Tom Griesgraber’s (pronounced “GRICE-gray-burr”) career path has been an interesting one. The San Diego, CA, native studied piano as a child and soon moved on to guitar. While still in high school he started studying music at MiraCosta College and enrolled there upon graduation. Griesgraber earned a scholarship and transferred to the world renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of music degree in electric guitar performance. He then spent a year at San Diego State University studying for a master’s degree in jazz.
In 1997, Griesgraber’s life changed when he saw Stick player Tony Levin perform with Jerry Marotta and Steve Gorn at the NAMM convention. Griesgraber was completely blown away by the music Levin was creating with the Stick, and in a dramatic move, Tom put his creative career on hold, set aside the guitar, and focused on the fresh and still mostly unexplored territory of the often unrecognized Chapman Stick. “Logically that decision didn’t make much sense,” says Griesgraber. “It really felt like starting over, but I just knew I had to do it. I believe every one of us has a purpose in life and if we concentrate on doing what we feel called to do, no matter the risks, things work out for the best.”
“I was hungry and ready to do something different,” says Griesgraber, who bought a used Stick for $650 and began his studies using two instructional texts. Now Griesgraber’s principal instrument, guitar and bass styles can both be played on the Stick. He uses a synthesizer version as well.
The diversity of the Stick enables Griesgraber to create any kind of music he wants. “I love being able to create a mood and tell a story. To do that, I approach my music as being more composed than improvised,” he says. “But when I play live there is a good deal of improvisation and everything is always open to change.” A Whisper in the Thunder exemplifies Tom Griesgraber’s intuitive and forward thinking approach to creating music. The album’s soulful exploration of sound, with its unusual instrumentation and sophisticated compositions, is artful yet accessible, complex and impressive, inspirational and melodic, further solidifying Tom’s commitment to thoughtful composition and creative performance. Seeking out richly powerful supporting collaborations, Griesgraber enlisted some of the most respected instrumentalists in the world to join the project, including drummers Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls) and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mr. Mister) and The California Guitar Trio. The result is profound. The bulk of ‘A Whisper In The Thunder’ emanates from Griesgraber alone, but the touches contributed by others — especially the exotic drums, percussion and loops added by Marotta and Mastelotto and the acoustic guitars by the California Guitar Trio’s Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya — help him fully realize his vision. “Collaborations are always fun because they pull you out of what you do,” says Griesgraber.
A Whisper In The Thunder is the first step toward a lifelong career with unlimited musical possibilities. “I feel like ‘Whisper’ is just the beginning,” says Griesgraber, “but I feel that way about every project I do. I don’t think I’ll ever be done looking for new ways to make music. It’s the search itself that keeps me in the game.”