Creative Pagosa: Jack Ellis

Photo courtesy Jack Ellis Pagosa musician Jack Ellis began playing the guitar as a youngster in New York and the guitar has been the one constant in a life that has included marriage, fatherhood, a career as an educator and work as a performer.

Photo courtesy Jack Ellis
Pagosa musician Jack Ellis began playing the guitar as a youngster in New York and the guitar has been the one constant in a life that has included marriage, fatherhood, a career as an educator and work as a performer.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Jack Ellis.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

JE: I’m a salt water kid, born on the North Shore of Long Island, on The Sound and Stony Brook Harbor. I clammed, fished, waterskied, played pond hockey and baseball and, as a paperboy, delivered Newsday and the Smithtown Messenger. It was at the end of my deliveries on a Saturday that I bought my first guitar for five dollars from a guy needing train fare into the city. The guy had an f-hole Harmony and, I remember, I was on top of the world, playing it until my hands dribbled red. When I got the courage up, I’d play coffee houses on the Island.

Later in life, I earned a B.A. and M.A. in literature, married a co-ed, my first wife, a Colorado gal, and current girlfriend, and taught English with the girlfriend teaching art in a beautiful mountain town with great people in Colorado. We raised two daughters, both married and mothers now. I’d sometimes play them to sleep with the guitar.

In short, outside of the few years I was doing graduate work at the university, the guitar has been a constant in my life. Got me through some lean times as a teenager.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

JE: I‘m a student of the guitar. I’m an interpreter. Acoustic blues is the baseline.

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

JE: I guess I’d say any guitar that stays in tune. I like Martin and Taylor guitars. Over the last five years, I’ve played Gibson J-200 and J-300 in performance. For slide, I like National guitars. I also have worked on tap boards for percussion over the years and use them when I play. To me, hearing John Lee Hooker sing and play and, at the same time, hearing his foot tapping is pretty much it.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

JE: I always found the time to play. I put in between two to six hours a day depending on my performance schedule. More than not, an hour playing feels like a few minutes.

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

JE: My students when I taught used to give me advice daily and my girlfriend/wife hourly; I think the core advice from my dad was to be honest with yourself and seek out truth. Also, to enjoy the ride, because it’s never as long as you think. The guitar tells me three things: practice, practice, practice. And then, a fourth, be humble.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa country?

JE: Over the years, I’ve appreciated and benefitted from many outdoor activities this area offers. Lately, a daily walk with the girlfriend comes to mind.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

JE: I just want to be a better person tomorrow than I am today. That just about covers it.

Q: What is your dream project?

JE: don’t think I have a dream project. I’m not waiting for Keith Richard to call and beg  to sit in with me. Although, what an education! A friend who is a working musician played pubs in Ireland last winter. I suppose I’d love to do a small tour over the pond sometime. But, I’m not panting and running in place for that. The bottom line: I’m a working musician living in beautiful Pagosa. I’m thankful for that.

This story was posted on June 20, 2013.