About Me
Sandy Shalk
Sandy Shalk

  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I spent my teenage years in Newark,
Delaware after my parents decided to leave the city for the promise of
suburbia.  Like so many of my peers, my fascination with the guitar began
in 1964, the night I watched the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.  
I was hooked! My empathetic parents arranged for the arrival of my first
guitar the following Christmas--a Sears Silvertone (replete with an amp built
into the case). Armed shortly after with only a few chords, I and some
friends formed our first group, eventually to play the popular rock and roll
tunes of the day at fire halls, schools, and parties
throughout high school.  My early musical interests include rock
and roll, folk, and jazz music including some of the great jazz
guitarists of the 1960s: Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, and Kenny Burrell.  
One of the high schools bands I played in (the Reverbs!) included a
precocious high school drummer who was our local Buddy Rich. A trip
with him to see Buddy Rich perform at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia
ignited what was to become a love of jazz for me. I was in fact able to
attend the Newport jazz festival a few years starting in high school. A
friend with a car, a few bucks, and a tent go a long way in the festival
circuit back then. I can proudly say I saw such legendary performers as
Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington at Newport among many

  As neglectful as I was of my high school studies, I somehow made it into
the University of Delaware for a short-lived stint. The lure of playing full-
time was strong, and I left college to begin full-time career as a guitarist in
the early 1970s with local popular and jazz music groups from Northern
Delaware. After studying with Philadelphia guitar teacher legend Dennis
Sandole, I toured the United States for four years with Turning Point,
playing contemporary popular music. The experience included an
opportunity to play with oldies groups including Joey Dee and the
Starlighters who hit the charts in the 60s with the Peppermint Twist. After
returning to Wilmington in the late 70s, I played jazz and popular music
with a number of local groups including Centerpeace, Boulevard and

  I had gained an appreciation for the day-gig during my performing years,
and returned to the University of Delaware in 1980 to earn a B.A. in
American Studies and an M.A in Literature and Pedagogy. I eventually
began teaching English at Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Delaware in
1984. Attempting to connect history to some of the literature I was
teaching, led to my compiling some Delaware history into lessons. This
eventually led to the publication my book,
Delaware: A Trivia Guide to the
First State
, in 1995 (Heritage Books, Inc.). In 1996 I became a high school
principal in Milford, Delaware, and in 2001 received a doctorate from
Wilmington University. I returned to Smyrna in 2000 to assume the position
of the Director of Curriculum where I currently work. As the Director of
Curriculum, I’ve been responsible for monitoring the implementation of
school curriculum K-12, state testing, accountability issues, summer
school, professional development, etc.--all those things in education that
keep me up late at night messing about with the guitar!

  I believe my musical journey took new twist in the mid-1990s when my
interests turned to fingerstyle guitar, and I was introduced to the music of
El McMeen, Steve Baughman, Pierre Bensusan and other great artists who
arrange music for the guitar in alternate tunings. In fact, a lesson with El
sparked an interest in arranging fingerstyle tunes and set me on a path to
evolving in that musical direction. I admit to falling in love with the idea of
playing guitar solo since the instrument lends itself to that endeavor.
Attending the Swannanoa Gathering for Guitar Week in the early 2000s
introduced me to some of the first-class players of the genre. I subscribe to
the view that the Gathering is a special event in the hills of Asheville, NC.
Class during the day and jamming all night is de rigeur for the week. I was
fortunate to meet fellow fingerstyle traveler
Tim Alexander from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We stayed in touch as we
crafted our fingerstyle arrangements, and we eventually
Giving Voice (Piney Ridge Music) in 2006—our collection of solo
fingerstyle guitar tracks, each of us doing seven tracks.
Giving Voice was
recorded and engineered by Marc Moss (of the Mosstins) and produced by
El McMeen who remains a friend, mentor, and inspirational musician to us.


     As a solo performer, I perform fingerstyle arrangements
of Scottish, Irish, American tunes, both traditional and modern,
and jazz tunes in alternate guitar tunings such as Dadgad, Cgdgad,
and dropped D. I admit to being a bit obsessed with arranging tunes
typically associated with jazz into DADGAD tuning. That passion has
resulted in the release of
Newer Every Day (2014)—my solo guitar cd. I
should note that I am not loath to pick up the electric guitar now and then
for a gig should friends send one my way.   I enjoy all things guitar for
sure!  I currently reside in Smyrna, Delaware with my wife and three sons
and perform locally in folk venues.
Turning Point mid-1970s
“In essence, what I’m
trying to do is capture that
vocal quality in guitar
arrangements—in effect,
to sing through the guitar.”
El McMeen