Local guitar celebrity Zack Artis

by Roger Walk

When I was enjoying a dinner at the local Brew American Gastropub restaurant my attention was first captured and then I was mesmerized by the songs and instrumental pieces from the guitar performer who humbly played with his guitar and an unobtrusive sound amplification system in the corner of the restaurant.

The repertoire was refreshingly diverse: From virtuoso fusion jazz to emotional ballads all the way to Beatles and Rolling Stones songs. Baby Boomer’s heaven!  When I looked around I realized that the place was packed with patrons of all ages actually paying attention to the music that was played by the artist in the pub/restaurant. In a short break after a series of excellently performed songs that stimulated genuine and loud applause by the audience, I approached the performer to learn more about his contributions to the Chester music scene.

So I met local music celebrity Zack Artis, the mid-thirty guitar celebrity and teacher. I had obviously missed his multiple appearances on “Virginia This Morning” (Channel 6). Mr. Artis is from Lancaster, Pa., but came to the region when his father started a church in Ettrick 16 years ago. Artis started to play guitar at age nine.

Driven by the passion to play the instrument, he bought his first guitar with the money he had saved from selling his own artwork. To have his father stop at the guitar store, he made an arrow stick and pointed it out of the window each time they passed the guitar shop in their car. Two years later he, and his brother on drums, played guitar in his first public appearance at a retirement home. At 17 he made his decision to become a professional musician and he played at bar gigs and at local churches as a trio with his brother on drums and a singer.

In addition to the beginning of a performing career Artis began his first guitar teaching job in Chester, Bokins Music Store, at age 18. For the past eight years Artis has instructed local talent at the Chester Guitar School “Music Studies Unlimited” as a full-time teacher.

Artis today is well renowned as a solo performer in the Chester area and all over Virginia with over 200 performances a year. He recently opened up at concerts of the Temptations and Vince Gill.

Artis lives in Petersburg, but performs and teaches frequentlyin the Chester area. He performs regularly at the Brew and Riptides restaurant and has performed at Brass Monkeys in recent months. Beyond the local Chester area, Artis performs at Wabi Sabi (Petersburg), Imperial Plaza (Richmond) and the Cooper Vineyards (Louisa).
After “From the Heart” and “Dreams,” Artis has published his third CD at Full Circle Recording Studio with producer Daniel Uphoff.

Artis uses his pop arrangements to grab the attention of his audiences for his unique finger-style jazz music. Artis plays his original compositions on both acoustic and electric guitar. His style is influenced by guitar “giants” such as Tommy Emanuel, who he played with at the Richmond In Your Ear recording studio.

“It was a highlight of my career to play with such an outstanding and influential guitar player,” said Artis.

Other artists that he was listening to when he developed his own style were Chet Atkins, Steve Via, and Joe Satriani, most of which practice the “flat picker” style on the guitar, that Artis favors.

“I am a versatile one-man band” says Artis. He uses his modern sound amplification system mostly to provide a perfect sound in the pub/bar/restaurant venues where he is playing and sometimes mesmerizes his attentive audience with multiple voices and instruments generated with immediate loop technology. His music extends into multi-piece band play, but remains unique and “live” without using any pre-recorded materials.

When I had finished my dinner at the Brew, I just stayed there to listen until Artis had finished all his sets of music for the evening and realized that the pub was still packed – way beyond Chesterfield’s bedtime.


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