Guitar heroes compete for top honors

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Courtesy of Fred Fox School of Music

This Sunday afternoon, a handful of guitarists from the UA’s guitar studio will compete in the 27th annual David and Leonard Schaeffer Memorial Guitar Competition. David and Leonard’s father, Albert Schaeffer, along with his wife Clare, played a large role in the UA’s music program.

“[Albert and Clare’s] support and guidance helped to establish the University of Arizona Guitar Studies Program as one of this country’s finest,” the official competition webpage on the Fred Fox School of Music website says.

The endowment created by the Schaeffer family is geared toward promoting and rewarding those who excel in guitar performance. The endowment also provides awards for the winner of the guitar competition each year.

The competition showcases the immense talent from the UA guitar studio, and some of the winners have continued on to win prizes in international guitar competitions. According to the competition’s site, students from the studio have gone on to win awards such as the Fulbright scholarship and Rotary fellowship.

Last year, there were two winners of the competition, Zachary Empkey and Kathy Acosta Zavala, a graduate student at the UA. Zavala completed her undergraduate degree in classical guitar performance here at the Fred Fox School of Music, where she competed in multiple guitar competitions.

“All of these years competing contributed to my success last spring,” Zavala said. “Overall, we get ready from competition to competition. I would estimate that it took me about three months to get ready for the last Schaeffer competition.”

Zavala said she knew that winning the guitar competition would take a lot of prior preparation, which is why she competed in every guitar competition she could when she had the chance.

When it was finally time for Zavala to take the stage for her turn in last year’s competition, she said one of her highest priorities was to enjoy her time performing, because she had devoted so much of her time to practicing.

“The moment of getting on stage and playing your program is a complete rush,” Zavala said. “I was certainly nervous, but when you get on stage, you have to remember to stay calm, confident and play with your heart. The months of practicing alone in a practice room for hours every day and having to make certain sacrifices in your life all come down to that 15-minute performance.”

The Fred Fox School of Music is highly ranked in the country and is both nationally and internationally known, so the annual guitar competition is full of tough competition.

Zavala knows that the competition is nerve-wracking, so she gave this year’s competitors a word of advice.

“Be yourself; don’t let the hall intimidate you,” Zavala said. “When you get up there, make sure you remember who you are and what you want to say — strike your first note and play with your heart.”

The 27th annual David and Leonard Schaeffer Memorial Guitar Competition will be held this Sunday in Holsclaw Hall at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in the Fine Arts Box Office by phone or online.

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