John Thottungal

School of Arts & Humanities/Courtesy Oman Kaminsky took first place, from a pool of 60 players, in the finals round of the International Guitarist Competition on Feb. 28.

School of Arts & Humanities/Courtesy
Oman Kaminsky took first place, from a pool of 60 players, in the finals round of the International Guitarist Competition on Feb. 28.

13th annual Texas Guitar Festival features performances from Grammy-winning musicians, entrants from Mexico, the Netherlands

The sounds of classical guitar strummed by local and international players filled different venues on campus at the 13th annual Texas Guitar Festival, which ran from Feb. 27 to March 2.

The competition, organized by guitar studies professor Enric Madriguera, brought 18 players from different countries including Canada, Mexico and the Netherlands to compete for $6,500 in cash prizes.

“It was a lot of fun, it was really interesting seeing all the different techniques,” said biochemistry senior Daniel Zamorano. “My favorite was the second finalist Oman Kandinsky.”

The finals took place on Feb. 28 with four finalists playing to a crowd in the Clark Center.

“You will get people from Europe coming over in some years and trying to win two or three competitions in a row,” said Canadian finalist Steven Lochbaum. “This is the biggest one.”

Oman Kandinsky, who studies and trains in the Netherlands, won the grand prize with Jesus Serrano, Steven Lochbaum and Janet Grohovac receiving second, third and fourth place respectively.

“Students need an opportunity to perform and they also need an opportunity to compete,” Madriguera said.

UTD’s Radiant Community ensemble is a group of UTD students lead by Madriguera, who practice and play together at different occasions for non-credit. The ensemble was one of two ensembles showcasing UTD’s classical guitar talent.

Former UTD student Jacob Johnson and a private student of Madriguera made it to the semi-finals from the 18 players who came from all over the world to compete. There were a total of 60 players who competed in various categories.

“What I wanted him to do, he achieved which is he prepared, he played beautifully and he had high grades as a semi-finalist,” Madriguera said.

The increasing size of attendance at the competition from players and the audience in general each year has prompted Dennis Kratz, dean of arts and humanities, to set up a meeting to talk about expanding musical programs at UTD with a focus on integrating arts and technology further at an upcoming meeting on the March 19, Madriguera said.

Eddie Healy is a lecturer from the music department, the assistant organizer and one of the official judges of the festival.

He talked about how the competition exposes the UTD community to professional players. This is particularly advantageous to guitar students as they have the chance to compete and play with internationally renowned players.

“So much of the time students come back and say, I did not know that the guitar could do that,” said Healey.

A competition of this caliber also helps attract the best students to come study music at UTD, Healey said. The size of the competition and its prize money compared to others in the country, would serve as a focal point for classical guitarists in the area.

In addition to the director and assistant director, the festival has a team of individuals collaborating with different aspects of organizing it including the Guitar advisory board at UTD.

“A huge success, great music, delight and surprises, people from all over the world, couldn’t be better,” said Chairman of the Guitar Advisory Council Russell Cleveland.

The lobby in the Clark Center was filled with guitars on sale from various vendors including UTD alumnus Aaron Rogers who started his own company couple of year ago making handcrafted rosewood guitars. Vendors who supported the festival had a showing on March 1 in the afternoon before the concerts began.

In addition to the competition, the audience was treated to performances from Juan Carlos Laguna, the Grammy award winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and the Rio Rico ensemble from Japan. UTD guitar students had a chance to play with the masters during Masters classes held on March 2.