Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what we have in our own backyard. Concert audiences flock to hear guest artists from other parts of the world but tend to forget the homegrown talent we have right here in our city.
Thanks to ongoing efforts of the Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society, several gifted guitarists will get much-needed exposure this season; and even better, audience members will get to experience their talents.
The first concert, called Classical Guitar Virtuosity Recital, takes place this Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Planetarium Auditorium. It features three young Winnipeg guitarists: John Testar, Andrew Erickson and Alan Nagelberg.
Studies have taken Testar away from Winnipeg. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in music (on full scholarship) at the University of Toronto. He completed his bachelor and master of music degrees at the University of Ottawa.
The other two artists have stayed close to home. Erickson spends most of his time teaching classroom guitar for two schools in Louis Riel School Division. Between Glenlawn Collegiate and Dakota Collegiate, he has approximately 160 guitar students.
"I started guitar in the public school system. I had good teachers who lit a fire for me," Erickson said of Randy Haley, Ric Schulz and James Hickerson. "My parents put me in private lessons with Michael Daher. I decided early on that I wanted to be a teacher. Watching the instrument ... my teachers and what they could do with it -- it's a different side than people see. It's unique -- and it hit me hard. I knew I wanted to do that myself."
Erickson went on to study music and education at the University of Manitoba, training for five years under Ryszard Tyborowski, whom he also cites as a big musical influence.
Despite his busy teaching schedule, he loves the opportunity to perform. "It lets me get into professional level, more demanding repertoire. It's just another aspect of the guitar."
He has chosen two works for Saturday's recital, the well-known Tres piezas espanola by Rodrigo and a Chaconne by J.S. Bach. "These are familiar works for me and I know they are crowd favourites, because I've been requested to play them about 1,000 times."
At 26, Erickson already has impressive career highlights, including four recommendations to the National Music Festival, winning the Len Hew Trophy in the 2008 Winnipeg Music Festival and twice being a semi-finalist in the Women's Musical Club's Doris McLellan Competition.
"He can play all the most challenging repertoire," said WCGS concert organizer, Skender Sefa. "I'm surprised he's not a touring classical guitar performer."
But Erickson is devoted to his teaching and gains great satisfaction from it. "At the school concerts I get goose bumps the way the kids are performing. My goal is to be a full-time teacher."
Alan Nagelberg has found a way to combine his engineering studies with his musical studies. Nagelberg is close to completing his master's degree in computer engineering. "I'm finishing my thesis," he said. "I've done the course work. My project is to try to develop a computer program to compose musical scores from extracts of musical information -- and then to create music in the same style."
Nagelberg, 25, started with electric guitar 15 years ago and still plays gigs around town with local bands.
He's played classical guitar for less than three years, yet according to teacher Sefa, is an amazing classical guitarist. "I tried on my own at first," admitted Nagelberg. "I realized I was probably doing it wrong. Lessons with Sefa made all the difference, although Nagelberg confesses it's been difficult. "I'm doing it for fun -- if I wasn't having fun I wouldn't be doing it."
"I was looking for a way to expand myself musically. It meant a whole new world of repertoire that is vast and musically powerful, that has stood the test of time. It's a big challenge."
This bright young man has met the challenge head on, nabbing second place in classical guitar in the National Music Festival in August, winning the 2012 WMF Most Outstanding Senior Classical Guitarist Award and the Len Hew Trophy in 2011 and 2012.
On Saturday he will play Napoleon Coste's Le Départ and Aquarelle by Sergio Assad. "I like to run my repertoire by my parents (Carolyn and Paul Nagelberg are longtime Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra musicians). They give me great feedback, even though they may not know guitar technique. They tell me where to improve."
Nagelberg will have multiple paths from which to choose, but "I never want to eliminate music from my life,"
Tickets are $20/$15/$10 at the door or by calling 667-5250.