The Assads come to town

Renowned guitarists drop by UA to mentor students, give performances

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Lili Steffen and Lili Steffen | The Daily Wildcat Lili Steffen / The Daily Wildcat Sergio and Odair Assad perform during the International Guitar Festival at Holsclaw Hall, Saturday. Throughout the week the duo performed and taught students.

The lights dimmed on Holsclaw Hall Saturday night as world-famous guitarist Odair Assad took the stage to a full house.

Three stage lights centered on Assad while the rest of the crowd filled in the room, taking up every corner possible and eventually leaving minimal standing room only. Following a week of performances, lectures and workshops, Odair Assad and his brother, Sérgio Assad, concluded the week’s festivities with a joint performance Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve been attending the lectures they’ve been having, and they know a lot about what they’re doing,” said Jasmin Ponce, a veterinary science sophomore and minoring in music. “They’re very impressive in their playing.”

Odair Assad began the performance with three solo numbers entitled, “Old Friend,” “Memoria e Fado” and “Sonata del Caminante.” With careful and precise skill, Odair Assad showcased his years of expertise.

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Following Odair Assad’s solo performance, Sérgio Assad joined the stage and the two played four pieces together, including “Fantasia, Op. 54,” “Pièces de Clavecin (1724),” “Estampas” and “Valsa.” After receiving a standing ovation, the two returned to the stage to perform a final number.

“They’re so synchronized,” said Miguel Arbizu, a guitar performance junior. “When you watch them perform, you can see how into it they are. They’re moving, closing their eyes and it’s really impressive.”

The UA’s Bolton Guitar Studies Program is ranked among the top in the world, said music professor Tom Patterson. The brothers said they were impressed with what they saw during their visit.

“This place is wonderful,” Sérgio Assad said. “It’s a big center for guitar. The quality of the students here is truly amazing. We have a great pleasure working with these students.”

The Assad brothers began their careers as teenagers in Brazil. Coming from a family with a musical background, the brothers were quickly inspired to pursue a life of music.

“I think it was meant to be this way,” Sérgio Assad said. “The combination of the two qualities we had just went so well.”

The brothers spent the beginning of their careers studying musical tradition from renowned guitarists throughout South America. They have since worked with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Fernando Suarez Paz, Paquito D’Rivera, Gidon Kremer and Dawn Upshaw.

Having performed together for more than 50 years, Sérgio said it was natural for them to align their careers and aspirations from the beginning.

“We feel at home when we’re playing together,” Sérgio Assad said. “That’s the way it is. We have the same pleasure we did 30 years ago.”

As the brothers ventured into their careers, their roles became more defined. After the creation of their album Sérgio and Odair Assad Play Piazzolla, the brothers received a Latin Grammy for their work. Sérgio pursued composing and went on to win a Latin Grammy of his own for his work with Yo-Yo Ma on the Brazilian record Obrigado Brazil.

After seeing the performance, some students said they were inspired to continue pursuing their own goals in terms of guitar performance.

“[The performance] got me excited to practice even more and set my goals even higher,” Arbizu said. “You want to get there; you want to have a great performance like this one day. I want to get to their level.”

Follow Jessica Schrecker @JKSchrecker


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