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Classical guitar all the rage at UA

Cassandra Tomlin/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Guilherme Vincens tunes his guitar at a UA guitar program recital in Slonaker House on Friday morning. Several students rehearsed for the third annual Thomas H. Beeston Memorial Guitar Competition on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Holsclaw Hall at the School of Music. Admission is free.
By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 27, 2005
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It's an unfailingly human trait to compare ourselves to others. Blame ego, blame insecurity; but somehow there's a drive to find out who we're better than and who blows us out of the water. After going to a guitar recital featuring some of the finest guitarists in the UA guitar program, watching these people in action can make you feel like you've got sausages for fingers.

The aforementioned guitar recital was held Friday at Slonaker House and served a preview of what's to come at the upcoming, third annual Thomas H. Beeston Memorial Guitar Competition, which takes place Sunday.

Five students performed an hour of classical guitar music. Hands turned into spiders crawling, dancing, nimbly manipulating themselves to produce melodies you'd think would come straight from some wandering troubadour on the slopes of a sunburned Tuscan village. Meanwhile, the rest of us mere mortals marveled at the sounds they conjured from just a piece of wood and nylon strings.

Thomas Patterson, a School of Music professor and organizer of this event, has been deeply involved with this competition since its inception three years ago as a tribute to Beeston.

Beeston was a significant figure in the Tucson guitar community and also a friend of Patterson.

Beeston put Tucson on the map as a leading guitar center in the world, Patterson said.

Beeston, a guitarist and luthier, was instrumental in setting up the guitar program at the UA, serving as an adviser and mentor to the guitar program's founder, Norman Douglas Sholin. Before his death of heart arrhythmia in 1999, Beeston judged a spring guitar competition for 18 years. This relatively new competition serves as a great way to honor his memory and recognize his contributions to the guitar community, Patterson said.

The five judges are local musicians and aficionados all picked by Patterson. Semifinals are Saturday in a closed competition, and four contestants will advance to the finals on Sunday. They will be evaluated on virtuosity, accuracy, atmosphere and interpretation. The stakes for this competition are high, not only for bragging rights but for prizes as well.

Prizes for this event total $10,000, from donations and contributions made by private sources. The grand prize is a concert guitar handmade by Tucson luthier Brian Dunn, estimated to be worth $8,000. The other contestants will split the remaining $2,000. In the event that a contestant wins for the second time, the guitar is awarded to the contestant who has yet to win a guitar.

The competition for this event has a strong international appeal. Competitors hailing from all parts of the world serve as a testament to the UA's guitar program, which is world renowned.

School of Music graduate assistant Jane Curry, winner of last year's competition, grew up on blues and jazz in her native New Zealand but has grown to love classical guitar for the subtlety and nuance that is absent from other guitar styles.

Curry has played guitar for 12 years, but last year was her first competition. Originally a University of Southern California student, Curry transferred to the UA after her sophomore year when expenses proved too high at USC. Patterson heard about her from word of mouth and offered her a place. She cited her professor as the nucleus of the goodwill that pervades the guitar community, Curry said.

Another transplant is Brazilian Guilherme Vincens. Vincens, who practices upward of six to eight hours a day, won second prize in the first competition and is hoping to place higher this year.

Vincens also had good things to say about Patterson, describing him as a great guy who knows how to inspire others to work harder and be better.

"You won't find another department like this in the U.S.," Vincens said.

Continuing Beeston's tradition of encouraging guitarists to succeed, Patterson has served to help solidify the UA's reputation as a center for classical guitar throughout the world, recruiting some of the best in the world and promoting classical guitar within the community.

One of these promotions is the third annual Thomas H. Beeston Memorial Guitar Competition Come see some the finalists in the championship round to be held Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Holsclaw Hall at the School of Music, 1017 N. Olive Road. Admission is free.

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