By C.V. Moore
World-renowned classical guitarist Ernesto Tamayo may have played a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, but Saturday he will make his West Virginia debut at the tiny Historic Fayette Theater in Fayetteville.
Along with a master class for local school children, the concert is part of Tamayo’s personal mission to share the art of classical guitar with communities across the globe.
“I think music is one of the elements of true knowledge, along with rhetoric and math and science. It’s extremely important,” says the artist.
Tamayo is joined by former students Paul Morton and Matt Bacon, both graduates of Peabody Conservatory who are currently completing master’s degrees in classical guitar performance at the University of California, San Francisco.
The musicians will talk with students at Fayetteville Elementary on Friday morning, performing a few pieces in an effort to engage a younger generation with a classical form. The students will also receive free tickets to the Saturday concert.
“This is just for them to have a new experience and make sure they get engaged as part of an activity in their own community,” says Tamayo.
“It used to be that kids were taken more often to the concert hall. That is where this kind of acoustic classical music is heard the best. So sometimes it’s hard to get them to the concert hall, but we go to schools and tell them that there is a concert, talk about acoustics, and engage them in a learning experience.”
Tamayo is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Classical Music Foundation, which works in partnership with schools, conservatories and organizations around the world to encourage involvement of the community in classical music events, with a special focus on the classical guitar.
In Washington, the foundation takes kids to concerts and brings lessons to their schools and after-school programs.
The artist also sponsors an annual guitar festival and competition in Lancaster, Pa.
Tamayo grew up as a child prodigy in Cuba and performed on Castro’s state-run television at the age of 9. He was a student of several renowned Cuban composers and musicians, including Antonio Alberto Rodriguez and Leo Brouwer.
During his teenage years, he traveled and played through South America before a 1995 deal with Sony allowed him to travel to the United States. After receiving a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory, he made his Carnegie Hall debut to a sold-out crowd in 1999.
With eight recordings under his belt and a yearly program of nearly 80 concerts around the world, Tamayo makes a point to play in small venues like the Historic Fayette Theater, churches and schools, as well as sizable concert halls.
As teens, Bacon and Morton were students of Tamayo at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music and the three have known each other for a decade. Now professional musicians themselves, they are being invited to play along with their former teacher at his concerts in what Morton calls a “cool transition.”
“I think it’s great we can all play together, seeing as we started out as Ernesto’s students. We have a great relationship to him as a teacher and a fellow performer,” says Morton of the collaboration.
The idea for a concert evolved from a conversation among the musicians about how great it would be to make an appearance in West Virginia, where Morton traces his roots. Tamayo took the invitation seriously and pitched the idea to the Clay Center, which obliged with a concert date.
Paul Morton’s father, Holmes Morton, is originally from Fayetteville and he still has strong ties to Fayette County.
“I think it’s fun to come back to my family’s roots and bring something back that people don’t have that much exposure to,” says Paul. “I think it’s fun to link those cultures together.”
The three will also play a concert at Charleston’s Clay Center the following day.
The concerts will be a combination of trios and duos by European and Latin American composers from Josef Haydn to Tamayo himself.
“It’s a mix of a little bit of classical music, original works by Ernesto (...) and also Spanish flamenco music and Latin American jazz,” says Paul Morton. “(Ernesto) writes very much in the Cuban style he was raised in.”
“We’re just trying to educate the community and give them a glimpse of what we do,” says Morton.
A similar presentation by an outreach program inspired him to pick up the classical guitar back in his school days.
“We believe it’s an important thing to give back,” he says.
Spanish classical guitar emerged as a classical instrument in the performances of Andres Segovia, who began at age 15 to transform the traditional music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Haydn and Stravinsky into music for the Spanish guitar.
Segovia was famous at an early age in Europe, but he also played in Mexico and South America, where he inspired generations of composers for guitar.
“It will just be a really nice concert, and to hear these guys play in a little theater like the Historic Fayette Theater will be fun,” says Holmes Morton, who is helping coordinate the appearance.
“I would like to see more of this kind of thing in Fayetteville, whether it’s the theater or the Memorial Building, and I think we have the population to support it,” Charles Morton told the Fayetteville Town Council at a recent meeting. Charles, who is Paul’s uncle, lives in Fayetteville.
“It gives us an opportunity to present something different in southern West Virginia that wouldn’t normally be seen,” says Gene Worthington, president of the Historic Fayette Theater. “It’s just another example of the Historic Fayette Theater trying to bring all facts of entertainment to the area.
“It’s very nice that we can get a program that’s actually going to be at the Clay Center. It’s quite a feather in our cap as a small community theater.”
The Fayetteville concert begins at 8 p.m., and tickets are available at www.historicfayettetheater.com. For more information on the artist, visit www.ernestotamayo.com.
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