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Unplugged: Talent development and all that jazz
By Scott Wudel on September 17, 2015
Today, music is Chris Knox’s passion. But it didn’t always come easy for him. Like other kids, he toyed with the trumpet and the drums in junior high, but didn’t stick with it. He grew up in Detroit during the early days of Motown. Chris recalls walking the streets around his home and hearing the frequent sounds of raw rhythm and blues coming from the garages of Motown hopefuls.
At the time, music didn’t seem to be his calling. While his father kept a guitar around the house, he never played it. That idle guitar piqued Chris’ interest as he got older, and now it has become an obsession.
During the week, Chris spends his days as a CPS Energy talent development program manager. The job requires him to routinely stand up in front of small audiences to share his knowledge and build the skills of others. On weekends, he can often be found in front of larger audiences, in a restaurant or on a stage, sharing his passion with others.
Discovering his passion
Chris committed to the guitar when he was 19 years old. He joined the Air Force and found himself stationed in San Antonio. It was in is dorm at Brooks Air Force Base where he may have found his biggest influences – the guys he bunked with who pushed him to develop his guitar chops. A few years later, he was on tour with an Air Force entertainment group, performing for service members at military bases around the world.
While self discovery came a little later than expected, Chris made the most of it.
“I tell people, if you have a passion – pick it up,” he says. “Music was my therapy – it got me through a lot of my ups and downs when I was young.”
Almost four decades later, Chris is still growing as a musician. He’s a regular at restaurants and clubs around San Antonio, playing guitar in two jazz bands. He also is the musical accompaniment for his church choir. Even today, whether he’s practicing or performing, he welcomes every challenge.
“I pick up the guitar every day,” Chris says. “I’ll spend at least 15 minutes a day playing if I can – some days more than others.
“The bands I play with have high-caliber musicians. We only rehearse to tighten it up. We don’t rehearse to learn it. They send me a set list and sheet music. We practice on our own and walk into each set cold.”
While he won’t play at this weekend’s Jazz’SAlive, Chris is active in coordinating and playing in many local jazz festivals. Chris has led bands that played with jazz greats like Jessy J and Gerald Albright. In fact, Jessy J enjoyed working with Chris’ and his band so much she later flew them to New Mexico to support her at another show.
Like father, like son
While he has played with jazz greats and seen the world via his guitar, Chris says his most rewarding musical accomplishment has been watching his son, Chris II, become a successful professional musician. Chris’ musical influence led his son to the drums, and later to a double major in music and business. Today, Chris II has turned his skills into more than music – working at record companies, teaching students, gaining endorsement deals, and recording on several album projects.
“I did everything I could to talk him out of it,” Chris admits. “Music is such a fickle business. When he first started school, I said, ‘Do what you love. Then it’s not work.’ If you do that, then you’re not worried about the money. When he decided to go into music, I couldn’t argue with that.”
You’ll likely find Chris playing with one of his bands a couple of weekends each month. One day, he hopes to make music his full-time job. If he follows his own advice, he may never have to “work” again.
Learn more about Chris’ musical career and where he’s playing next at his website.