With a career spanning 40 years, Ken Arconti is recognized as an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, author and educator.
Growing up in Los Angeles, California, Ken was exposed to music at an early age. Learning to play the violin at age eight, he performed in his elementary school’s orchestra and sang in the school chorus. With the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the United States, Ken found himself drawn to the sound of the electric guitar. He began teaching himself to play at age eleven and was soon performing in bands and absorbing the sounds of the ‘60s. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the soul sounds of Stax and Motown, the blues of B.B. and Albert King, and jazz artists Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery were all influences. While in his teens, Ken performed regularly at schools, churches, community and youth centers, and eventually moved on to playing clubs, recording, touring and teaching.
In 1978, Ken relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and was soon ensconced in the local music scene. He has since performed extensively in clubs and concert halls throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Ken has been a guest soloist with the Santa Cruz County Symphony and a featured artist at blues and jazz festivals, including the world renowned Monterey Jazz Festival. He has shared the stage with the likes of John Mayall, Chris Cain, and Coco Montoya. The list of artists Ken has opened for in concert reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Blues and includes Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Albert Collins. As a sideman, he has filled the guitar chair with legendary New Orleans master drummer, Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), soul rockin’ tenor sax man, Terry Hanck, and rhythm & blues/soul singer John “Broadway” Tucker.
Ken has performed everything from country to jazz, to rock, to rhythm & blues. At home in almost any musical environment, Ken’s ability to seamlessly blend styles is evident on his three CD releases. His latest release, Catbird Seat (2011), is an intimate recording of solo acoustic guitar playing and singing. The album features two Arconti originals plus renditions of songs selected from a list of diverse writers including Bob Dylan, Chester Burnett (aka Howlin’ Wolf), and Stevie Wonder. Catbird Seat, along with the no-holds-barred, searing electric blues of As The Years Go Passing By (2007), and the soulful sophistication of the jazz-tinged instrumental Samsara Blues(2003), provide a glimpse of Ken’s tremendous versatility as a performer and composer.
As an educator, Ken has taught guitar in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. In addition to teaching private lessons, he has taught in public schools and conducted workshops in music theory, improvisation, songwriting, and performance. Active in the California Arts in Corrections program since 1992, Ken has been a music instructor at Soledad and San Quentin State Prisons. As the recipient of a prestigious Artist in Residence grant from the California Arts Council, he established a multi-cultural music program at Salinas Valley State Prison, featured in the 2002 VH1 documentary, "Music Behind Bars." Ken is the author of the instructional book Reading and Playing Guitar Melodies: A Step-by-Step Approach (2014) and currently teaches an ever-growing clientele of private guitar students at his studio in downtown Santa Cruz.