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STREETSEEN  |  Will Tucker

Photo by Steve Roberts

Will Tucker: Musician Soaring to New Heights

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

It is hard to imagine that Will Tucker, at only 25 years old, has been a performing musician for half of his life. But it’s true. Tucker was 12 years old when he inherited an electric guitar from his late uncle, Buz Waddy, who was a Memphis musician in his own right.

“I always loved music and had a great appreciation for it because my dad exposed me great classic rock and blues when I was growing up,” recalled Tucker. “I think it was the satisfaction of suddenly being able to reproduce songs I loved that hooked me. It was a satisfaction so great that after mastering one song I was motivated to go for the next one.”

Tucker said he learned to play chord progressions by watching YOU Tube videos.

“With the mastery of four or five chords you could play 150 songs,” said Tucker. “Eventually I got a teacher, Jason Barden, and he helped me hone my technical skills and launched me into playing more advanced songs.”

“One of my first interests was classic rock,” said Tucker. “I became interested in learning what had influenced classic rock, and that led to the blues — deep, deep into blues. It spoke to me more than any other genre.”

Tucker continued, “I started out on extraordinary instruments and I got to learn and develop on pretty nice stuff, thanks to my very supportive parents. I had my uncle’s Fender 1960’s-reissue Stratocaster and a 1959 Les Paul reissue that I played quite a bit. I always wanted a Gibson ES-345 and finally bought one about four years ago. I do love it. I play it all the time.”

When asked how he nurtured his talent Tucker replied, “For the first five years I played guitar three to five hours a day. I‘d come home after school and go straight to the guitar. I found myself developing more rapidly when I started playing with a band in front of people.”

A performance during an Open Jam Night at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale sealed the deal. In a happenstance that can only be described as fate, Tucker’s mother shared a video of that performance with Tommy Peters, owner of B. B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. Peters invited Tucker to play at the club, and over the months, Tucker moved from sitting in with the house band to having his own billing.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Tucker. “Tommy arranged for me to play with Corey Osborn in 2007. Then I met one of my mentors, Jonathan Ellison, the bandleader of the B.B. King’s Blues Club house band. He was one of the first guys who allowed me to sit in. I was about 14 years old and he showed me the ropes of playing with a band. Then Tommy helped me put together a band and I ended up being a regular at the club on Saturday nights.”

But now Tucker has set his sights on new horizons. 

“Airplanes have always been a parallel love of mine along with music,” explained Tucker. “I flew model airplanes and enjoyed the Microsoft Flight Simulator. At 15 I took flying lessons as a hobby and had my private pilot license by the time I was 19. When I started college, it was a coin toss between studying music or aviation. I enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has a satellite campus in Memphis. I finished college at 21 with my instrument rating and a commercial pilot’s license.”

Tucker is flying Learjets for AB Jets. And although he has decided to pursue a full-time career in aviation, with a schedule of two weeks on, two weeks off, Tucker still finds time for his music.

“Hopefully I will be able to pursue both of my passions throughout my lifetime,” said Tucker. 


STREETSEEN  |  Mary Jo Karimnia

Photo by Steve Roberts

Mary Jo Karimnia: Artist & Residency Coordinator for Crosstown Arts

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Mary Jo Karimnia recognized her calling in life at an early age. “I’ve always made things — always.” recalled Karimnia. “At a very young age I knew I was going to be an artist.”

From childhood to college Karimnia followed her artistic inclinations, attending art school at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, where she dabbled “in all sorts of things.” Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is in painting and drawing. 

Along the way, Karimnia said she “met a boy (Omid Karimnia) and followed him to Memphis.” As fate would have it, he became her husband. When the couple started their family, she took time off from her art to homeschool her children. But her art found ways to insert itself. Karimnia developed a homeschool support group of parents who got together and learned quilting, crocheting, knitting and sewing. And Karimnia taught classes within the homeschool group, to adults and children alike, and at the craft-centric retailer Michael’s. 

“Those experiences really informed the work I do now at Crosstown Arts,” said Karimnia. “I learned how to organize things and work with a group of people. I came back to my art career about 12 years ago. That’s when all the things I did as a homeschool mom and an active community member melded with my own art. My work was pretty transformed. I moved from a more traditional art base to a more contemporary form. I also learned to do mosaic work.”

“I started with traditional mosaic work and then began using objects in mosaics instead of tiles,” explained Karimnia. “Next I altered the grout by adding glass seed beads. That led to me using glass beads to paint images.”

Karimnia now identifies herself as a mixed media and installation artist, someone who brings different elements together to set up environments.

Karimnia said, “One such installation was titled, ‘Pick Me’ and incorporated a wicker chair that I painted pink and lots of paper flowers that I made. I placed the flowers in the chair and invited people to come take a flower. That’s what I mean by an installation — something with which people can interact.”

Print making is another art form that Karimnia favors. 

“Every year or so I get together with a group of artists at Five in One Social Club on Broad Avenue,” said Karimnia. “We do very large scale prints, so large that we often print on bed sheets.”

In addition to her own artistic pursuits, Karimnia was hired by Crosstown Arts a little more than five years ago. Since then she has worn a variety of hats; running The Cleveland Street Flea Market, curating art shows, and organizing special events. Most recently she came into the full-time position of coordinating the Crosstown Arts residency program.

“I interact with the artists, I’m like their Mom,” said Karimnia. “Since we moved into the Crosstown Concourse building, we’ve gone from working with one artist at a time to a more elaborate program of working work with up to 16 residents at a time, year round. It is a multi-disciplinary program that engages musicians, visual artists, writers, actors and dancers, for residencies that run from 20 days to three months, and once a year we offer a 10-month residency.”

“I run the judging process, set up artist talks at The Concourse, help find resources and assist with public engagement projects,” added Karimnia. “We provide a live space, a private studio space, meals, and free access to our shared art-making space. There are no exhibition requirements. Artists are free to work on their art or simply experiment with their craft. This residency program was the beginning of the redevelopment of the Crosstown Concourse building.”