Virtuoso guitarist returns to hometown from West Coast

Editor’s note: Throughout the summer, Sentinel reporter Dusty W. Sipes will write a weekly feature on local artists who perform various genres of music. This week’s feature reviews the history and homecoming of Lewistown native Aaron Bossinger.

Aaron Bossinger is not a household name in Mifflin County, but it should be. Local musicians know him, but he spent a number of his earlier performing years on the west coast. He doesn’t like being referred to as a guitar virtuoso, but anyone with a knowledge of musical theory, performance and technique would be foolish to identify him as anything else. A Lewistown native, he is back in his hometown and has recently started performing live again for area residents.

Bossinger grew up on a steady diet of the Eagles, Judas Priest, Boston and Ozzy blaring through the speakers of his dad’s car and mother’s record player. His first musical gift, a record player, was given to him by his grandmother when he was five and there is evidence that any other toy or present would have been more appreciated.

“There’s actually a picture of me holding this thing with an odd look on my face. When I got it, I clearly wasn’t pleased,” Bossinger said.

Bossinger’s distaste for the gift soon changed. He got his hands on his parents’ Beatles and Black Sabbath records and placed them on the turntable. In a sense, it was his musical awakening. Bossinger knew he wanted to be able to replicate the sounds coming out of the tiny speaker with an instrument of his own.

“I remember asking for a guitar for five years and my grandmother kept buying me these toy guitars. Ones with plastic buttons and whatnot. It drove me nuts because I really wanted a guitar. When I was 10, my gram went to Selinsgrove Music and bought me an Oscar Schmidt acoustic,” Bossinger said.

Bossinger spent the next few months tinkering around with the instrument and finding out bits and pieces on his own. Shortly after that, he began taking music lessons from local guitarist Dustin Pollock. Bossinger took lessons from Pollock for a number of years and spent a great deal of his private time working and honing his craft in his bedroom. He was a young kid tackling some of the most demanding and difficult music from one of guitar’s greatest heroes: Randy Rhoads. Rhoads was a classically trained virtuoso guitarist whose career was cut short in a tragic plane accident in 1982. He was only 25 years old.

“I was really into Rhoads. My tastes have changed over the years, but I still love him. There’s something really appealing about him. He was only on two major albums: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary of a Madman.’ He did so much on those two albums,” Bossinger said.

In addition to lessons, Bossinger had an amazing ability to listen to complex guitar solos and work them out himself. It was around this time that he began to practice extensively on his own, disregarding his academics and dedicated himself to becoming a guitar junkie.

“I had taken lessons from Dustin until about the beginning of 8th grade. He started me on scales, and it got to a point where he didn’t know exactly what to show me next. He didn’t want to rip me off, so I stopped taking lessons. It was a few months later that Dustin called me and told me that he was getting (legendary local player) Michael Bratt (to teach at his) store. When Dustin called he said, ‘You’re not going to believe this guy,'” Bossinger said.

Bossinger says that he looks at his time working with Bratt as when everything really came together musically. Before then, he says he had musical tidbits scattered here and there and Bratt was able to help him make sense of the madness and really pull it all together.

During high school, Bossinger had extremely high standards musically and was in search of top-notch players. His early start at the instrument and natural ability to play incredibly well left Bossinger with few opportunities to find musicians who were playing at his caliber. He wrote original music with Michael Koch, who is another local guitarist, in a storage garage and played in his first basement band with three other area musicians.

After graduation, Bossinger wanted to study the instrument in great detail and explore the west coast. Enrolling in the Guitar Institute of Technology department of the Musician’s Institute, he had the opportunity to work with and learn from Paul Gilbert and a steady stream of guests performers such as Joe Satriani and Dale Turner. It was during his college years that he began working with the band Recycled America. The group was an acoustic/folk rock group and performed at some of the most legendary clubs on the Sunset Strip including the infamous Whiskey a Go-Go.

After working with Recycled America, Bossinger began working with the Atlanta-based group, Signs of Solace. Internal conflicts caused the band to break up and Bossinger relocated to his hometown.

Bossinger is currently playing acoustic gigs in Mifflin County with his friend of more than 15 years, Adam Becker. Bossinger claims that Becker is one of the musicians he has enjoyed playing with the most. Bossinger, Recycled America, Sign of Silence and all upcoming shows can be found on Facebook.

Sentinel reporter Dusty W. Sipes can be reached