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Meet Forrest Mankowski of Woody Mankowski in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Forrest Mankowski.

Forrest, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a child, I could plunk out melodies on my grandma’s piano, so my mom started me on piano lessons. I also took some guitar lessons, and my first paying gigs were at age 12 around Rice Lake, Wisconsin, as a bluegrass rhythm guitarist. At that point I was just learning to read music and play the saxophone. My family moved to Menomonie, Wisconsin, where I was mentored by my High School saxophone teacher, Jim Borgaro, who was a jazz saxophonist and introduced me to the music of Charlie Parker. After high school, I moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1984, and ultimately received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. Jazz improvisation was my passion.

I play saxophones and flute, and also some clarinet, piano, and guitar. In college, I started mimicking my favorite soul singers and started getting gigs as a singer, eventually working regularly in recording studios for jingle sessions. After my son Jackson was born in 1999, I needed to make some extra money so I got a job as a transcriber for Hal Leonard Corporation, and ended up working for them for 16 years, writing over 100 books. I moved to Los Angeles in 2015 to further my career in performing, recording and touring.

Has it been a smooth road?
The recession of 2008 created the loss of my two main sources of income: The Jingle Business, and music transcription work. It’s too involved to explain why here, but that was definitely the end of it. I had to make a living through teaching private lessons and performing. Both of those jobs were difficult to maintain in Wisconsin, but I was doing it… My living expenses there were 1/10th of what they are in LA.

I struggled for the first two years in LA. I only knew a few people, they were so great, but they could only do so much for me. My marriage fell apart. Heartbroken, I moved to Colorado to work for my brother in Property Maintenance. I didn’t know if I’d ever be a musician again. Those were by far my darkest days. After a few weeks I decided I just needed to get back to LA and pick up where I left off, which turned out to be a smart move.

Covid-19 has been absolutely devastating for the music business, which was already in big trouble due to being taken over by Spotify and Apple. The good news is that it can only get better. Right?

We’d love to hear more about your music.
I’m a soul singer and saxophonist. I write all of my own arrangements for my 10-piece funk band which includes some of the best players in LA. Any mistakes, or mis-steps have been corrected, and my charts are clean. Players can just come in and read them down. Almost all of my life has been spent studying different genres and styles of music, and I can play or sing almost any style that is required of me on a gig or in the studio.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes! I think I’ve finally figured out LA. There are music career opportunities available here that don’t exist in other places. It all comes down to who you know, so I’d tell young musicians to cultivate as many friendships as possible.

I wish I had moved here when I was younger. I got here when I was 49, and I soon found out that although age discrimination exists everywhere, LA is one big agism cult. You have to be able to hide your age by staying in shape, and by continuing to learn. I wish the city would finish the subway system that goes to LAX. That’s an easy one. The homeless situation is obviously out of control in LA… I don’t even know if that can be fixed. Also, it seems like the rent is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? It’s soooooo not worth it if you can’t get work.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 11122 Morrison St #208
    North Hollywood, CA 91601
  • Phone: (626) 662-3486
  • Email: woodymankowski@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @mankowskiwoody
  • Facebook: Woody Mankowski


Image Credit:

Michelle Bassler, Kim Klein, José Perez, Mike Thomas

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