A Welcome From The Director
Festival Participants & Music Enthusiasts,
It gives me great pleasure to invite you, for the fifth year, to the University of Rhode Island Virtual Guitar Festival and Rising Star Competition. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to postpone; then, due to the lingering effects of this virus we chose to swim over sink, reinvent ourselves -as so many other wonderful organizations have miraculously done since the quarantine- and transition to a fully virtual music festival. While we can’t embrace in person, our musical presence will permeate the virtual highways. As artistic director of the festival, I remain fascinated by the truly international nature of the guitar and its plucked instrument family members. To this end, I have invited artists from all over the world, including South Africa, France, South Korea, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Mali and across the United States. For me, personally, the festival artists are truly inspirational and offer fresh and creative perspectives.
We will kick off the festival with two special musicians, long time friend and Irish (Brahms) 8-string classical guitarist, Redmond O’Toole, and American Blues guitarist and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Corey Harris. The second day we will hear from South Korean guitarist and winner of the 2019 Rising Stars Competition, Bokyung Byun, and 2018 Guitar Foundation of America Winner and French guitarist, Raphaelle Feuillatre. The evening concert will showcase my violin and guitar duo, Duo Sonidos, with my long time musical partner, William Knuth, followed by a special performance by my longtime mentor, teacher, life coach, American guitar virtuoso, Eliot Fisk, and dazzling Mexican-American guitarist, Zaira Meneses. The Sunday afternoon recital brings the talents of Atlanta-based guitarist, Luther Enloe, and -to conclude- the gala finale will feature master Kora (21 string African harp) player, Yacouba Sissoko, and returning guest artist from South Africa, Derek Gripper. All concerts are free (with an RSVP).
In addition to the world-class (virtual) concerts, we offer our participants a unique opportunity to work with the guest artists in both a public virtual masterclass format and one-on-one (across the myriad of online platforms. Our greatest achievement is making this festival an educational platform for artists and students to freely exchange ideas, ultimately allowing students and enthusiasts to grow. To this end, I have assembled a panel of experts to lecture on diverse topics, including the music of Paraguayan composer and performer Agustín Barrios-Mangoré with Frederick Sheppard, the polyrhythmic guitar with Derek Gripper, branding and self-promotion with Patricia Price, tone colors with Scott Borg, and creating community through the guitar with Matthew Rohde.
I’ll be honest, guitar competitions have never been my favorite. However, I’d like to offer high school students and those guitarists older than age 19 (in the Young Artist Division) the opportunity to engage in a low-key competition. An online competition gives participants the opportunity to perform at their best while keeping the environment at the festival collegial and fun. Our prizes include an appearance at the next edition of the festival (with a concert fee), a TourMic Pro wireless microphone system with Stinger amplifier, a Kenny Hill concert guitar, a string package from Augustine Strings, a gift certificate from Strings By Mail, and scholarships to join the festival at a future edition.
This festival has been the ultimate way to unite guitarists and enthusiasts from around the world and spend some quality time together, even though this year will be from afar. We can hear musicians who inspire and observe the generation of burgeoning guitarists. Join us for another great year of music making.