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Koch has the world on a string

Guitarist's travels bring him home to jam with son

Oct. 26, 2011

A decision made the summer after seventh grade - and a bit of motivation from his lawyer father - set Greg Koch on a path that has led him around the world playing guitar.

Koch, 45, has played in Australia, South Africa, and all around Europe and Asia. This summer, he came back to his roots when his Greg Koch Trio played at Festa Italiana and when he teamed up with his son, Dylan, and other musicians for Chili'n on the Avenue in Wauwatosa.

When he's not touring, Koch does clinics for Fender Guitars and Hal Leonard Publishing and has put out about a dozen albums. None of it would have happened if not for that summer after seventh grade at Christ King School, when he and some buddies decided it might be pretty cool to play at their eighth-grade graduation.

"Ever since that performance, I just took to it," he said.

His father noticed Koch's passion but worried.

"My father was a lawyer. He said, 'If you're going to do this music thing, pal, you better do it well.' "

So, Koch studied and practiced hard to avoid "getting stuck doing menial work" to support his craft. He even went to college but dropped out 22 credits short of a music performance degree.

"I was performing all the time. I said, 'I think I've got my degree,' " Koch said.

He teamed up with Fender about 1995 after a representative from the company heard him play. The company invited him to do clinics, playing and discussing technique.

When Fender launched a new amplifier in 2001, the national tour Koch had for his technique clinics went global.

About that same time, Koch booked with Hal Leonard Publishing, to demonstrate guitar method.

"It's been pretty fascinating," Koch said. "All these different things kind of tie together."

Those varied experiences help him keep perspective.

"Playing in front of 20,000 people, they treat you like a god. Then I come back home to play with a buddy at a place with 15 people where the TVs are on," he said. "But you're there because you love playing."

Lately, Koch has found inspiration teaming up with his son, a high school student in Tosa and a natural drummer, who has followed in his footsteps

"It's really fun, just from a musical point of view, saying, 'Look at this kid. He understands the concepts without being spoon-fed.' " Koch said. "And then there's the fact that he's my kid. It's amazing!"

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