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Pictured at top, Alex Gorelick '09 performs during a WesGuitars meeting March 9. Pictured in back, from left, are Bolivian guitarist, Marcos Puña and Cem Duruoz, private lessons teacher of classical guitar and WesGuitar coordinator. Pictured below is WesGuitars member Sylvia Ryerson ’09.
(Click the speaker button to hear
Gorelick playing Prelude No. 1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos)
Posted 03.16.06

WesGuitars Club Strummin' Up Worldly Music on Campus, Local Community

Sylvia Ryerson ’09 came to Wesleyan with an interest in classic guitar, but no real ability to play the instrument. But after joining a new club called WesGuitars, she’s already memorized pieces by Brazillian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and Cuban conductor Leo Brouwer.

“I’ve always loved the sound of classical guitar,” she says. “It's great to sit in a room with a bunch of other guitarists and share what I've been working on, and hear music by others. It's a really fun and encouraging group.”

WesGuitars, a campus group generated last semester, meets twice a month in the Davenport Campus Center. During the March 9 meeting, Ryerson played a Villa-Lobos composition live for the club. Afterwards, fellow WesGuitar members complemented her efforts and offered constructive criticism.

The performance-oriented meetings serve as an opportunity for players to get feedback, tell stories, discuss different composers, ask questions, meet guest artists and be inspired. Sometimes, the WesGuitars will break out into a jam session.

The Music Department’s Cem Duruoz, private lessons teacher of classical guitar, coordinates the informal club gatherings. He says the club’s purpose is to promote classical guitar awareness at Wesleyan and the Middletown community. The students may also perform in various concerts throughout the year.

Although the guitar originated in Spain, the students study music from American, Mexican, Turkish, Brazilian, Japanese musicians, among others.

“Everyone has their own diverse interests, so we encourage each other to learn music from all over the world,” says Duruoz, who has studied and performed internationally. “The students are always free to write their own music, too.”

Alex Gorelick ’09, a chemistry and music major, has played guitar for seven years. During the recent meeting, he performed "Prelude No. 1" by by Villa-Lobos and "Sakura," a popular fast-fingered folk song from Japan. The song took him three months to master and memorize. Afterwards, guest artist Marcos Puña of Bolivia inspired Gorelick by playing the same song an octave higher.

“There are many variations on how to play a song, and writing the music for guitar is close to impossible,” Duruoz explains. “So much the way someone plays a song comes from the way they were influenced. I just recommend that they play the way they are most confident with.”

Graduate student Glenn Henshaw says audiences respond the varied sounds of the guitar. The instrument can be tender and sonorous or it can be deeply rhythmic and angular, he explains.

“The guitar is a relatively young instrument but it has timeless qualities,” says Henshaw, who is learning "Homenaje - Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy" by Manuel de Falla. “We want people to walk away from our performances and say, “I had no idea the guitar could do that.’”

The guitar repertoire is diverse and affective. Some members of the group have performed duets with pianists, flautists and vocalists. Guitar newbie Ryerson says her life-long experience with the violin and reading music has helped the learning process tremendously, even though the fingering on the violin and guitar are backwards.

Most of the club members take or have taken private lessons with Duruoz, however WesGuitars welcomes all musicians from campus and the surrounding area to join. Henshaw says the relaxed environment ensures that beginners or non-classical players can feel comfortable enough to pick up a guitar and play.

“Despite the fact that the Wesleyan music program is decidedly theory based there is widespread interest in performance; groups like ours will cater to both the casual and serious musicians on campus and in the community,” Henshaw says. “We’d really like to make Wesleyan and Middletown a mecca for classical guitar.”

The club will culminate this year with a concert as part of the Chapel Music Series on April 7. They also are sponsoring a concert by Spanish guitarist Juan José Sáenz at 7 p.m. April 9 in Crowell Concert Hall. He will play a program of Spanish works.

For more information on WesGuitars e-mail Cem Duruoz at cduruoz@wesleyan.edu.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor