Jazz guitarist Sam Miltich returns for first Bemidji concert in 3 years

Famed Northwoods jazz guitarist Sam Miltich will be marking a return to touring after three years with a concert in Bemidji at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Chief Theater.
Jazz guitarist Sam Miltich is set to perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji.

BEMIDJI — Jazz lovers of Bemidji rejoice! Famed jazz guitarist Sam Miltich will be marking his return after three years with an exciting new concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji.

A well-known figure in the Bemidji music scene, Miltich is a legend in jazz guitar secreted away in Minnesota’s Northwoods.

“People who know the genre really well, he’ll be in your top three jazz guitarists,” shared Mary Overlie, who helped organize the concert. “He’s a legend of his genre, but he’s also your neighbor.”

Prior to his break from touring, Miltich was a frequent performer in Bemidji. However, he took a step back from public performances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He hasn’t really been out doing anything since COVID,” Overlie said, “so he’s just getting back into the swing of having a pretty extensive touring schedule.”


Because of his break, Overlie explained that those who are new to Bemidji might not be familiar with Miltich’s music.

“He’s a fixture of the community, but if you just moved to town you might not know him,” Overlie shared. “He had the option to live in New York or L.A. where all the musicians hang out, but he chose to stay up here. He’s a treasure.”

Miltich primarily plays a style of music called “Jazz Manouche,” which was pioneered by famed Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt.

“(Jazz Manouche) is what happened when Europeans heard Louis Armstrong for the first time,” Overlie explained. “It’s like the New Orleans style but with strings, so you get guitars and violins and stand-up bass, as opposed to trumpets and horns.”

The style is known for its rhythm, speed and unique harmonies.

“The music itself is incredibly uplifting and really fast and spirited,” Overlie said. “It’s known for its virtuosic speed and rhythm. Sam’s one of those guitarists who can do it like Django.”

A return to the stage

Miltich’s upcoming concert will be a fun and exciting experience even for long-time fans of the guitarist, featuring original compositions and dancers from Suzy and Hondo’s School of Dance. Joining Militch on stage will be jazz violinist Geoffrey Taylor.

“Even for people who know Sam really well, they maybe don’t know him as a composer,” Overlie shared, “but two-thirds of the night is going to be Sam’s original tunes, which is really great!”


The goal, explained Overlie, is to turn the Chief Theater into a “swinging 1930s Parisian night club” complete with live music, dancing and even some French desserts courtesy of Concordia Language Villages.

“It’s going to be amazing and wonderful,” Overlie said. “The dancing is one of the things that I think will make it really special. This was dance music when it was first written.”

Tickets can be purchased online ahead of the concert starting at $12 or will be $15 at the door.

Miltich will also be performing from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the following morning, Feb. 19, for a jazz brunch at Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge.

“This is one of the best parts of living in Bemidji,” Overlie said. “All of the musicians involved are at the top of their game. It’s going to be fantastic.”

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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