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Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: Michael Jackson’s Lead Guitarist to Give Multimedia Workshop

Jennifer Batten will lead an extensive guitar workshop hosted by The Fine Tune Academy from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 20.

As the former lead guitarist for Michael Jackson’s Bad, Dangerous and HIStory tours, Jennifer Batten says it was good fortune that initially got her the position.

“I was lucky enough to hear about auditions,” said Batten, who, in her 10-year employment by Jackson, also played at his 1993 Super Bowl halftime performance. “At that time it was like the Mount Everest of gigs.”

And yet Batten, who had played in numerous cover bands up to that point, is surprisingly cool about the whole thing.

“Essentially, playing with Michael Jackson is like playing in a cover band except all of the songs are by the same guy,” she said. “I felt confident; I felt I could do it. I wasn’t nervous on stage—your focus kind of changes.”

Batten was 8 when she began playing guitar. At 25, she tried out for Jackson’s band and was chosen by the King of Pop for Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. But Batten says Beat It—which she also auditioned for but lost out to Eddie Van Halen—can still be difficult.

“The Beat It solo is always a challenge. I have to be at the top of my game to do it perfectly,” Batten admitted.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, Batten will be in North County to run a workshop hosted by The Fine Tune Academy—a music school that owner Fintan Roche says “offers students music education and opportunity from purchasing their first instrument to booking their first tour.”

“Jennifer Batten has a unique combination of touring and teaching experience. Her workshop is both educational and inspirational,” said Roche, who prefers to be called Fin. “Our small workshop class sizes offer students unprecedented access to the world’s top musicians.”

Batten says the workshop will be a sort of 3-D concert during which she’ll explain her technique or answer any questions, whether career or music related. Even before the workshop begins, Batten offers some advice for aspiring musicians—especially girls.

“My advice would be to take music as far as it can go,” she said. “A lot of girls only learn a few chords and they learn to sing. Music can go a lot deeper than that.”

And while Batten is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the guitar, she’s happy to let it stop at instruments of the stringed variety.

“Guitar is enough for a lifetime,” she said.

The workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at Big Fish Studios in Rancho Santa Fe. For more information about the workshop or other programs by The Fine Tune Academy, call Fin at 760-908-4911.

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