Jonathan Sholle

Obituary
  • "We played together once, at Dickinson. I was awful, and..."
    - George Kelly
  • "Great guy, great guitar player and a great friend. I was..."
    - Joseph Trapasso
  • "Jon had a great generosity of spirit. I was fortunate to..."
    - Jon Kolleeny
  • "Jon Sholle, Elizabeth, and Evan were our next-door..."
    - Dick Hare
  • "Jon was a guitar hero of mine for many years. I was honored..."
    - Bo Bernstein

1948 - 2018
Musician Jon Sholle died last Thursday May 17th at home in Ossining, NY after a battle with Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

Jon was born in New York City on March 13, 1948. He's survived by his wife Betty (Elizabeth Lees), son Evan, daughter-in-law Sara, and beloved grandchildren Nadia and Rami. Jon's passing is also mourned by the countless people who have been touched by him over a lifetime of extraordinary music. The scope of Jon's mastery included virtually every style of American music- blues, bluegrass, rock, swing, both traditional and modern jazz. He could play a full-tilt breakdown or a slow jazz ballad with equal ease. He played with a unique sense of freedom, joy, and energy that invariably pushed his fellow musicians to higher levels of expression.
 
Jon recorded with and often toured with David Grisman, Andy Statman, Peter Rowan, Bette Midler, Melissa Manchester, Maria Muldaur, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Ester Phillips, Pee Wee Ellis, Sonny Stitt, Allen Ginsberg, and many more, including USO performances in Asia in 1970. He played in Broadway shows, and in films both on-screen ("The Rose", "They All Laughed") and off-screen. He recorded two critically acclaimed solo albums for Rounder Records- "Catfish for Supper" (1979) and "Out of the Frying Pan" (1997), and compiled and annotated "Rounder Bluegrass Guitar."
 
Jon grew up in Great Neck NY. He showed a precocious and prodigious gift for guitar when he learned to play at the age of 11 and began studying with the legendary master jazz guitar teacher Joe Monk. While in high school in the early 60s, he played lead guitar for Great Neck's premier band The Epsilons. During this time Jon picked up bluegrass banjo, mandolin, and dobro, and at age fifteen in 1964, he recorded for Folkways Records with Roger Sprung's "Progressive Bluegrassers."
 
In 1967 and 1968 Jon was proclaimed "World Champion Guitarist" at Union Grove Fiddler's Convention in North Carolina.
 
After attending Dickinson College and then obtaining a degree at NYU Film School, Jon settled mostly in New York City where he developed as a performing and touring musician. 
 
Jon was exposed to Tibetan Buddhism for a long time through his friends David Nichtern ("Midnight at the Oasis") and Allen Ginsberg, but Buddhism was not for him until 2000 when he became a dedicated Zen practitioner, studying in the US and in Japan with respected Zen master Shodo Harada Roshi.  In Japan, he has also performed with guitarist Yoshihiro Arita and others, amassing a group of followers and friends in and around Tokyo. 
 
Jon dove fully into whatever interested him. He was a master coffee roaster, barista, and beer maker. He baked bread, made pickles, pottery, calligraphy..
 
Jon was a musician's musician. He was a true collaborator and supporter who always made his fellow performers sound good. His happiest moments were when he was playing guitar having a musical conversation with fellow musicians.

Donations in Jon's memory can be sent to Tahoma Zen Monastery, 6499 Wahl Road, Freeland, WA 98249
Published on NYTimes.com from May 23 to May 24, 2018