Radford Music Professor in European Summer Tour

Dr. Robert Trent in performance this summer in Spain.

Dr. Robert Trent is no stranger to globetrotting, guitar in hand. He's played in Asia, Europe, North and South America in concerts, competitions and festivals. This summer, Trent embarked on a nine day tour of the Iberian Peninsula, performing solo concerts in Aveiro, Portugal, Madrid and Navas de San Juan, Spain.

There, he performed a repertoire of the early romantic period, music of Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, and Ferdinando Carulli,  on an authentic 19th century guitar of French style construction. One reporter, Elisabeth Ruiz Martinez of the Dario Jaen, wrote that Trent delighted the audience, assessing it as "sublime."

Dr. Trent is a first prize winner of numerous national and international competitions and a Dalton Eminent Senior Scholar Award winner in 2021. He is the Director of Guitar and Lute Studies and the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Music. He spared some time for a few questions about the tour and why concerts like this matter.

​So how did this musical tour of the Iberian Peninsula come about? Was it something you had done before or is this the first time? If it was the first time, who initiated it?  

I was invited by three presenters, one in each town. I had performed in Spain before, but not in the cities I performed in this summer. The situation is the same with Portugal, having performed there before; however, this time in a new city for me. In the years before Covid-19, I was invited by the director of a festival in Guimarães (the original founding city of ancient Portugal). In another year, I was invited by the director of that festival, who is the director of the present festival in Navas de San Juan.

How did you go about selecting your repertoire? What can you tell us about the selections?

I tend to design a concert program around a central large-scale work that interests me. Next, I think about, or imagine a “companion” work. That can mean different things, such as similar style, contrast in style or key, or something more nuanced. Before I truly realize it, I find that a theme or program is developing. 

And that’s what motivates me: to create an overall concept that is a journey rather than an evening of my favorite “flavors of the moment.”  I find I’m much more engaged in larger pieces and concepts, not only in music, but in epic books, film, and so forth. My next two CDs to be published are likewise built on a single or double topic.  

Those things hold my attention and deepen my engagement and, hopefully, the audience’s as well. 

Roadside art makes it clear, Spanish culture and guitar go hand in hand.

Speaking of your audience, do you have a sense of who came to see the concerts? Did you get a chance to meet anyone attending the show?  

Young and old. Families, couples, and singles. European audiences, from my experience, always seem to consist of a wide diversity.  

I always meet with people following the performance, and again, Europeans, as well as South Americans and Asians, are very appreciative. Many want to speak with the artist to ask questions and give their thanks. Often, a group of people will head out for dinner and a drink. Following one concert several of us hung out at various locations town until 2:00AM.  

In one case one young student came backstage, asked several questions about my interpretive choices; I invited that student to perform her piece for me backstage as part of the discussion. Fortunately, my wife and host reminded me we needed to get to our dinner engagement, or I might have forgotten all about it.

What was the most rewarding or interesting aspect of this tour?

Performing for those who truly appreciate the music. Feeling that from the audience and the ensuing engagement with music lovers following the concert performance; and, as always, reuniting with friends around the world. 

Why are concerts like this important?   

Several things are important here. Naturally, it is good for me as a performer. I am driven to be a performing artist. I need it like water and food. It’s a very big part of who I am and enhances my professional development.

Pamela and Robert Trent enjoy a roadside stop between gigs. As Trent notes, food, like music, brings people together and breaks down barriers.

It also becomes valuable to my students at Radford. Being the active performer keeps me engaged so that on my return I can impart to my students what it takes to perform, tour, teach masterclasses, and lecture to people around the world. And how to prepare! It takes months, if not years, of planning to make it all work. And I learn something new each and every time.

But the most important reason is the way music breaks down barriers which are often present across countries, even when they should not be. Music really does unite and heal the world. Food, music, culture and human interaction bring us together. 

Whether I like it or not, I’m an ambassador, not only for the art and craft, but also for my country and Radford University. It is important to realize that in some countries, I might be the first American they meet. By performing music, it can create a bond and understanding that would not be there otherwise.  

I believe this is very important and if I had the power, I would require and support study abroad for every student. It’s why I use Mark Twain’s observations about travel in my email signature. In The Innocents Abroad, he wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." 


Any favorite memories or moments?  

I was pleasantly surprised to be called back to the stage for four encores in Spain. The Spanish are very critical and particular about how Spanish music is performed. So, I was heartened by this response to my performance.  

So what's next on the international musical scene for you? 

Right now, I am making plans for performances in Mexico and Italy to occur this coming spring. 

Sep 6, 2023
Sean Kotz