It is with our deepest sorrow to inform you that Howard Heitmeyer passed away last Sunday at the age of 97. He was a local legend among the guitar community in Southern California, especially known amongst guitarists for his arrangements and his regular performances at the Republic of Pie with the Leslie and Mark duo!

Howard Heitmeyer performing on his Kohno guitar

Howard had been close friends with Vince Macaluso (1941-2012) who was an old teacher of GSI’s president, David Collett. Howard Heitmeyer and Vince Macaluso performed many concerts together and had known each other since the 1960’s when they both met at Jose Oribe’s guitar shop in Inglewood, California. Howard was highly respected and associated with all of the guitar greats from Laurindo Almeida, Frederick Noad, to Howard Roberts, Tommy Tedesco, Jimmy Wyble, Barney Kessel and many others. Howard also performed in a duo with Joe Torres, another guitarist from Jose Oribe’s guitar shop. Joe was very keen on bossa nova and encouraged Howard to make his famous arrangement of Jobim’s The Girl from Ipanema. Howard had been active as a musician, teacher, and arranger for many decades. His vast legacy includes teaching the guitar to hundreds of people and creating hundreds of arrangements. David Leisner described Howard’s arrangements as “treasures” being “remarkable for their authenticity of style and harmony and for their playability”. Howard’s arrangements were often geared towards his students, therefore, they range in terms of their difficulty from easy to complex. Regardless of their complexity, all of them were always musically satisfying and beautifully utilized correct voice leading, use of distinct keys, and harmony from jazz/pop music genres. We’ll all miss Howard and we’ll remember his legacy and contributions to guitar music.

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11 Responses to “Howard Heitmeyer passed away at the age of 97.”

  1. I used to have some pirated copies of his various arrangements. Are those available anywhere?

  2. David says:

    Another regret that I did not study with him when I first met him in Inglewood. R.I.P.

  3. Terry DeLapp says:

    Learned some Scarlatti from Howard back in the Fred Noad ‘Crossroads of the Worlds shop’ days. He corrected age old errors on the sheet music we had; an amazing musician, teacher, musicologist.

  4. Paul McGuffin says:

    I first met HH at Oribe’s Inglewood Shop in 1965. I was basically a flamenco player… “Barnyard Flamenco” as Ted Owens calls it. In 1968, I was playing a restaurant gig in Manhattan Beach. I soon found out, a little flamenco went a long way with a restaurant audience. I went to HH for some lessons on arranging help. At the time, I was playing Cowboy Chords with a melody line on top. Howard would always use the say, ” This is just a plane old cowboy “C” or “D”. I ended up getting some of his pop and Latin arrangements. Over the years I have done about 30 restaurant gigs. There isn’t any way I could have played all these jobs without Howard’s great arrangements. I have over 700 of them now. I would hate to guess how many “one of a kind” original arrangements are out there, done for some student or player. I last saw Howard a year ago. It was always fun to hear all his great stories. He tells a good one about John Williams’ first tour to this country. There was a dinner party at Dorothy de Goede’s home for John. All the big names were there. After dinner, Williams took a TJ (Mexican) guitar hanging on the wall and started playing, a beater guitar. Howard said, Williams sounded fantastic on this cheap instrument. He said, ” I realized…it’s the player, not the guitar.” He will be missed.
    Paul McGuffin, Green Valley, AZ

  5. Frederick P Koehler says:

    I took lessons from Vince Macaluso at Howard’s shop in Inglewood in the late 80’s. Howard steered me towards Vince when I was looking to buy a guitar from the shop. I loved listening to Howard play. He would take contemporary songs and make beautiful arrangements. I also remember Howard watching Segovia master classes. He got a kick out of Segovia shuttering when he was not pleased at a student’s phrasing. Howard was kind, knowledgeable, and skillful.

    Vince was also fantastic. The fastest player I’ve ever been around. Best teacher I ever had when it came to technique. Actually the best teacher I ever had period. Lessons were really fun.

  6. Ted Owens says:

    I went to Howard to have him help me with some guitar arrangements I was working on. I quickly realized that he was on a whole other level. It was humbling. His knowledge of the fingerboard, music theory and how the whole thing works was just amazing. You could give him a sheet of piano music and he would size up your ability and in about 30 minutes give you the most beautiful guitar arrangement you’ve ever heard. In any key! Nobody knows for sure, but there are more than 1000 of his arrangements out there being played around the world and quite often with no credit given to Howard. When I would run across older guitarist in the LA music scene they all seem to know Howard. And of course they were always impressed that he was still alive let alone actively working on his arrangements every day. This is a guy that played on some famous movies, particularly westerns in the 50s and 60s and was still around! On the movie The Great Race with Tony Curtis, Howard was the one that showed Natalie Woods how to look like she was really playing the guitar. In the mid-60s it became required that all studio guitarists be able to play rock music also. That’s when Howard bowed out and focused on the nylon string guitar from that time on. They don’t make guitarists like that anymore. He will be missed.

  7. Very sad news. No one has ever seen a soul or defined it. Howard.however, is as close as “seeing it” or “defining it” . A towering musical soul who will be remembered by all guitarists and all kinds of musicians.

  8. Steve Saulls says:

    I was first introduced to Howard’s arrangements when I just turned 18 in 1973. I was completely astounded by his arrangements with their rich counterpoint and colorful jazz harmonies. Even though I had just began playing the classical guitar (previously a rock and jazz fusion player), Howard’s arrangements inspired me to practice even more diligently as I expanded my interests beyond the standard classical guitar repertoire.

    Over the years, I had many enjoyable phone conversations with Howard and I would often ‘commission’ a few arrangements now and then to supplement my concert repertoire. He had many interesting stories to share regarding his musical background and training. As most of you know, Howard began as a jazz guitarist and later, inspired by Andres Segovia and others, he ‘converted’ to the classical guitar while still maintaining his jazz heritage. I asked him once if he had ever tried other styles using the electric guitar and his comment was “No, when he saw rock ‘n roll coming in the 60’s, he ducked!”. I really loved his musical honesty and integrity and, I think this is one of his attributes that I admired most.

    I will miss him dearly but, through his music and many hundreds of breathtaking arrangements, his charming character and wonderful musical imagination will live on in me and generations of aspiring guitarists to come!

  9. Francis Calasanz says:

    Today, I felt the urge to search for Howard Heitmeyer, my guitar instructor in the early 90’s and found this. He was an excellent teacher and catered to my learning needs as a play-by-ear guitarist. He patiently placed dots and symbols on a sheet with pre-printed guitar fretboard so that I will know at what position to play. I always get a complete song from him every session and charged me only $10 a week. He does this for any song that I choose. I asked him one time to teach me Cavatina and he did it for me the following week. I will forever treasure the songs that I learned to play because of this great teacher. Farewell Howard. May you rest in peace.


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