vol 26, pp 34-8 (1994)
  3. ^ Dick Crockett, Autobiography
  4. ^ Denton H.S. Will Graduate 135 Seniors, Denton Record-Chronicle (May 6, 1951)
  5. ^ "Miss Wilkinson, Jack Petersen Exchange Vows", Denton Record-Chronicle (September 25, 1960)
  6. ^ Peterson to Tour With Dance Band, The Denton Record-Chronicle, col. 5, pg. pg. 2, September 8, 1957 ("Petersen" is misspelled in article as "Peterson"
  7. ^ Charles Chapman, Mel Bay Presents Interviews with the Jazz Greats — and More Mel Bay (June 1, 2001)
  8. ^ Terence M. Ripmaster, Bucky Pizzarelli: A Life in Music, Mel Bay (c1998)