Turkish guitarist Celil Refik Kaya performs during the 2015 Texas Guitar Competition and Festival, where he took home first place. This year’s finals will be at 8 p.m. Friday in the Clark Center.
The annual Texas Guitar Competition and Festival celebrates its 15th year at The University of Texas at Dallas on Friday and Saturday with classical guitarists from around the world vying for cash prizes and a capstone performance by the acclaimed Romero Guitar Quartet.
The festival began in 2001 as a statewide event under the direction of Dr. Enric Madriguera, the Russell Cleveland Professor of Guitar Studies, and senior lecturer Kathryn Evans. Since then, it has grown to include an international roster of elite performers.
Madriguera said the festival and competition have grown into a tradition, helping foster support for classical guitar.
“Each edition of the Texas competition at UT Dallas requires booking of our performance talent two years in advance and then, as we approach the event, months to prepare by our faculty and events staff,” Madriguera said. “It requires all of the talent from our guitar faculty to talent in communications, events management and graphic arts that is available to us in the School of Arts and Humanities.”
At 8 p.m. Friday, the top four finalists of the international competition will perform in the Clark Center.
Dallas-based guitarist and lutenist Jacob Johnson has participated in the competition every year since 2013, and consistently placed as a semifinalist.
“The experience of preparing for an international competition is actually pretty grueling,” Johnson said. “It takes at least a year of highly focused preparation in order to stand up well in the competitive field.”
Johnson has been studying privately with Madriguera since 2012, and he spends four to six hours daily practicing, with much of that time dedicated to the competition music.
He believes the festival and competition have become a campus tradition because of the high level of the performers, competitors and instructors participating.
“I think that it is the quality of performing artists who come that has made it such a tradition. The guitarists who play here every year are world-renowned players. For many people, this festival is the one chance they may have to see many of the world’s first-rate musicians.”
“There are things we can learn about ourselves through the arts which cannot be easily explored in other ways,” he said. “Every year, UTD brings in world-class talent to judge the competitions, give concerts and teach master classes. The quality of the festival draws in talented and driven participants from all over the world, and the youth competition encourages a high level of music-making in young players.”
On Saturday, young guitarists ranging from 11 to 18 years old will compete in a closed-door showcase before Parisian guitarist Jérémy Jouve takes the stage for a free concert at 4 p.m.
Music lecturer Charles Watson MA’09, who has been a judge for the youth competition for several years and works closely with Madriguera, considers the festival to be key in nurturing UT Dallas’ growing music culture.
“The festival has become such an attraction to the surrounding area,” Watson said. “I think that it is the quality of performing artists who come that has made it such a tradition. The guitarists who play here every year are world-renowned players. For many people, this festival is the one chance they may have to see many of the world’s first-rate musicians.”
The Romero Guitar Quartet will cap off the festival with a performance at 8 p.m. in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building Lecture Hall.
Often referred to as “The Royal Family of the Guitar,” the Romeros have played with major symphony orchestras including those of Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The quartet also has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and appeared at the Vatican in a concert for Pope John Paul II.
“I am both pleased and amazed at the dedication and professionalism I see at the festival,” Madriguera said. “We are all in support of the world-class emerging concert talent which, in our 15th iteration, is now global in scope.”
“Our youth competition levels serve the talent of all of Texas and, in recent years, we have had participants from California. Our sponsors, led by Savarez, D’Addario and RENN Capital, have been with us from day one. Our advisory committee — led by Chair Russell Cleveland, Dean (Dennis) Kratz, professor Todd Sandler, and a new member, Bryan Milner — has consistently lent us their staunch support.”