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Friday, June 2, 2023

Life + Arts

Classical Minds Guitar festival fosters young talent

Mastering the technique behind playing the guitar is extraordinarily difficult.  However, that doesn’t stop an intellectual musician like Adam Holzman, director of the guitar program at University of Texas at Austin, from trying to teach exactly that in the 2014 Classical Minds Guitar Festival and Competition, a series at this year’s 25th annual Texas Musical Festival hosted at UH.

People from all over the state traveled to Houston to listen, learn and perform in the guitar festival, anxious to learn new material and eager to meet the visiting professionals like Holzman. Other mentors included Issac Bustos, Jeremias Garcia, Jay Kacherski and Enric Madriguera.

Perhaps the biggest advantage in this festival for aspiring guitar players was the chance to meet the guest mentors and absorb as many tips as possible from the experienced experts. Twelve-year-old Aytahn Benavi got a chance to play next to Holzman in one of the pro’s master classes.  Benavi, who’s been playing for almost seven years, sat beside Holzman to strum Mauro Giuliani’s Sonata, Opus 15.  After an impressive performance, perfect to the unrefined ear, Benavi turned to his superior, awaiting his direction.  Holzman proceeded to praise the young talent before diving into specific details to improve the dynamics of the younger’s presentation.

“Don’t speed up here,” Holzman instructed as he pointed to a particular section of sheet music. “Instead, give the illusion of speeding up without actually doing it.”

He explained playing on the front and back ends of a beat, progressing into matters of triplets and crescendos.

“It’s good to hear what other teachers have to say besides the ones you’re used to,” Benavi said of Holzman’s advice.  The twelve-year-old, who practices anywhere between one and four hours daily, said he looks forward to continuing learning throughout this experience, stating his intentions to improve his technique and artistry at the festival, as well as attend every performance concert.

The same passion for learning is also clear within the spirit of UT student Alex Lew, who like Benavi, played Giuliani’s Sonata for Holzman.  Lew was also given his share of pointers.

“More distinction, more energy!” Holzman said after Lew’s performance.  The two then played in tandem, the elder drawing out the intended changes in his pupil’s playing.

Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this educational experience.  Staff members Jake Ramirez expressed his wonder at the students’ abilities.

“It’s an inspiring thing to see (students) playing this well at such a young age.  It’s motivating to us as teachers,” Ramirez said.

Such was the involvement and appetite for guitar playing invested within the entire festival.  Teachers and students, pros and amateurs, are together thriving off of one another’s musical talents, emanating with the contagious energy that music is so known to produce.

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