Michael Kollwitz is an award-winning Billboard artist and one of the pioneer players and most prolific recording artists on a revolutionary stringed instrument known as The Chapman Stick®. Capable of astounding expressiveness and simultaneous multi-part arrangements, ‘The Stick’ combines elements of guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion all into one instrument that is played more like a piano than a guitar. Michael has had 30 independent releases. ‘Serenity II’ ‘Serenity III’ and ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ have all charted as Top 10 albums on Billboard’s New Age Album charts. ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ won Best Holiday Album of 2019 from Zone Music Reporter. His music has received many awards, nominations, rave reviews and considerable international airplay. His music is played in spas, on airlines and in over a thousand hospitals on The CARE Channel.
At a chance meeting on Maui, Carlos Santana was visibly impressed and described Michael’s music as “a gift of the heart” that made him feel good the moment he heard Michael’s music on The Stick.
In November 2021, two new albums were released. ‘Calm Waters’ followed the peaceful, Solo Stick tradition of the ‘Serenity’ series. ‘The Friendly Snowman- Christmas Music on The Chapman Stick’ is another delightful, whimsical collection of holiday music, following the tradition of ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ (Winner of Zone Music Reporter’s Best Holiday Album of 2019) The two albums have charted in both the United States and Europe. ‘Calm Waters’ won a medal in the prestigious Global Music Awards.
‘Serenity III’ debuted in the Top Five of all three of the major New Age charts including Billboard twice: #3 in Jan ‘19 and #2 in Feb 2019. ‘Serenity III’ also won a Silver Medal in the Global Music Awards in June 2019. ’Serenity II’ made the Billboard Top Ten New Age albums chart at #8 in 2018 in addition to receiving Grammy nomination consideration. ’Santa Plays The Stick’ debuted at #4 on Billboard and #3 on the New Age Music Chart in Nov 2019. It also won a Silver Medal in the Instrumental category from the Global Music Awards.
Billboard charting New Age artist Michael Kollwitz is a Stickman, but he’s no drummer. He is one of few musicians who have mastered an unusual stringed instrument called ‘The Chapman Stick.’ For over forty years, he has stayed true to his mission to bring The Stick’s unique music to as many people as he can. In 1976, Michael was fortunate to cross paths with The Stick’s inventor, Emmett Chapman. To Michael’s delight, Emmett took him under his wing, and the two embarked on a teacher-student journey that has lasted that has lasted until Emmett’s passing on 11/1/2021.
The Chapman Stick’s magic may well lie in the simplicity of its design. It’s part of the guitar family, and indeed, resembles the neck and head of a guitar, but is played more like a piano with two-handed tapping, and has an incredibly versatile range of sounds. With powerful, expressive qualities, the instrument provides players with endless possibilities, and Michael has harnessed these with virtuosic effect.
Being a first-generation Stickman came with benefits for Michael. Consistently booked for musical gigs, he traveled extensively, opening for the Beach Boys one year, and earning raves for his one-of-a-kind performances along the way. By the early 2000s, he had amassed such a following that he decided to record his first solo album and join the festival and fair circuit to play music full time. Sacramento became home base, and with his typical flair, Michael became a fixture in the community as a performer in Old Sacramento. He had numerous television appearances and radio interviews in the Northern California market. In 2007, seeking new adventures, he relocated to Lahaina, Maui.
Hawaii proved to be a musically fertile place for Michael. He crossed paths with Carlos Santana while playing a gig on Maui, who was visibly moved by Michael’s music. He called it “a gift of the heart”. Mick Fleetwood also happened upon Michael during a performance and told him that Hawaiian music would sound amazing if played on The Stick. Exact quote: “a no brainer!”. Michael went on to record six albums (with the help of triple Grammy award-winning Steely Dan engineer, Dave Russell) during his time on Maui. He was off and running. The next stops along his journey included Lake Tahoe, Palm Desert and, finally, in 2015- Sedona, Arizona.
Michael had taken The Stick to new heights, recording music in such diverse genres as Jazz, Classic Rock, Latin, Hawaiian, Americana, and Holiday music. His music had spread worldwide thanks to considerable airplay including “All Things Considered” on NPR and many television appearances over the years. He was the subject of an award-winning documentary short film which captured First Place on CurrentTV in May 2007.
In 2017, the release of his first New Age album, ‘Serenity- Peaceful Music on The Chapman Stick’, marked a change in course for his music and enthralled listeners worldwide. His next three albums, ‘Serenity II’ (2018), ‘Serenity III’ (2019) and ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ (2019) all charted on the Billboard New Age chart as Top 5 albums and have received considerable nominations and awards. ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ won ZMR’s Best Holiday Album of 2019. The change in course had proven fruitful.
In 2020, he cowrote and produced the album ‘In The Moonlight’ under the moniker of ‘The Stick EWI Project’. It proved to be a historic pairing of two almost unlimited- yet little- known, American instruments invented in the 70s: The Chapman Stick and the Electronic Wind Instrument (aka EWI).
In November 2021, two (2) new albums were released. ‘Calm Waters’ follows the peaceful, Solo Stick tradition of the ‘Serenity’ series. ‘The Friendly Snowman- Christmas Music on The Chapman Stick’ is another delightful, whimsical collection of holiday music, following the tradition of ‘Santa Plays The Stick’ (Winner of Zone Music Reporter’s Best Holiday Album of 2019) Both albums have since won numerous awards and have charted in both the United States and Europe.
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An extensive photo gallery covering over 40 years may be viewed here .