Scenes from GFA Convention 2011 – Columbus Georgia

This is a guest post by Heather Morand Clark

See the bottom of this post for Heather’s photo gallery of the 2011 GFA

Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition
June 26-July 3, 2011

The 2011 edition of the annual GFA International Convention and Competition was held in Columbus Georgia from June 26th to July 3rd, at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University. The event was held with great success in this same historic city in 2006, with the beautiful River Centre home to most of the week’s activities. This convention is one of the largest festivals, and the competition is one of the most important and prestigious in the world, with the winner often going on to a successful concert career. This is at least in part because the prize includes the making of a Naxos CD, Mel Bay DVD, and a concert tour which includes approximately 65 performances in the US, Canada, South America and China, and includes New York’s Carnegie Hall. It certainly can launch an aspiring young musician well on their way.

I arrived in Columbus a day before the event began, thinking I would be alone until people started to arrive the following day. Immediately I was reminded of just how small the classical guitar world really is, encountering several familiar faces before I even made it to a restaurant for dinner!

Evening concerts began with the opening night performance of Uruguayan guitarist Alvaro Pierri in the beautiful and acoustically superb Legacy Hall at the River Centre. During the week, most concerts took place in this venue, with the exception of those by Paul Galbraith and David Russell, which were in the larger capacity Bill Heard Theatre. David Starobin, who later in the week was inducted into the GFA Hall of Fame, and SoloDuo, the Italian collaboration of Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela, rounded out the slate of evening concerts. These were supplemented by concerts held both late morning and late afternoon each day. Impossible to attend them all, highlights included Rafael Aguirre, who played an arrangement of Star Wars as an encore; Gaelle Solal, whose bubbly personality completely permeated her playing; the Henderson-Kolk Duo, who performed their transcription of Mozart’s 40th Symphony; Duo 46 who premiered a new composition by Welsh composer Steven Goss; and Johannes Moller, the 2010 GFA competition winner, kicking off his GFA tour with a stunning and breathtaking performance.

The Vendor Fair is an opportunity to see some of the finest hand-made guitars in the world, all in one place, along with sheet music, CDs and DVDs, and accessories you probably never thought you needed. And always a good chance to stock up on strings, as convention prices are usually rather favourable, and often include some bonus freebies.

Registrant participation was encouraged in the form of private lessons with the performing artists, master classes, workshops and lectures, and playing in the Convention guitar orchestra. The orchestra rehearsed daily under the direction of William Kanengiser, and then at the end of the week performed an arrangement of ‘La Gazza Ladra’ (or The Thieving Magpie) by Rossini, and The Dargason from the Second Suite by Gustav Holst.

During all these activities, the competitions were taking place. The Youth Competition had both senior and junior levels open to guitarists 15-18 and up to the age of 14 respectively. Preliminary rounds were not open to the public, but the four finalists in each level performed in Legacy Hall on the final day of the convention, with results being announced at the Paris Guitar Duo concert later in the day. Thomas Pfefer, USA, won the junior level and Xavier Jara, also USA, the senior competition.

Preliminary rounds of the International Concert Artist Competition took place all week, which saw the initial roster of hopefuls whittled down to twelve semi-finalists. Again, this segment of the competition was in Legacy Hall and open to the public. From there, four players were chosen to perform in the final round, which was the closing event and a highlight of the entire Convention. Each finalist was required to play Variations on a Theme by Fernando Sor by Mark Delpriora, which was commissioned for this competition, and their own choice of twenty-five minutes of additional repertoire. This year’s finalists were Jeremy Collins, USA (4th) Damien Lancelle, France (3rd) Andras Czaki, Hungary (2nd) and the eventual winner, Vladimir Gorbach, Russia.

While waiting for the results of the jury, the evening continued with the GFA Hall of Fame inductions. Each year the Board of Trustees votes to include members in the categories of Artistic Achievement, Distinguished Service, or Industry Leadership. This year, David Starobin and Eli Kassner were honoured for Artistic Achievement, which recognizes their monumental contributions to the development of the art and life of the classical guitar. 94-year old Manuel Valasquez, guitar maker, and Matanya Ophee were inducted for industry leadership. All have made significant and decades-long contributions in their respective areas.

And so the event came to a close…a wonderful week spent immersed in the classical guitar.
One can’t help but be amazed at the assemblage of many of the greatest names in the classical guitar world: performers including David Russell, Judicael Perroy, Matteo Mela, Lorenzo Micheli, Alvaro Pieri among many others; composers Steven Goss, Mark Delpriora; industry leaders Bernard and Cyril Maillot, Matanya Ophee; and many other names well known among classical guitarists. Next year’s event in beautiful historic Charleston, South Carolina promises to be another wonderful event and includes performances by Sergio and Odair Assad, Marko Feri, Eleftheria Kotzia and Roland Dyens.

For more information:

Photo Gallery

All photos from Heather Morand Clark at the GFA Convention June 26-July 3 2011 – Columbus Georgia

Click on the photos to enlarge. You can then scroll by using the arrow buttons on the left/right of the picture.

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Bradford Werner

I’m a classical guitarist living in Victoria, BC, Canada. I teach at the Victoria Conservatory of Music as well as work as a freelance musician. I’m also studying history at the University of Victoria. Visit the about page to learn more...