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If you ask Michael Angelo Batio about achieving success, he’ll tell you it boils down to one thing: choosing to finish. And he would know.
Batio, who finished his bachelor’s degree in Music from Northeastern Illinois University in 1979, has gone on to a long career as a celebrated guitarist. But that’s not all: He is the inventor of the V-shaped Twin Double-Guitar and the four-necked Quad guitar. He is internationally recognized as one of the world’s top “shred” guitarists. And one of his Dean Double-Guitars was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
“After I graduated from Northeastern, I left Chicago to go to California,” said Batio, who was named the No. 1 shredder of all time by Guitar One magazine. “When I got there, I didn’t have a goal of, ‘I think I’m going to be in a band, man.’ Instead, I had one specific goal. I was going to get signed to a major label. ... It took a year, but I did it. I signed with Atlantic Records.”
Today, Batio continues to tour the world performing with bands and as a solo artist. He has performed in 58 countries since 1993 and composed music for brands such as United Airlines and McDonald’s. Yet despite that impressive résumé, Batio had never performed on his alma mater’s own Auditorium stage ... until he returned in September 2015.
Batio demonstrated his amazing shred style and shared his advice with students who are preparing to make a mark on the world. He stressed the value of education and intellectual curiosity.
“There’s an old saying that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. That’s only true if that old dog doesn’t want to learn something new,” he said. “I found that the single most important thing that has kept me viable and active in my career is I can learn. School gave me the ability to learn things.”
Despite a busy touring schedule, Batio still finds time to run a business. He started his own record label, M.A.C.E. Music, in 1993, and it was one of the first music companies to go online in 1996. His music company features his CDs, DVDs, the MAB String Dampener, MAB T-shirts, posters and more directly or through other distributors to more than 40 countries.
Batio is also noted for his guitar instruction DVDs in the “Speed Kills” series, which teaches shred guitar and how to “master the art of playing lightning fast.”
While a student at Northeastern, he gave lessons to guitarist Tom Morello, who went on to international fame with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
“I like to teach and I like to help,” Batio said. “I always wanted to help people. I wanted rock music to have the great guitar playing in it, similar to what you would hear from a great violinist in classical music.”
Whether working on the road, in the classroom or on stage, Batio said, it all comes down to the same approach.
“There’s the old Nike commercial that said, ‘Just Do It.’ I like it. ‘Just Do It!’ ” he said. “It sounds good, but I’m not exactly a firm believer in just doing something. I have a different way. Here’s the Michael Angelo Batio modified version: ‘Just Finish It.’ ”