Engineered to music

Sep 16, 2004

Kettering/GMI experience paves musical road for Charles Postlewate '62.

Charles Postlewate '64 never dreamed an engineering degree from Kettering/GMI might serve him well as an acclaimed international classical guitarist and professor of Music at The University of Texas at Arlington. But as many alums like Postlewate continue to prove, a Kettering degree can often help graduates succeed in careers far different than engineering and business.

He began playing guitar at the age of 12 and continued playing during his college years. In fact, beginning with his senior year at Kettering/GMI, he played in just about every jazz club in Flint-the Sports Bar, the Embers, the Colony House, the Fireside Lounge and the Track to name a few.

Although this early exposure to music developed into a career of acclaim, Postlewate is quick to stress how important an impact his Kettering/GMI education had on his music. "As a musician without much formal training, the rigorous education at GMI gave me the fortitude and discipline to go forward with my musical ambitions," he explained. "Back when I attended the institution, we carried an average of 25 credit hours and had five-and-a-half days of school. So all the studying and work I had to accomplish to earn my engineering degree helped me when I went to school for music. I could barely read music and I did not have much formal music training or knowledge of classical music, so I had to catch up with the other students. My education at GMI really gave me the discipline to work hard to succeed in the many classes I needed to complete my two degrees at Wayne State University."

After graduating from Kettering/GMI with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he continued to work full-time at Buick Motor Division in Flint, where he also performed his cooperative work assignment while attending GMI. For the next several years he served Buick as an engineer and played guitar at night, with the goal of saving enough money to go back to school and earn his degree in Music. "Buick was just great to me," he said, noting that when he finally made the decision to go to Wayne State University in Detroit for music, Buick gave him leaves of absence for six years and kept him on as a tool engineer for summer-only work, which extended his medical coverage and helped support his young family. "I was very happy with how much Buick helped-I liked the people, the environment, the work, everything. I had other job offers while I worked for the division, but since they were so good to me, I never considered these other opportunities," he said.

In 1969 he earned a bachelor of Music degree in Guitar Performance and in 1973 his master of Music degree in Guitar Performance-the first person to earn these degrees in the history of Wayne State University. Since receiving his degrees in music, he continues to earn international acclaim for his concerts, recordings and books on guitar technique. National Public Radio, for example, characterized his performance in a review of his CD Dual Images as "delicate, sensitive and well crafted. The technical quality of the disc is superb. Dual Images is a delightful addition to our library." The Associated Press also described this recording as "an impressive example of the guitar's flexibility as a musical instrument and Postlewate's flexibility as an artist. It is well-done from a technical standpoint." And "Classical Guitar Magazine" based in London described him as "an important figure who commands respect of us all (with) an assertive style." Some of the concerts he remembers most include his bachelor of Music recital at Wayne State University, the first in the school's history, as well as solo concerts at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City and the Brazilian Embassy in Lima, Peru.

Postlewate has given concerts in almost all of the 48 continental United States as well as in such countries as Canada, Mexico, Peru and the British Virgin Islands. His current CD, Homage to Villa-Lobos, is based on his research over the past 19 years on the integration of the little finger into the right hand technique of the classical guitar, an endeavor he is finding to be successful. This work, including the performances from this CD, will be released in a two-hour DVD version by his published, Mel Bay Publications, this fall. "Guitarists have attempted to incorporate the little finger for more than 200 years and it took a Kettering/GMI trained engineer to finally succeed," he explained. Many world-renowned guitarists have stated that Postlewate's name will go down in the history of guitar technique as the first guitarist to accomplish this feat successfully.

He spent this past summer in Gun Lake, Mich., with his wife, Marisa. During his time in Michigan, he continued working on his research and visited frequently with his daughter, son-in-law and grand children, who live in Battle Creek. He also has two sons who live near his home in Texas. Now that he is nearly finished with his five-finger technique research, Postlewate hopes to perform more live concerts. For more on Charles Postlewate and his work, visit

Written by Gary J. Erwin
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