Creative Pagosa: Joseph Gilbert, jazz guitarist

Joseph Gilbert

Joseph Gilbert

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 Joseph Gilbert.

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?

JG: My name is Joseph Gilbert. I was born in Arvada, Colo., in 1951. I am a third generation Coloradan. I have a degree in zoology from the University of Colorado at Denver. I come from a family of eight kids – four girls and four boys. I have lived in Pagosa Springs since 1980. I had a friend who invited me to help him start a small sawmill out near Chimney Rock, just past Keyah Grande. He agreed to pay me, at least partially, in fresh, winter cut logs so that I could build, by hand, a log house. The epitome of youthful naivete. I never left Pagosa. Too broke.

I am married to Christina Knoell, and have three daughters: Genevieve, 27 years old, Olivia 11, and little Lili who is 9. Call me Mister Lucky.

I started playing the guitar when I was 12 years old. I had several years of piano lessons so I knew how to read music. I bought the very first Rolling Stones album and was hooked.

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

JG: I am an improvising musician in that I try to create music spontaneously, based upon an initial trellis of chords and/or notes. No song is ever played the same. Each note or chord is here and just as quickly gone. One day, when I was about 7 years old, I was listening to an Erroll Garner album. He was a very popular jazz pianist, and my older sister, Mary, told me that he was “making up the music” as he played it and that kind of music was “improvised.” From that day forward, I was utterly enchanted by that notion.

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

JG: I play one of two different guitars — both are hollow bodied electric guitars. I use one of three older, tube-style amplifiers.

I play standard American popular songs from the jazz canon, but I also lean heavily on the American blues form. I also love more freely improvised forms of jazz.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

JG: I really try to practice between one to three hours a day, but generally if I can get a solid, productive hour in, I’m happy!

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

JG: Man, I’ve gotten some great advice along the way but the best artistic advice has been to be yourself and don’t try to copy anyone unless it is to learn something. If you are not yourself, what’s the point to any of this life? I mean this applies to every aspect of our existence. Why copy someone else!

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

JG: Other than playing my guitar my favorite activity is sticking with my kids and staying close to home. My wife and I have created and built a nice little crib for ourselves — a big garden, an owner-built greenhouse, nice and quiet. But I have to get out of here to even like it here. It can be a little too provincial at times. Not too many jazz venues. We need more.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

JG: My goals for the coming year are to keep practicing, and to play more in public and get paid for it.

Q: What is your dream project?

JG: My dream project would be to play in an ensemble setting with some other musicians who I can develop an ongoing musical conversation with, in a setting where everyone is really pushed to give their best and the sounds are divine!

To learn more about Joseph Gilbert visit his Facebook page, Joe Gilbert, Maker of Things, Player of Music.

This story was posted on June 6, 2013.