Students to take the stage

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By Kirsten Laskey

It may be a group of youngsters who will play at the upcoming Guitars and Gateaux concert, but their music will be anything but childish.

The Albuquerque Academy Honor Guitar Quartet will perform in the concert, sponsored by the Los Alamos Arts Council, at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at Fuller Lodge. Tickets are $15 or $10 for Los Alamos Arts Council members.

“They are going to be playing a bunch of different stuff,” said Mickey Jones, the director of the quartet.  

The program includes “French Pot-pourri,” composed by Roland Dyens.

“This is a piece (from) a collection of French folk songs that he has arranged for guitar,” Jones said.

They are also going to play a piece called “Carnaval,” composed by Patrick Roux, a Canadian composer. “Carnaval” is actually a tango, he said.

Another piece featured in the program is Telemann’s “Sonata in C Major.”

Besides the ensemble music, Jones said the quartet might perform a couple of solo guitar pieces.

This year, the members of the quartet are: Eric Sandoval, Eileen Torrez, Norm Farquhar and Tony Mariano.

“This is a fantastic group of kids,” Jones said. He added Torrez and Sandoval are returning members while Farquhar and Mariano are new.

“This group is really exciting,” he added. “Probably the most well-balanced group I’ve directed. The four of them play very equally. The sound they make is very well balanced. That’s been really exciting to have.”

According to an Albuquerque Academy press release, John Truitt founded the guitar quartet in 1995. In 1997, Jones was hired to direct the group. Every year, auditions are held for each spot in the quartet.

“It’s one of the premiere guitar programs for young students in the country,” said Greg Schneider, organizer of the Guitars and Gateaux concert series.  

Others have recognized the quartet’s talents. The press release reports that the quartet has performed around the country and garnered accolades from some of the most important luminaries in the field of classical guitar. They were invited to perform for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Assad Duo and the Brazilian Guitar Quartet. The quartet has traveled to Chicago, San Antonio, Oberlin, Oklahoma City, Tucson and Dallas.

The quartet was also at the Guitar Foundation of America’s 2006 Youth Ensemble Showcase.

Schneider added many of the quartet’s members have continued their education at some top schools such as the San Francisco Conservatory.

“It’s just a well-run program,” he said.

Seeing the quartet for himself, Schneider said, “Man, I was totally blown away.”

“I can’t think of enough good things to say about them,” he added.

Jones also encourages Los Alamos residents to check out what these students can do.

“I think a guitar quartet in general is an exciting medium to hear … But I also think the chance to hear people from this age group playing music beautifully at very high level is exciting to observe, to see that level of excellence at that age,” he said. “The guitar repertoire is … just unusual … atmospheric, exciting.”

Inviting students to perform in the concert series is something Schneider said he would like to do more often. He added he hopes to include students from northern New Mexico.

For the rest of the guitar concert season, Schneider said there will be a wide mix of music from classic to Celtic.

“I think it’s going to be enjoyable season this spring,” he said.

Schneider added he enjoys providing this concert series because it brings in “top-notch” talent that happens to be local.  

People would be hard-pressed to find better guitarists, he said.

It is not just the audience who benefits these concerts. Jones said the performers also gain something from the experience.

“For the kids, to get a chance to get out of town (and play) for audiences that are filled with unfamiliar people, that is a really healthy thing to do,” he said. “They are accustomed to playing for families and friends … (this) really helps them get a sense what feels like to be a professional musician.”

Also, it is a chance to take what they have rehearsed and worked to a higher level. This is particular great to experience in the Guitars and Gateaux concert, Jones said.

“The Guitars and Gateaux is really nice (with the) venue, the hall that is held in,” Jones said. “The nature of the event is very intimate; it’s a good environment for classical guitar. The audience in Los Alamos tends to be sophisticated because they tend to be exposed (to this type of music).”

Jones added,  “I feel very grateful to Greg for doing such a good job for running this community outreach program. It is exciting to participate in, and I love coming to Los Alamos and interacting with the people there. It is just a great situation.”