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Sunday, November 23, 2014 | Last updated: 10:05pm

School of Music hosts guitar festival with world-renowned guitarist brothers



The UA’s Fourth International Tucson Guitar Festival this week is giving guitar students the chance to play in the presence of world-class musicians.

The weeklong event, presented through the UA School of Music and Tucson Guitar Society, incorporates masterclasses, workshops, competitions and recitals, while promoting a stage to learn and perform.

“It mostly just becomes a week where guitar is the priority,” said Misael Barraza Diaz, a guitar performance graduate student who hosted a workshop on Flamenco guitar. “It’s the highlight of the event in every form or shape, so for guitarists it’s a utopia … you’re just surrounded by it.”

The “guitar utopia” is highlighted by performances from world-renowned, Grammy-award winning guitarists the Assad Brothers.

“They’re incredible, it’s really just an honor to have them here,” Diaz said. “They’re really probably the very best duo of classical guitarists we have in the world right now. Not only that, but they’re amazing solo guitarists too, so it’s just amazing how much music they can produce.”

The Brazilian-born brothers, Sergio and Odair, have been playing together for more than four decades, and collaborated with the likes of classical cellist virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, among others. The duo, which has performed at each of the past three festivals, is renowned for their blend of classical music and Brazilian heritage, according to Diaz.

Diaz himself is a recognized guitarist, having tied for first in a competition at the 2010 National Festival of Flamenco in addition to being awarded second at the Sholin Guitar Competition for UA graduate students.

“I developed a comfort with the instrument and the style itself that allows me to say stuff that electrical guitar doesn’t necessarily capture,” Diaz said. “It’s a very personal interpretation every time so you really have to be listening to yourself to make a statement.”

While the genre is a means of expression for Diaz, he said authentic flamenco guitarists are becoming a dying breed.

“Good flamenco is hard to find … especially in the U.S.,” Diaz said. “It’s a very jealous art in that sense.”

Tucson Guitar Society’s addition to organizing the event has allowed the festival to add several new components, said Gabriel Navia, a musical theory graduate student.

“There are a lot of workshops, and I guess that’s one of the important things,” Navia said. “Adding a lot of workshops and students’ classes and especially recitals that’s just making the festival bigger and bigger.”

Navia said the weeklong event is a great time to rub elbows with and seek advice from established performers like the Assads, in addition to Chilean classical guitarist Carlos Perez, who has won numerous international accolades from his eight records and is also showcased during the week.

Students in the School of Music are looking forward to experiencing the sheer scale of events planned for the week.

“I love the variety of events,” said Leandra Hubka, a musical and classical guitar performance graduate student. “It’s not just concerts, it’s a lot of variety, you get to see a lot of students performing, playing, concerts and workshops.”

The festival, which kicked off Saturday with a doctoral student recital, features the Assad Brothers’ recital Nov. 13 and 14 at Holsclaw Hall, before culminating with Perez’s recital Sunday in the same location. Those interested in attending a recital or participating in a workshop are encouraged to visit the UA School of Music’s homepage online.

“Not only do you get to play for really great guitarists, but you get to see other people play for them,” Diaz said, on the week’s events. “It’s just a pretty large learning experience.”


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