International Guitar Festival returns online

headshots of performers featured in festival

Guitarists from around the world showcase a diverse set of playing styles in the 2021 International Guitar Festival.

The Department of Music’s International Guitar Festival has returned following a one-year hiatus. Last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic, so this year organizers decided to hold a virtual festival. 

The online event features a stellar lineup of acclaimed guitarists, musicians and performers from across the globe. Guitarist and composer Jorge Caballero is the youngest musician and the only guitarist to win the Naumburg International Competition Award, one of the most prestigious and coveted awards given to performers of any instrument. “Khytar 12.6” is a guitar duo composed of Portuguese guitarists Pedro Rodrigues and Miguel Amaral, who perform a unique mixture of classical guitar with Portuguese folk guitar. Mesut Özgen is a highly accomplished composer and player whose works infuse a deep influence of traditional Turkish music into classical guitar stylings. He is joined by violinist Cihat Askin for his performance. French guitar phenomenon and author Dr. Thomas Viloteau showcases his unique and gifted classical guitar work at the festival. Finishing out the lineup of performers is “Las Flamencas,” a traditional Flamenco duo featuring virtuoso flamenco guitarist, vocalist and conductor, Marija Temo and acclaimed dancer and choreographer Kerensa DeMars.

The festival is organized by the Southwestern Virginia Classical Guitar Society, which is a club at Radford University open to students of any major. Dr. Robert Trent, Director of Guitar Studies at Radford University, is the founder of the festival and serves as mentor to the club. He says that developing a fully online show offered a new set of challenges and learning experiences for students involved in orchestrating the event. “We attempted to bring back as many performers from last year’s planned lineup as we could, but some were not available for differing reasons,” says Trent. Those who were unable to perform this year were replaced with other international guitarists and performers. Trent says that this year’s lineup showcases the incredible diversity of how guitar music is composed and performed around the world. “We have world-class artists from Europe, Latin America and the United States as part of the festival. They feature unique and sometimes unusual combinations of instruments and styles. It shows the incredible breadth and depth of the international guitar scene,” says Trent.

Students who organize the event benefit in a variety of ways. In terms of artistry, they are exposed to new styles of guitar performance that can influence creativity, composition and playing styles. They also learn about the business side of the music industry, working behind-the-scenes to develop contracts and promotional materials. Prior to the pandemic, when the show was a live event, students would also assist with making travel arrangements, catering, stage help and other technical matters involved in hosting a live campus performance. The process of planning and executing the festival takes nearly a year from beginning to end.

This year’s online festival is available to anyone interested in learning more about international guitar styles. Dr. Robert Trent says that the experience should not be passed over. “Each of the featured artists are amazing performers,” he says “Anyone who watches these performances will broaden their understand of the guitar. They will travel the world, musically, at a time of their own choosing, from comfort of their own home, for free! Who could say no to that?”

Organizers plan for the festival to return to a live, in-person format again as early as next year. Trent says that he is thankful to be able to hold the performance in a virtual setting, but admits that there is nothing quite like being able to appreciate live music in a concert hall. “Given the circumstances I’m relieved and gratified that all of the people involved in doing the festival this way were willing to help,” says Trent. “It took more effort on everyone’s part to make it happen as a virtual event, and I’m grateful to everyone who assisted. The results are spectacular.”

The 2021 Radford University International Guitar Festival is available online now. Access to the site is free and open to the public.

Apr 29, 2021
Jason S. Hutchens, Ed.D