All over this country, there are countless people trying or who have tried to make it in the
There are as many opinions on just what exactly defines making it
as there are those trying to make it.
"There's a huge gap between being a very good player and being a famous player," classical guitarist Eric Hamilton said
recently from his home in San Francisco.
"The gap is so wide that there's a thousand rungs on the ladder. I don't know what rung I'm on. I don't know what rung
is required to be considered a household name."
Wherever that rung is, Hamilton knows he isn't on it, but that doesn't matter because fame and fortune — particularly
fame — aren't the cornerstones of his definition of having made it.
"I've said, you can keep the fame, just give me the fortune," he laughed.
The 49-year-old Hamilton, who relocated from Lincoln Park to the West Coast over the summer, does have a little something
more in the way of bragging rights these days.
When the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences holds the 47th annual Grammy Awards Feb. 13, Hamilton will have
a personal stake in Best Pop Instrumental Album category, in which Mason William's "Music for the Epicurean Harkener" is a
"The second track on that is called 'Flamenco Lingo' and that is mine and Mason's performance on that," Hamilton said.
"We're performing a duet."
He was quick to point out he's not the one with the Grammy nomination. If the album wins, Hamilton won't get a little gold
statue, but he will get a certificate from the recording academy for having been a part of it.
"I'm very pleased by it," he said, "but I don't go around touting that as much as what I do being a guitarist at large."
Hamilton was a "guitarist at large" in the Detroit area since 1987, but for many in the Downriver area, he is better known
as a virtuoso in stringed instrument repair.
"I started doing the repair job because I moved to Michigan and couldn't get work as a performing artist," Hamilton said.
"There wasn't much room for me as a classical guitarist, so I had to divert my skill to other areas of music."
With a family to raise, Hamilton took a position at Shar Products in Ann Arbor, where he learned violin repair under world
class violin maker David Burgess.
All the while, he continued to play when he could find the work.
After about five years at Shar, Hamilton started his own instrument repair business out of his home, where he developed
a reputation for fine work.
Hamilton believes there is a close connection between his passion as a performer and his prowess as a technician.
"I think knowing the instruments from the inside out helps you to be a better player, and being a good player helps you
to become a good technician, so they work hand in hand," he said.
If anyone could see just how much an instrument could do, he could. While in his care, instruments could get the workout
of a lifetime, and he could fine-tune them to levels beyond what their owners would ever need.
But while being a technician paid the bills, performing was his first love, and the demand for classical guitarists around
Detroit was frustratingly sparse.
In his frustration, Hamilton decided to try and create his own opportunity, which led in a roundabout way to being on the
"I hooked up with Mason Williams in 1994," Hamilton recalled.
"Completely out of options in the Detroit area," Hamilton decided to contact all the civic orchestras in the area and see
if he could put together a performance of the Rodrigo Concerto, with Williams' most famous piece, "Classical Gas," as an encore.
"In my research to find the score for 'Classical Gas' I couldn't find it anywhere on the market in terms of a score," Hamilton
said, "So I contacted American Gramophone, which was the last label that Mason had recorded on.
"They said why don't you just call Mason Williams? Here's his number."
When Hamilton tried the number, Williams answered the phone. When Hamilton explained what he wanted to do, Williams sent
him sheet music for each musician in the orchestra.
From that project, Hamilton recorded a CD titled "Music From the Great Hall." About three months after its release, Williams
called him to encourage him to do more.
For the past four years, Hamilton has been doing more. A new CD, "Eric Hamilton Plays Mason Williams," produced by Brian
Kutscher out of the Greater Good Studios in Dearborn Heights, is due out early in 2005.
Since moving to San Francisco, his career has gotten a lot busier.
"It has already proven itself to be an advantage to my career," he said. "I got a call yesterday to do two dates to perform
at the Golden Gate Conservatory of Flowers between now and the end of the year.
"In the six months since I moved from the Detroit area to the San Francisco Bay area I've probably done as many or more
performances as I did in 17 years in Michigan."
Hamilton also performs meditational services every week at San Francisco's historic Trinity Cathedral, the first Episcopal
church west of the Rockies.
He recently was commissioned to transcribe thechoral music to Arthur Honegger's "Cantabile de Noel" for the San Francisco
Next month, he will record an album of music by Joaquin Rodrigo and John Dowland with baritone Tim Krol, perhaps known
best for his work with the world-famous all-male chorus Chanticleer.
"I'm also heavily involved in a teaching program for as group called Young Performers International that's based out of
San Francisco," he said.
"It's a very diverse group of children from roughly 5 to 16 years who are gifted instrumentalists and vocalists.
"We do regular performances all over the bay area. I'm a faculty member as well as an arranger. And I was recently asked
to become personal assistant to the executive director."
Now certified as an "A" level technician for 22 major guitar manufacturers, Hamilton also continues to do repairs out of
one of the world's finest guitar repair facilities, Gary Brawer Stringed Instrument Repair in San Francisco.
And while the Grammy news is exciting, Hamilton recently learned that he has been nominated as Guitarist of the Year by
Artistlaunch.com and Free World Radio, an Internet radio network for independent artists.
Altogether, it makes for a busy schedule for Hamilton. But when you're doing something that you love, busy is good.
"I can't think of anything I'd rather do than play music."