Hello! Is It Me You’re Looking For?


Long time, no update. Here’s the Reader’s Digest scoop. I continue to enjoy my work teaching privately at my studio & my classes at Old Town School. I still teach and play with a rotating solo Beatle acoustic ensemble at the school (currently session 1 of George Harrison, of which there will be 2) and my long-running Art Rock Ensemble (team-coached with the multi-talented Bob Goins) continues to grow & amaze. I maintain 2-3 core guitar classes at the school as well. And I’ve had the pleasure of sub-teaching many classes, most notably Steve Dawson’s long-running Songwriting class on Sunday.

I’ve been rehearsing, performing, recording in the studio, playing & enjoying family life, sports, books, & other people’s music. As far as ‘music career’ touchstones in the past 10 months I have had the pleasure of playing wonderful music with the likes of Phil Angotti & friends, a brief but educational stint with The Cheetles, Lara Filip’s “Birdie Wing” project (produced by Liam Davis), Mark William Johnson (a musician friend I have been playing on/off with for 25 years now) Dave Sills, Paul Maich (a record being produced by Anne Heaton, engineered by Dan Glomski) Ross Freeman (record being produced by Steve Dawson) Bill Brickey & Alton Smith’s children/adult projects, and most recently filling the electric guitar/backing vocal roll in a newer Art Rock group called Razorhouse (fronted by writer Mark Panick) and many others I’m probably forgetting. A digital painting by the great artist Tom McKeon is pictured above from my first Razorhouse show at Mayne Stage Theater this past week. Cheers! I’ll try to get back in the swing of updating here regularly again, in time.

I Forgot to Remember September

Actually, I’m taking the month off, thankfully. Teaching, recording, re-charging. Check back at some point in October!  Here are a couple scenes from my late August recording sabbatical at Uncle Tom’s Cabin (go ahead, laugh… cringe… everyone else does) up in the woods.  It was blissful… both relaxing and productive.  tz whitters dockCheers – TzIMG_2241


August Discussed

simons sills flyer

Greetings all!  It’s shaping up to be a busy month in August.  A quick recap of the end of July first.  I played a great house concert at Pig & Weasel with my student/friend Alaina Stacey.  She is so talented and I was honored to be asked to be her accompanist for a special evening of music.  Hopefully we’ll have some video/audio highlights to share later this month.


Bhakti Fest in Madison with Mike Cohen‘s group was blissful.  The band included many singers, Stone Damon on drums, Steve Emmerman on bass, and Taz Rashid on percussion, among others.  Above is a panoramic shot of the action from the stage.

tz n td

Thomas Dunning’s HOOT NIGHT!  “Motown vs Broadway” wow!  Those who were there know what I exclaim about.  Incredible show.  “Sir Duke” is on YouTube done with an all-star band of Steve Frisbie, Gerald Dowd, Alton Smith & Jacqueline Schimmel.  Another on YouTube is with me sitting in on bass for Steve Frisbie, with Gerald Dowd for Steve’s Motown-take on “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”.  What a voice!  Speaking of voices… Phil Angotti did a great “Tracks of My Tears” and I also got to sit in with him for “Til There Was You”.  I played drums with Catherine Smitko & Jeff Kust for “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar and “Superstition” (mashed up with Metallica, lol)  More video to come later in the month.  (and I’ll have to figure out how to link directly to video here on the site!)

Coming up in August… Lollapalooza!  I’m very blessed to be asked to sit in on bass with Jambo Steve Pierson’s group on the kid’s stage Friday & Saturday August 2nd & 3rd.  I fully plan to see some other acts including Queens of The Stone Age, The National, Band of Horses, and The Blisters (with Alaina Stacey guesting).

Sunday August 11th at Simons, 9pm Tommi Zender & Dave Sills Variety Hour (flyer at the top of this post) w/special guests Tim Mulvenna on percussion & Shana Gray on vocals.  We’ll do 2 sets featuring some of Dave’s songs, my songs, and select cover tunes.  No Cover!!!


Band on the Run presented by Phil Angotti & Friends, including Casey McDonough on bass, Erich McMann on guitars, Carolyn Engelmann on keys and yours truly on the drum set, and more!  Martyrs, Monday August 12th at 8pm.  Tickets are a mere $7.  We presented this album in it’s entirety back in the winter on one of the coldest days of the year at Reggie’s and the reaction was unanimous that we nailed it.  Here’s your chance to hear us do it again on the north side in warmer climes.

The Smiths Acoustic Ensemble and Art Rock Ensemble graduation performances will be on Sunday August 18th @ 909 Armitage location of Old Town School in the theater.  BYOB and no admission charge–come by if you like to see what Alton Smith, Bob Goins and I have been up to at the school with our talented students.  Exact times to be determined but between 4:30 pm and 7:30 is the likely window.

The second half of August will be dedicated to RECORDING.  In the works are a new ambient guitar album and a pop/rock EP of many songs I’ve been playing for years now but have not yet recorded proper.  More details as it unfolds this fall.  Thanks so much for reading and for supporting the arts/music I’m involved in.  Peace!

There’s No “I” in July!

Thanks to everyone who caught The Tubes (and me) at City Winery.  It was a great night & they were fantastic as ever, and very gracious to me as their opening act armed with only an acoustic guitar.  We reminisced about pre-1990’s Phoenix AZ, and guitarist Roger Steen & I discovered we shared the same alma mater.  He & I swapped solo records as well.  City Winery staff were fabulous and I hope to return again at some point soon.  Here’s a couple pics of me with Fee Waybill & Roger Steen.  And also my newly autographed original pressing of their 2nd record.

Friday July 5th I’ll be playing electric guitar atmospherics with Mike Cohen‘s Kirtan group at “Bhakti Fest” in Madison WI.  The group will also feature Chicago musicians Stone Damon on drums/percussion, Steve Emmerman on Bass, Debi Buzil, Stephanie Starnes on voices.

Sunday July 7th @ Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square:  Fretboard Geography Workshop with Tommi Zender 2-3:30pm.  Register and info here.

I’ll be focusing some of July on generating additional material for my next ambient guitar record to be released later this fall.  But before the month is over…wait for it…

Friday July 27th Hideout…it’s the return of, or rather possibly even the retirement of… Thomas Dunning’s HOOT NIGHT!!!  A cavalcade of all-star Chicago musicians all doing 2 songs around a given theme.  This time it’s “Motown vs Broadway”.  You’d better get a ticket quick if you want to go because this will sell out.  Tickets here!

Artists appearing on the night include:

Nora O’Connor
Steve Frisbie
Smitko and The Masters’
Dag Juhlin
Steve Dawson
Justin Roberts
Joie de Necklines
Zapruder Point
Ingrid Graudins
Phil Angotti
Michael Ross
Tommi Zender
Tom Dunning & Your Boyfriends
Plus surprise ghosts of Hoot Nights past and more!


June Right In Tune

ImageAmbient Guitar Soundscapes Performance @ Wholelife Expo 2013, Sunday June 2nd 4-5pm.  More Info on Wholelife Expo.  I will have brand new copies of my first ambient record “Words Get In The Way” for sale at this event.  In the event YOU can’t make the event… and you’d like to purchase the work, please feel free to contact this artist directly.  The album is not available as a digital download–CD only, $12 includes S/H. Here’s a photo of the artist holding up the recorded art.Photo on 2013-05-14 at 16.58


Summer classes taught at Old Town School of Folk Music (more info).

I’m opening for some of my childhood rock heroes The Tubes at City Winery on Friday June 28th.  Tix & Info here.

May I Help You?

The Reader’s Digest version for May!  I’m playing at Old Town School of Folk Music on Thursday May 9th in Szold Hall as part of the “Teacher Feature”.  I teach there & they’re being kind enough to feature me playing my music.  I’ll try to not to disappoint. I play at 9:30pm and tickets are only $5.  Click here for more info!  Oh… there’s an open mic before my performance so if you’re inclined please sign up for that.

Phil Angotti’s CD Release show at SPACE has been rescheduled to Wed May 29th .

Early warning:  I’ll be opening for some of my childhood rock heroes The Tubes at City Winery on Friday June 28th.  Tix & Info here.

Sun Jun 2nd 4-5pm Ambient Guitar concert at Wholelife Expo 2013 at Schaumberg Convention Center.  More info at the link above!

April Come You Will, Maybe?

First off I would like to thank Dave Sills again for playing my March residency show at Wishbone, and for letting me play guitar & sing with him.  Big thanks to all of you who attended & made the night really fun!  Also, thanks to those who came to Martyrs to support Phil Angotti Band for part 1 of the CD release celebration for Phil’s new LP “Life and Rhymes” (and big thanks to Brad Elvis, Chloe Orwell, and Ellis Clark for joining in–you all sounded great!)  April is looking to be a busy one, especially in the middle of the month, so I’ll get right to it:


Monday April 15th @ City Winery, 8PM (6pm doors) Music of Paul McCartney played by Phil Angotti, Steve Dawson & Co (featuring Carolyn Engelmann on keyboards/vocals, Casey McDonough on bass/vocals, and Tommi Zender on drums/percussion).  We’ll be reprising the bulk of the “Ram” LP (or 8-track tape if you prefer) as well as some key tracks from “Band On The Run” and other 70’s McCartney/Wings tunes.  Tickets and more info at the link above.  Watch us play “Band on The Run” from a show at SPACE in Evanston last year.

Now for more good news:  Phil Angotti’s new CD is officially released!


Thursday April 18th @ 7:30pm - Phil Angotti Band @ SPACE in Evanston. This will be the CD release (part 2) for “Life and Rhymes”.  The CDs are here and they will be available at this show.  SPACE is a great listening room; tickets are available at the link above.  Phil’s backing band for this show will be Tommi Zender on guitars/vocals, Charlie Short on bass/vocals, Jim Barclay on drums.  Opening act is Eric Howell & The Supplements.  Preview &/or buy Phil’s new record at CD Baby or get mp3’s on Amazon

And… the last show of Tommi’s spring residency series is…


Tommi Zender w/Mark William Johnson @ Wishbone – Sunday April 21st, 7-9pm.  Tommi has been accompanying Mark on/off for about 25 years.  Mark is a talented soulful singer & songwriter who is unfortunately kind of a well-kept secret on the Chicago music scene. (this is due to the fact he is often found running the Tiny Lounge)  This will be the LAST SHOW in the residency series, as curator Miki Greenberg is headed to work at the new Wishbone downtown (congrats Miki!)  Like I said, it’s the last one so you don’t want to miss it.  Tommi will accompany Mark in his set, as well as perform many of his own originals (and SOMEONE lucky will take the “Karaeoke Challenge”).  There is no cover charge for this show.  Great music, food, drink, company.

Other things for you to check out this month… the beat goes on!

Ron Sexsmith & Band @ City Winery – Thurs April 11th 8pm (doors at 6)  Ron is an amazing singer-songwriter who you should hear play live.

Happy Chichester – New LP “Torchwood Loop”  My friend from Ohio has recently released his new record.  You may know Happy from his work with Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, RJD2, Brad, or as a founding member of Royal Crescent Mob & Howling Maggie.  His solo work is worth hearing, and he is a fellow multi-instrumentalist who plays every instrument on his record.  Check out the single “Motorbike”  He is a very engaging live performer–hopefully we’ll get him to visit Chicago again soon.