The seventh annual University of Rhode Island Guitar Festival returns later this month with four days of concerts presented in a hybrid format, where festival-goers can choose whether to attend in-person or watch live-streams from the comfort of their home. More than a series of concerts, there are masterclasses, lectures, workshops, and an international virtual guitar competition in two divisions: High School and Young Artists.
New to this year’s festival is a Composer-in-Residency featuring Cuban-Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso, and the Rising Stars Young Guitarists Program for students ages 6-17. The winner will make a return visit to the URI campus in 2023, and give a concert and masterclass in Costa Rica.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, the festival moved its scheduled spring festival to the fall and pivoted to entirely virtual events; last year the festival was a hybrid of live and virtual. Adam Levin, the classical guitar professor at the university and festival artistic director, has been curating the event since 2015, growing it from a single day to four.
“My intention with the guitar festival is to provide a panoramic view of the guitar in all of the different and interesting forms and styles,” says Levin. To that end, he programs the guitar alongside its plucked instrument siblings, such as the harp, mandolin, oud, and kora. This year, the festival hosts preeminent oudist Simon Shaheen, acoustic guitarist Andy Mckee, and harpist, Bridget Kibbey, among many other acclaimed musicians.
“I think audiences often feel constrained by classical music and the prescribed ways of listening to it. For me, what makes classical music compelling is the imagination necessary to bring it to life,” Levin says. “If the composer and the artists are able to effectively create a musical narrative, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s classical music, rock n’ roll, jazz, blues, etc.”
While classical music is at the heart of many of the pieces played at the festival, the focal point is the guitar. The instrument has taken on so many forms throughout the world; the songs act as reintroductions to what is possible with strings.
“The name classical guitar is a misnomer; it really only refers to the instrument type: nylon strings and a smaller body design relative to an acoustic guitar” notes Levin. “It should really be called world guitar. [It’s] an intimate instrument that has a unique ability of crossing cultural and social borders without the audience members having to leave their seats.”
Learn more at URIGuitarFestival.org
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