(Left to right) Scott Borg, Adam Levin and Matthew Rhode perform as the group ‘The Great Necks Guitar Trio’ during the last night of the guitar festival. Photo by Anna Meassick.
The University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with Pump House Music Works, hosted its fourth annual Guitar Festival this year featuring many international renowned musicians from April 7 to April 9.
The festival hosted various local and internationally renowned musicians and guitar players from all around the world such as Gaelle Solal from France, Scott Borg from Australia, An Tran from Vietnam, Maarten Stragier from Belgium and many more. The two venues artists performed at the University’s Fine Arts Center and the Pump House Music Works, located in South Kingstown.
“It’s a reflection of my career, being an international artist,” Adam Levin, the director of the festival said. “I travel all over the place and I meet tons of guitar musicians. I’ve met a collection of incredible world class musicians while being on tour. It is incredible to have them in one place during one weekend of power packed music making.”
One of the unique features about this festival is that on top of guitar concerts and recitals on all three days, it also had masterclasses and ensemble coaching sessions that were open to the entire Rhode Island community. These coaching sessions were personally provided by the renowned artists over the weekend.
“I wanted to be all inclusive,” Levin said. “I wanted to give an opportunity not only to the artist to express themself on stage, but also wanted to give an opportunity to the community of aficionados and the general audience members to learn something new and novel about the guitar and perhaps perfect something in their guitar technique that they hadn’t before.”
Building off of last year’s success, the festival also hosted their second annual Virtual Rising Star Program. This is a program that allows young guitarists the opportunity to compete in a low-stress competition with their peers worldwide. In order to compete, participants submitted a 10 minute video before the festival started.
“There is a high school category and a young artist (above 19 years) category,” Levin said. “They are rated by a panel of five jury members. The winner of the high school category gets a full scholarship to study at the subsequent edition of the guitar festival. The young artist winner wins a $2,000 and a concert guitar by Kenny Hill.”
The festival ended with the Gala performance, at 6 p.m. last sunday, at URI’s concert Hall. Clarice Assad, a famous Brazilian American composer and jazz vocalist and pianist, played alongside the “Great Necks Guitar Trio.” This repertoire included adventurous and orchestral works that was originally meant for an orchestra, on three guitars. A new “wacky” version of famous compositions and musical pieces were the highlight of the show.
“I’m really thrilled to be here and playing with them is a joy,” Assad said. “They are great musicians. I think we have chosen a very interesting repertoire. It was kind of an eclectic night. I’m really please with the way it turned out.”
Levin emphasized that this festival is open for anyone at any level of music. He believes that the guitar is the most popular and beloved instrument in the world and also made this festival into a great opportunity to meet other like minded folks and hear great music.
Many international guitarists presented programs extremely different from one another. Some played Bach and Villa-Lobos and others playing jazz, tango, flamenco.
“I wanted to bulldoze Rhode Island with great music,” Levin said. “One of the special things is the exotics or the international flare of the festival. And the thirst for something like this is unprecedented. The thing that comes to mind is a quote from ‘Field of Dreams:’ ‘If you build it, they will come.’ That has been the case here at the festival. If you build the infrastructure, people will come. They want to hear the guitar.”