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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Shredding guitarist Batten heads GuitarFest

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Batten Batten
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When Jennifer Batten looks out on the guitar neophytes and pros of all ages at Saturday's Toledo School for the Arts GuitarFest 2011, she'll be able to relate to pretty much every one of them.

Junior high-age kid playing guitar incessantly and soaking up as much knowledge as she can about music? Check.

Hustling young musician playing in a handful of bands and doing everything necessary to get paid for gigs? Check.

Music teacher looking to pick up some tips on how to help students learn? Check.

Batten has gone through all those incarnations. What she won't have in common with anyone else is that she'll be the only person in the room who's played with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, two giants in their respective types of music.

The Portland, Ore., resident grew up playing guitar constantly, studying music, and learning to read it. She attended the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and eventually taught there as well, while establishing herself as an in-demand session musician who worked with a variety of artists in numerous styles, including rock, jazz, and world music.

She is perhaps best known as the blond guitarist with the massive mane of hair who shared the stage with Jackson on his "Bad," "Dangerous," and "HIStory" tours, ripping it up on rhythm and lead guitar.

In a phone interview from her home in Portland, Batten said Jackson taught her the value of theatrics and how to use video and multi-media presentations in her performances and teaching.

"It was really a theater show with him and what he wanted to give the audiences were all mind-blowing, one-of-a-kind things that had never been done before," she said.

Batten has incorporated some of those elements into the performance she will give Saturday, playing solo guitar while films that accent her musicianship play in the background.

Her collaboration with Beck from 1998 to 2001 was the result of her giving him a copy of her work, which he said he loved. Then she didn't hear from him for several years before he called out of the blue and said he wanted to play together.

She ended up touring with him for three years and the English guitar player famous for his work in the Yardbirds and his jazz albums turned her onto electronica music and opened her eyes to a variety of musical concepts.

"That was a real blessing. He's not the geeky kind of guy who will sit down and show me licks. I think of him more like a singer than a guitar player. For him it's more about melody and he's kind of flighty like a singer," Batten said.

Batten said she will try to impart on GuitarFest participants the wide variety of styles that are available on guitar, from world beat to electronica to rock. She also will demonstrate the two-finger "shredding" style for which she is famous in guitar circles.

"Imparting the joy of creativity is No. 1 more than anything," she said. "And keeping an open mind to all forms of music, from world beat to rock to whatever. I think when kids are young they tend to look to one form of music and think it's not cool."

GuitarFest 2011 is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Toledo School for the Arts, 333 14th St. In addition to Batten, featured artists will include Scott Williams, Jeff Deitsch, Jay Weik, Larry Wagner, Ken Zuercher, and Randy Sobel, all of whom will participate in workshops, clinics, performances, and master classes.

The event is open to all level of players and musical styles and it is open to the public. Admission is $25 and registration starts at 9:30 a.m. Information: ts4arts.org or 419-246-8732, ext. 226.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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