Al Petteway Obituary
The world of music mourns the loss of Al Petteway, a virtuoso guitarist renowned for his acoustic fingerstyle expertise. Passing away on September 25, 2023, at the age of 65, Petteway leaves behind an indelible mark on the acoustic music scene. His collaborations spanned genres and included partnerships with distinguished folk artists such as Amy White, Tom Paxton, and Cheryl Wheeler, among many others.
Embarking on his musical journey at the young age of twelve, Al Petteway was more than just a guitarist; he was a dedicated musician. Over the years, his portfolio expanded to include a broad spectrum of musical styles—from popular and folk to classical. While the guitar was his primary muse, Al was also proficient in lute, string bass, percussion, and had a strong foundation in music composition.
A Grammy-award winner, Petteway gained fame not only for his compositions but also for his interpretations of traditional tunes. His unique fingerstyle approach was significantly shaped by his fondness for Celtic music and grounded in his roots in folk, rock, and blues. His contributions to the sonic landscape have been featured in over 75 albums, including 15 of his own. His work also graced the soundtracks of Ken Burns’ documentaries such as the Emmy Award-winning “The National Parks – America’s Greatest Idea” and “The Dust Bowl.”
Earning accolades that went beyond musical boundaries, Petteway’s achievements include an impressive 45 “Wammies” awarded by the Washington Area Music Association, a double recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award, and performances at both the Vice President’s residence and The White House. His influence reverberates through national radio and television programs, solidifying his status as a musical icon.
As an educator and mentor, Al served as an Artist-in-Residence at both The Kennedy Center and Warren Wilson College. He and his wife, Amy White, hosted private music lessons from their home studio in Weaverville, NC, where Al also coordinated Guitar Week at the world-renowned Swannanoa Gathering music camp.
Musician David LaMotte eloquently encapsulated the sentiment of many: “I am so sad to hear that Al Petteway has left us. Such a brilliant musician, and such a kind and beautiful spirit.” LaMotte also shared a personal experience of learning guitar from Petteway, capturing the essence of Al as not just a world-class musician, but also as a warm-hearted individual.
Beyond his musical prowess, Al was a highly skilled photographer, having served as an editor at National Geographic. David LaMotte poignantly concludes, “I’m heartbroken at this loss, and grateful for the gift of knowing him. If you haven’t heard Al and Amy’s music, I strongly encourage you to seek some of it out.”
Al Petteway leaves behind not just an unparalleled musical legacy but also an enduring human spirit, celebrated by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
Al Petteway Career
Embarking on a professional music career at the tender age of eleven, amid the fervor of the British Pop Invasion, Al Petteway became a staple in Washington D.C.’s rock and folk scenes during the 1960s. A musical aficionado even at that young age, he played multiple instruments including guitar, drums, and string bass. The year 1969 marked his presence at the culturally seismic Woodstock Music & Arts Festival.
In 1970, Al chose to deepen his musical knowledge, attending school to study String Bass and Music Composition. His academic years were equally vibrant, seeing him perform with the Old Dominion University Madrigal Singers, Jazz and Symphonic Bands, and even the Norfolk Ballet Orchestra. After years of night club performances, he accepted a position with The National Geographic Society in 1977, overseeing Picture Editing. This role offered him the creative latitude to explore and fine-tune his own unique style of acoustic guitar music.
The world took notice when Al Petteway’s artistry was showcased on both NPR and PBS, particularly in Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” His array of recordings, instructional materials, and music books attracted a global following of die-hard fans. His talents are showcased in over sixty albums featuring some of the folk and Celtic genres’ most celebrated musicians. Since 1996, Al exclusively shared the stage with his wife, Amy White. Their dual artistry was recognized with residencies at both The Kennedy Center and Warren Wilson College. Additionally, Al served as the Guitar Week coordinator for the prestigious “Swannanoa Gathering” music camp in North Carolina.
In 2005, his stunning interpretation of “The Thornbirds” graced the Grammy Award-winning album “Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar.” Prior to that milestone, Al and Amy were honored with an Indie Award for their collaborative guitar album, “Gratitude.” His exceptional talent didn’t go unnoticed locally either; he was the recipient of 45 “Wammies” from the Washington Area Music Association, including the esteemed titles of “Artist of the Year” and “Musician of the Year.” Al also received two Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards for Music Composition and had the honor of performing at the Vice President’s residence and The White House during the Clinton era.
In 2012, Warren Wilson College and the Swannanoa Gathering bestowed upon him the “Master Music Makers” award, a fitting tribute to his extensive contributions to the field of music.
Al Petteway spent his later years alongside his wife Amy in the scenic outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina, until his untimely passing at the age of 65 on September 25, 2023. His life was a symphony of accomplishments, leaving an indelible imprint on the world of music.
Who is Al Petteway?
Al Petteway was a renowned American guitarist known for his exceptional skill in acoustic fingerstyle guitar. Born into a musical landscape shaped by the British Pop Invasion, Petteway started his professional music career at a young age, mastering multiple instruments including guitar, drums, and string bass. Over the years, he collaborated with an array of celebrated folk and Celtic musicians, cementing his reputation as one of the industry’s most versatile talents.
Throughout his career, Petteway gained international acclaim, particularly through his association with public broadcasters like NPR and PBS. His contributions to the Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” earned him considerable recognition. Petteway was also an accomplished recording artist, with his music featured in over sixty albums.
He received numerous accolades, including 45 “Wammies” from the Washington Area Music Association and two Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards for Music Composition. In 2005, his rendition of “The Thornbirds” was included in a Grammy Award-winning album.
Al performed exclusively with his wife, Amy White, since 1996. The pair also served as Artists in Residence at both The Kennedy Center and Warren Wilson College. Additionally, Petteway coordinated the Guitar Week for the prestigious “Swannanoa Gathering” music camp.
He lived near Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife Amy, until his untimely passing at the age of 65 on September 25, 2023. Al Petteway leaves behind a rich legacy that touched various facets of music, from rock and folk to classical and Celtic.