Miami Classical Guitar Society - NEWS & PRESS
Miami New Times, Feature Article
The Miami Classical Guitar Society Brings the World's Best Guitarists to the 305 - by Abel Folgar
February 25, 2016
Read Article in Miami New Times
“The classical guitar of today is not only classical any more. You can find numerous interpreters and composers who go beyond the limits of what you may call normal music and acquire the most avant-garde techniques of interpretation,” says Carlos Molina.
Molina was born in Havana and is the founder of the Cuban School of Guitar. Graduating from the National Conservatory in Cuba, he began performing in 1969 while earning a law degree from the University of Havana. In 1970, he won first prize at the National Guitar Competition in Cuba. He then embarked on his first tour of Europe.
“I did all my music studies in Cuba, and in contrast with the old world masters, I was one of the first in my country to study many years of harmony, counterpoint, music appreciation, musical analysis, history of music, pedagogy, orchestration, and even musical calligraphy.”
Molina also has a distinguished relationship with famed Cuban composer and conductor Leo Brouwer, who wrote a piece, “Canticum,” specifically for Molina.
Since leaving Cuba in 1982, Molina has continued to increase his international profile, both as performer and as judge of guitar competitions. His 40-plus-year career has forged many important relationships within the guitar world and since 1987, he’s been the force propelling the Miami Classical Guitar Society (MCGS). Its mission: to promote the art and appreciation of the classical guitar.
With 200 concerts under its belt, the Society has showcased some of Miami's brightest guitar talents. Aside from concerts, the Society’s schedule includes master classes, lectures, recitals, history courses, competitions, community ensembles, and outreach education.
An impassioned player, Molina exhibits the deliriousness of a mystic trance when speaking about the guitar. “We are witnessing the third golden age of classical guitar, which started in the 17th century with Gaspar Sanz, Guerau, and others," he says. “Today, you find very young performers from so many countries of Europe, America, and Asia. Besides collecting dozens of international awards, displaying wonderful careers, they have a very solid music and cultural education.”
For this season, the MCGS's 28th, the Society has another ambitious calendar of performances, one of the most notable involving the Paraguayan Berta Rojas, one of the most distinguished female performers alive today, whose recent recordings with Paquito d’Rivera and the Camerata Bariloche are worthy of note.
This past October, MCGS kicked off its season with a young Thai virtuoso, Ekachai Jearakul, who won the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Competition.
This Friday, Molina will be performing with his wife, soprano vocalist Marisa Molina, in association with Florida International University’s new International GuitArt Festival. The remainder of the season will feature Italian Roberto Fabbri next month, Colin Davin in April, and Rojas closing it out in May.
“This year’s roster will give Miami audiences the opportunity to hear guitarists from many different countries and receive perspectives of what is happening worldwide,” says an elated Molina. A tireless leader in his field and a hidden gem within South Florida’s cultural landscape, Molina holds the future of South Florida classical guitar in his capable hands.
El Nuevo Herald - Featured Article
25 Years of Classical Guitar in Miami - by Arturo Arias-Polo
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Click to Read Article in El Nuevo Herald. (Article below has been translated from it's original Spanish language).
When Cuban guitarist Carlos Molina came to Miami, he never imagined that at the turn of three decades his efforts for his adopted city to become one of the most recognized places internationally in the field of guitar education and outreach would be so fruitful. "Since at that time there was no movement here in Classical Guitar, I gave myself the task of developing it in a variety of ways", recalled Molina, who founded the Guitar Department in Music at Florida International University (FIU), in 1987. That same year he created, along with engineer Ignacio Ares, a nonprofit foundation to promote events with renowned figures.
Today Saturday, April 20, The Miami Classical Guitar Society presents the final concert in a series which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. The event will feature Scottish-Spanish guitarist David Russell at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Coral Gables. "Russell is one of the great guitarists of the time. For me he is the Pavarotti of the guitar", Molina said, noting that the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of the society began in November with an inaugural concert Carlos Molina & Friends and then followed Alejandro Cordova, Vladimir Gorbach, and Adam Holzman.
The musician recalled that Juan Mercadal, creator of the guitar department at the University of Miami, was the first guest of the society 25 years ago. Then came David Tanenbaum, Manuel Barrueco, Benjamin Verdery, Ernesto Bitetti and Miguel Angel Girollet, from a list of over 150 virtuosos from 23 countries. "There was nothing here. Now we count on the best guitarists in the world for our series", said the guitarist, who is proud that in 1991, the Guitar Foundation of America chose him to direct an international festival at FIU, and another at the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College in 2002. "Thanks to Dr. Eduardo Padrón, who gave us his entire support, we were able to gather 317 guitarists and teachers from around the world", said Molina, 67, whose 44-year career in music includes performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, among other places in 23 countries. The musician was awarded the Premio Chitarristico Città di Fiuggi, Italy, in 2007, and the Order Alirio Diaz in Venezuela, in 2009.
The Miami Classical Guitar Society started with its headquarters at FIU from 1987-1998. It then moved to the Spanish Cultural Center (CCE), where it hosted conferences, meetings, master classes, lectures and international competitions between 2003 and 2007. Although the economic crisis led to the withdrawal of some sponsors, it continued to organize six concerts a year in churches, the MDC Kendall Campus, and in the same CCE. Since it was established as a nonprofit foundation, with more than 100 members, it is financed by membership payment, government grants, private donations and box office receipts.
The closing Concert celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Miami Classical Guitar Society with David Russell takes place at St. Philip's Episcopal Church, 1121 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables. Saturday, April 20, 8pm (305) 412-2494 www.miamiguitar.org.
Knight Foundation Arts Miami - Featured Article
Society spreads the gospel of classical guitar - by Gregory Stepanich
June 13, 2012
Click to Read Article on Knight blog
There’s more to the guitar – or maybe that should be “less” – than what you can get out of plugging one into a stack of Marshalls. That’s the electric guitar, and it has its own important, if relatively brief, history. The original instrument, though, is centuries old, and since 1988, Carlos Molina has been carrying the flag for the literature and the tradition of the classical guitar. “It’s a very cultivated art in the sense that we cover all the epochs, from the vihuela [an early version of the guitar] in the 16th century to the most contemporary pieces,” he said. “So we have a very vast repertoire.”
The Miami Classical Guitar Society last month was named one of 57 finalists for a grant from the Knight Arts Challenge for a project involving educational outreach. Winners of the awards will be announced in December. Molina said the society would use the money to bring programs to all six campuses of Miami-Dade College, where Molina has taught for 29 years. Society members would also be making visits to area high schools such as Ferguson High, where one of Molina’s former students, Horby Lopez, operates what he calls “a great program” with 150 young guitarists. “We’re going to go to them to promote our society, that’s one of the main reasons, and to have them be motivated by our art,” Molina said. “It’s a very selective art … Kids want to play rock and jazz and those sorts of things. And classical is a different thing. But one thing I can assure you: They like it.”
Over the years, the society has offered a number of different gatherings of musicians. In 1991, it organized the Guitar Festival of the Americas at Florida International University, and in 1996, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet was the featured ensemble at the society’s first Guitar Ensemble Festival. In 2002, it was the Sun Waves Guitar Fest, which the society says was attended by 317 guitarists, and in the next two years it hosted workshops and a guitar competition.
Molina is a native of Cuba, where he studied at the National Conservatory of Music with the legendary Isaac Nicola. He began touring internationally in 1970 after winning the National Guitar Competition in Cuba, and headed the guitar department at the Superior Institute of the Arts. He came to the United States in December 1982, where in addition to his work at Miami-Dade College he taught for 11 years at Florida International University. “I love teaching,” he said, and he’s taught a wide variety of guitarists over the past three decades, including Carlos Rafael Rivera, whose trumpet concerto for Arturo Sandoval was premiered by the trumpeter and the Miami Symphony Orchestra a couple years back.
This past season, the society presented three concerts featuring young rising classical guitarist – Sweden’s Johannes Möller, Damien Lancelle of France and Paraguay’s Berta Rojas – as well as Molina himself, in concert with his wife Marisa, a soprano. (A fifth guitarist had to cancel because of illness.) This coming season, Molina said, there will be seven concerts. “This season, we’re going to make a special effort to bring the very, very best,” Molina said. “We’ve done that before, but this season is going to be special.” On tap for the upcoming season are the French guitarist and composer Roland Dyens, the Scottish-born master David Russell, and Sergio and Odair Assad, the well-known guitar duo from Brazil. A fourth concert featuring an established player is still in the works, Molina said. The younger players on the series include Vladimir Gorbach, a Russian who won the Guitar Foundation of America contest last year; Mexico’s Alejandro Cordova, winner of the 2011 Coria International Guitar Festival competition in Spain; and Cristina Perez, a Colombian guitarist and winner of a recent New England Conservatory contest. “They are very young, and they are super,” Molina said.
The major goal of the society today is to resume the hosting of an international guitar competition. The last one the society presented was in 2007, but since then, the global financial crisis has dried up sponsorship funding, he said. But winning the grant would help the group pay for a competition next summer that would feature concerts by three guitarists and educational programs as well as the contest itself, he said. It’s all a way of advancing an art Molina says attracts many more young people than you might think, and the results are always rewarding. “They come to me from rock or jazz and they want to hear something new, and when they see what they are able to do, they really enjoy it,” he said. “The beginning is always hard, because they’re used to the noise, and the blasting, and all that stuff … But once they get into playing one of the little studies or the pieces that have a melody or a chord and accompaniment together, they’re surprised.”
"Knight Arts Challenge Finalists"
The Miami Herald - Featured Article
Event could spark classical guitar's revival - by Enrique Fernandez
Wed, June 21, 2006
The guitar is the world's most popular instrument. Introduced to the Western world via Spain during its seven centuries of Muslim hegemony, the guitar's ancestors evolved in the Iberian peninsula into the instrument we know today. When the guitar migrated to the New World, it became the preeminent Latin American instrument.
The purest guitar -- the one closest to its Spanish roots -- is what we call the classical guitar: the light, soft-stringed, hour-glass shaped instrument; the body of works written for it; and its performers, one of whom, the Spaniard Andrés Segovia, became a household name in the 20th century.
With this pedigree, one would imagine such a Latin city as Miami to be a hothouse of guitar activity. Not so.
The Miami Classical Guitar Society, founded by Carlos Molina 19 years ago soon reached 100 members, but today about 100 members is all it has. Intent on changing that panorama, Molina has founded the Miami International Guitar Competition and Assemblage, which runs this week through June 25. ''For many years, I've been invited to be a juror at international competitions and I've seen a great movement of young
people in them,'' says Molina, in his Kendall home. ``That's what motivated me to start a competition here.''
In fact, Molina has organized guitar competitions in Miami before, under the aegis of the Guitar Foundation of America, in 1991 at Florida International University and 2002 at the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus -- Molina has taught guitar at both institutions. In his native Cuba, which he left in 1982, he organized the island's first guitar festival in 1976.
The 60-year old Molina is a one-man campaign to revitalize the classical guitar. In the rest of the country, he admits, the fate of this most popular instrument in its classical mode is not much better than in Miami. ''Most guitar students at American music schools are foreigners,'' he says. Yet, when he travels to competitions in Europe, there are always between 40 and 60 competitors.
''The problem is that when an American student wants to take up the classical guitar, he must do so in college, which is where instruction is offered,'' Molina observes. ``Like any instrument, it is best to start studying it as a child.''
To ''embellish'' the Miami competition, Molina has invited four world-class guitarists to perform -- there will also be master classes, lectures and, of course, the competition itself. The first, Spain's David Martínez, who performs tonight, is the winner of the prestigious Andres Segovia Contest.
Molina was trained in Cuba, where he studied with famed teacher Isaac Nicola. ''Cuba was the first country where the vihuela, an early guitar, was taught,'' Molina explains. ``It was taught by a master who came in Columbus's second trip, in 1514 and settled in the city of Trinidad.''
In the 19th century, a large Spanish immigration to Cuba brought several guitarists and the first guitar conservatory was founded by Ubert de Blank, a Dutch musician who was also a Cuban patriot during the struggle for independence from Spain.
In 1933, the Conservatorio de La Habana established a guitar chair. ''In the '30s, the Cuban José Rey de la Torre was Segovia's greatest rival,'' Molina says. In that decade, the first guitar society was founded in Cuba.
With the Cuban exile, the classical guitar did not flourish. ''The exiles were too busy with survival to be concerned with the arts,'' Molina notes. ``But it's no longer true that there is no culture in Cuban Miami. Things have changed.'' Molina hopes that one big change will be a renewal of interest in his beloved instrument and that the competition will attract an international roster of guitarists. The tradition of classical guitar to which Molina is heir would shine again in this, its new home.
Sun Sentinel - Featured Article
String Fling - by Debra A. Moroff LIFESTYLE
October 9, 2002
Click to Read Article on Sun Sentinel Webpage
Think of "classical guitar," and the words that most likely come to mind are "Spain," "flamenco" or even "Segovia."
It's easy to understand why, because the guitar is so steeped in Latin American culture. And Spanish guitar legend Andres Segovia, more than any other musician, popularized the classical guitar and its music worldwide.
Yet "the guitar is not just a Spanish thing," says Benjamin Verdery, chairman of the department of guitar at Yale University. "Every country has had composers write for classical guitar. It's a true world instrument, and its music reflects a tremendous range of styles and cultures."
Next week, South Floridians can experience the beauty, excitement and surprising variety of the classical guitar during the Sun Waves Guitar Fest 2002, Tuesday through Oct. 20 at Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson Campus in Miami.
The six-day event is sponsored by the Guitar Foundation of America, which has staged the event annually in cities around the world since 1973. Along with a heady lineup of performances, the festival also offers lectures, master classes, a vendor fair, a gallery exhibit and an international competition. About 400 amateur and classical guitarists are expected to attend, though all activities (except the preliminary round of guitar competition) are open to the public.
Given the strong association of classical guitar music with Spain and Latin America, Miami was an inviting locale for an international guitar festival.
"There's a huge audience for classical guitar in South Florida because so many Hispanic families have this art form in their tradition," says Michelle Heffner Hayes, MDCC executive director of cultural affairs. "When the Spanish emigrated to the New World, they took their guitar culture with them. Because this population has grown up with classical guitar, I would expect Miami to have a pretty sophisticated audience for this type of music."
Carlos Molina, a professional guitarist and adjunct professor with the MDCC, persuaded the university to host the mega guitar event. Molina, who also founded the 20-year-old Miami Classical Guitar Society, has a lifelong association with the world guitar community, including friendships with many of the musicians who will be performing at the Guitar Fest.
The artists scheduled to appear represent the divergence and confluence of various musical styles: classical, ethnic/world, pop and jazz. They range from traditional virtuosi such as Scotland native David Russell -- one of the world's leading concert guitarists -- to hybrid stylists such as Badi Assad, the Brazilian sensation who has performed at Lilith Fair. Assad infuses her classical-jazz guitar numbers with vocals, percussion and dance.
Eric Franceries explores the jazz of Claude Bolling; Jorge Morel, South American songs; Jaime Marquez, the Mexican influence. Elena Papandreu commissions new works by Greek composers. Devotees of the Romeros will want to catch the Prague Guitar Quartet, the only guitar ensemble on the concert program.
The Guitar Fest's penultimate gala concert on Saturday night features Manuel Barrueco, back in Miami after premiering Roberto Sierra's new concerto with the New World Symphony last month. Renowned for his elegance and lyricism, the Cuban-born Barrueco will give voice to these qualities in a relatively new work in his repertoire, Five Pieces for Guitar, a tango-inspired work by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. Of his newfound admiration of Piazzolla, Barrueco says, "I go through phases where I explore different composers. The time was right for Piazzolla; his music is very rhythmic and sensual. Maybe it's because I'm getting older that I enjoy music that speaks directly to the heart instead of the intellect." Barrueco will also perform music of Bach and Scarlatti.
At the other end of the spectrum, American duo Benjamin Verdery and his wife, flutist Rie Schmidt, enjoy a little Ravi Shankar with their Bach. One work on their program is a flute and guitar piece titled Morning Raga. "It's really an astounding piece, unlike anything else in the repertoire," says Verdery, who claims Jimi Hendrix as one of his guitar idols. "Shankar wrote it in the early '70s, and unlike most ragas, which are improvised pieces, this one's completely written down."
Verdery has also planned an avant-garde piece by Ingram Marshall that uses digital delays and tape loops to produce hypnotic guitar effects. They will also play the "Miami" excerpt from a Verdery composition, Musical Impression of Cities. A Bach sonata for flute and harpsichord (transcribed for guitar) is also on the program. "You always have to have a little Johann," says Verdery.
The festival's opening and closing gala concerts celebrate the Hispanic guitar tradition. The opening "Concert of the Americas" on Tuesday pays tribute to Alirio Diaz, whom Molina calls a "living legend of classical guitar." The Venezuelan-born musician, now 79 years old, was Segovia's most outstanding pupil, with glossy interpretations of Latin American music. Audiences will have a rare opportunity to hear Diaz perform some of his own "classics." The concert will also explore different Latin American musical styles played on authentic instruments from their respective countries. On Sunday, the event closes with the Andujar Duo in a spirited display of the style that made Andalusia famous for the flamenco.
Along with showcasing established performers, the Guitar Foundation uses the Guitar Fest to promote new talent through its International Competition, considered a rite of passage for all serious guitarists. This year, close to 50 men and women will compete for top honors: a cash prize and a 50-date concert tour. The Guitar Foundation award has helped launch the careers of several young guitarists, including two on this year's recital program: last year's winner, Johann Fostler of Belgium, and the 1988 winner, Olivier Chassain of France.
While the qualifying rounds take place behind closed doors, the semifinal round on Saturday morning and final competition on Sunday morning will be open to the public.
Behind the scenes, the college's sound engineering team had its own dilemma: how to make the sound of an acoustic guitar fill Wolfson Auditorium's 500-seat concert hall without having it sound unnatural. The classical guitar, not designed as a concert instrument, does not project sound well without amplification. Randy deWitt, director of the School of Entertainment Technologies, and a team of students have designed a system that delivers sound throughout while preserving the guitar's intimate tonal quality.
"While the physics of sound haven't changed in thousands of years, there have been major developments in sound technology that enable us to reproduce the beauty and quality of the guitar without introducing reverberation or other unwanted sound," says deWitt. "Microphones can pick up a wider spectrum of acoustic patterns, such as the vibration of the instrument itself. Speakers are designed to give a warmer, more accurate and natural sound. Our challenge is to find the right sound for every performer and musical style, whether it's Bach or flamenco music."
If the classical guitar applies to such a wide range of cultures, eras and musical idioms, what's so special about it?
Verdery names three features that give the classical guitar its uniqueness. The first is its construction. A classical guitar has certain specifications of body size, body cavity and weight. It's played with nylon (or gut) strings. These attributes all contribute to the sound quality, generally richer, deeper and more resonant than a steel-stringed guitar.
Second is technique. Fingers are always used; never a pick. The right hand plays polyphonically, that is, picks separate notes or "voices" at the same time. This technical requirement explains why Baroque music fits the classical guitar, because of Baroque's extended use of polyphony.
The third defining characteristic -- the music literature -- follows from the first two. The classical guitar embraces the classical musical literature of the 17th century Baroque period in Europe. It also embraces the traditional and folkloric music written for guitar, lute, mandolin or other guitar variants of Europe, Russia and Latin America. It's safe to assume that the classical guitar evolved so musicians could better serve these genres.
To guitar masters, the increasing global fascination with the classical guitar is obvious. "It's easy to get hooked on the sound of the guitar, it's so seductive," says Verdery. "It's also an instrument that lends itself to exploration. One is always discovering something new, some new sound. The guitar has a magical quality that mystifies even the greats." As Barrueco notes, "When the guitar is played well it's almost irresistible."