By Jesse Wood
The 20th annual Appalachian GuitarFest and Solo Guitar Competition will be held at Appalachian State University from Thursday, April 9 to Sunday, April 12, and the event has come a long way since it was founded two decades ago.
The year Douglas James, professor of guitar at ASU’s Hayes School of Music, arrived to teach in Boone, he founded the Appalachian GuitarFest to introduce world-class guitar players to his current students.
“It’s easier to bring the talent to them with the festival than to cart them around to concerts out of town,” James said, adding that the event also served as a recruiting tool for potential students.
During that very first festival, the artists stayed at James’ house and no solo guitar competition existed yet. In fact, there wasn’t a similar event in the region.
“We were first,” James said. “We set the standard for how to do it.”
This year Appalachian GuitarFest will host a gala opening concert and reception on Thursday night at Rosen Concert Hall in the Hayes School of Music that will be catered by Lost Province Brewery. The world-renowned virtuoso Denis Azabagic, a Bosnian guitarist, will perform the opening concert.
Another performer includes Matt Palmer, a 2006 graduate of Appalachian State who has “since gone on to considerable well-deserved international fame,” according to James. Other performers include Armenian guitarist Gohar Vardanyan, Hazel Ketchum, Corinne Cassini, Stanley Yates and James. Alan Hirsh will conduct the GuitarFest Guitar Orchestra.
This year the Solo Guitar Competition, which began a few years after GuitarFest was founded, offers more divisions for young players to vie for $7,500 in cash prizes. This is the most money the event has ever awarded for this contest.
The four-day event also features master classes and seminars. Many of these events, including preliminary competition rounds and classes, are open and free to the public, James said.
Full registration of only $80 grants full access to all concerts and events. Individual feature concerts (listed below) have a general admission price of $20 each, or $10 for ASU and Watauga County students.
Advance tickets will be available through the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts box office or at the door for cash or check purchase only. Note that credit cards won’t be accepted at the door.
See a schedule, which is still being updated, here.
For more information, click here to go to the GuitarFest home page on the Appalachian State University website.
Feature concerts include:
Thursday, April 9, 8:00 p.m.
Denis Azabagic (Bosnia)
Friday, April 10, 8:00 p.m.
Stanley Yates (Great Britain) and Corde Cantanti (USA/France)
Saturday, April 11, 7:00 p.m.
GuitarFest Guitar Orchestra, Gohar Vardanyan (Armenia) and Matt Palmer (USA)
Sunday, April 12 1:00 p.m.
Solo Guitar Competition Division I Final Round