It is likely if you have been in Fountain Hills long you have had the pleasure of hearing the sounds of Art of Music.

The artists are Lesle St. John and Ukiah Odom, classical guitarists who perform frequently throughout the community and into the Valley.  They have played at weddings and receptions, open houses, parties and restaurants.

Listening to them play makes you feel good; their talent and their relationship work well together.

“We have a good time working together,” St. John said.  “We compliment each other’s strengths with our own.  It is a great partnership.”

Their training is varied.  St. John has a degree from Arizona State University in guitar performance.  She has studied guitar since she was six.

“The first guitarist I fell in love with was Chet Atkins,” she said.  “Over the years, I have come to appreciate all types of guitarists, but classical is what I have studied most.”

The couple both admires John Williams, Elliot Fiske and Dr. Frank Koontz, all classical guitarists.  They also like the talent of Leo Kottke and Bela Fleck, who plays banjo.

St. John’s guitar is a true classical guitar, with nylon strings and a longer neck than other guitars.

“The nylon strings give the instrument more resonance and are louder,” St. John said.  “A classical guitar is designed to play single notes.  Other guitars are better for playing chords.”

She said many people think that Flamenco music is classical. 

“It is a subset of classical,” she said.  “It is only one style.”

Odom plays a steel string guitar, providing the chords for St. John’s single notes.  The mix is mesmerizing.

Odom has a more jazz oriented background.  He also played rock, blue grass and country/western. He studied at the Blue Bear School of Music in San Francisco.  The school is considered “the college of rock and roll.”

In addition to learning performance and technique, Odom also learned the business of music, which has been an advantage to the couple.  He also was an accountant, so managing the business is something he does well.

“The business side of this is certainly not my favorite, but it is better than having somebody else do it,” he said.  “It’s just part of the deal.”

They both are musically versatile.  They play Bach, Vivaldi, Harold Arlen (Somewhere Over the Rainbow), Irving Berlin, the Beatles and then some.  They not only play music, but they read and score it.

“Having the ability to read music gives us the ability to play anything,” St. John said.  “And if you can’t score (write the notes) it, you can’t share it.

The sound of their guitars and their styling of the music creates an ambiance no matter where they play.

They play other instruments in addition to their guitars, so they can play a huge variety of music.

“We have been able to create a feeling for different events,” Odom said.

As performers, St. John and Odom are serious.  They practice.  They perform.  And practice more.  In addition to performing, they record their music and they teach.

They have recorded two CDs: Favorite Things and Carol of the Birds, a recording of Christmas music.

Favorite Things comprises music loved by St. John’s mother, Flo Bird.

“When we began to make plans to make the CD, we couldn’t decide what we should include on the recording.  My mother suggested we play her favorite songs, many of which are on the CD.”

They dedicated the CD to the people of Fountain Hills, and their original song, Holiday in the Hills is featured on both albums.

“We have had such a wonderful relationship through all these years with the people of Fountain Hills,” St. John said.  “We are proud to be part of this community, and the dedication is one way to say thank you to everybody.”

Their CDs are available on their website, www.artofmusic.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble at Desert Ridge.

Art of Music also does its own recording.  Their studio is in their home, so they can do the work conveniently.

“Having the studio here works really well,” Odom said.  “We can work well into the wee hours and not have to worry about driving home or not driving home.  We’re right here.”

St. John teaches guitar, piano and clarinet.  Odom teaches guitar, bass and drums.  Their teaching calendar essentially is filled, but they love teaching music.

“We don’t have our own children,” St. John said.  “We have everybody else’s.”

St. John and Odom have attended all of the Fountain Hills High School graduations and Middle School promotions.

“We’re proud of our kids,” Odom said.  “We like to be there when they are moving up.”

Odom and St. John stay busy.  Many weekends they may play four venues.  They want to keep it that way.

“We love what we do,” Odom said.  “We want to keep performing and growing.  It is a great life.”

Opposites in harmony

Guitar duo's music reflects varied history

 

Michelle Hoffman
Special for the Scottsdale Republic
Dec. 9, 2005 12:00 AM

 

SCOTTSDALE - Ukiah Odom honed his guitar skills playing in San Francisco coffeehouses. Lesle St. John took the collegiate route and studied music at Arizona State University. His background is jazz. Her background is classical. Ten years ago, they staked out a patch of musical ground and together formed Art of Music.

This husband-and-wife acoustic guitar duo will be at Barnes & Noble Desert Ridge Saturday serenading shoppers with duets from their Christmas CD, Carol of the Birds.

Christmas stalwarts Away in the Manger and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear as well as their own compositions bear the fingerprint of their varied experiences. The tunes take whimsical detours and incorporate elements of bluegrass, jazz and classical.

"We complement each other musically," St. John says of her mate of 13 years.

Billing themselves as classical guitarists, the two play weddings, parties and even art receptions. Their repertoire spans from Cold Play to Chopin to A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi.

But how Odom and St. John ever crossed paths is a matter of fate. St. John, a 1978 Shadow Mountain High School graduate, earned the distinction of being the only guitarist at Shadow Mountain who could read music.

She was even more novel at ASU. She was one of two women in the classical guitar program. After receiving a bachelor's degree in music, St. John began a rigorous master's program. Her formal education paid off. St. John does most of the arranging and scoring and can play piano and bass guitar.

But while St. John's talent was honed and structured in the academia, Odom's talents come from a more bohemian edge.

His father was a theology professor who taught yoga long before the Beatles made it trendy and his mother played guitar.

"It was my mother who influenced me musically," Odom says. "She was really into dance and music. She really loved to sing."

When Odom was 14, his father bought a 40-foot sailboat and, with his two sons and second wife in tow, set off for a trip around the world.

"I loved it," the soft-spoken Odom says. "I thought it was a great adventure."

They made it as far as Hawaii, lived on the boat six months and then took up residence in Honolulu.

Odom ended up back in Hawaii where he met St. John.

Fountain Hills residents for 14 years, Odom and St. John are an integral part of the community. They give music lessons in their home, lend their talents to community theater productions and run clinics at the high school.

Sami Jack, owner of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills says that Art of Music is always a crowd-pleaser at her art receptions. "Their music is beautiful and their personalities are enjoyable."