|Cem Duruoz, private
lessons teacher, just released his third CD, “Desde El Alma – Tango
Classics." The Turkey native performs internationally. (Photo
contributed by Steve Savage)
Guitarist Brings Musicians from around the World to Expose Wesleyan
Students to New Styles, Cultures
|Q: Cem, how long
have you been a private lessons teacher of guitar for Wesleyan’s Music
A: I started to teach at Wesleyan in September 2003 right after finishing my
advanced studies at The Juilliard School.
Q: How many student guitarists do you teach at Wesleyan?
A: I have about 10-12 students each semester. I am trying to increase the
number of students, especially by encouraging good players to come to
Wesleyan to begin with. I am proud of my students; they are all talented.
Some of my current students will perform on April 7 at the Chapel Concert
Series at noon.
Q: In addition to private lessons, what opportunities are there for budding
guitarists on campus?
A: The most important one is our student guitar organization called “WesGuitars",
established last semester. We get together once every two weeks, play guitar
and socialize. I encourage our guitarists to perform on various occasions
such as the Chapel Series. Soon I will find venues in downtown Middletown
are and other towns for concerts.
I am also working to bring guitarists from around the world to the campus so
that all the guitarists at Wesleyan community could be exposed to their
style and their cultures. Last year we had Carles Pons from Spain and Uros
Dojcinovic from Serbia. This year so far we had a visit by Marcos Puña from
Bolivia. The first guest invited by WesGuitars itself will be Spanish
guitarist Juan Jose Saenz. He will give a concert of Spanish Music in
Crowell Concert Hall on April 9.
Q: When did you first take an interest in classical guitar? At what age did
you know you had a “knack” for the instrument?
A: I first heard the instrument at the age of 10. My cousin had already been
playing it. Each time I would visit, he would let me try his guitar and show
me techniques. I fell in love with the guitar the moment I touched it. I did
not really have to hold and play; just touching the strings, making a sound
and listening to it one by one was magical for me. Soon after, I started to
take lessons. I remember asking my cousin to make copies of some difficult
pieces and him saying “they are too difficult for you now.” During one of
our family visits, I took the opportunity to hand copy them and surprised
him few months later by playing them to him. Afterwards we did many concerts
as a duo together.
Q: What is the ‘classical’ guitar?
A: Classical guitar refers to a nylon string acoustical guitar. In
most cases this name seems to imply –wrongly- that it is used for classical
music only. With this instrument one can play almost any type of music from
anywhere in the world in addition to the Western Classical Music, which is
the source of its name. However, in most places outside the U.S., when
someone mentions the word “guitar” alone, they usually refer to the
classical guitar. This is, after all, the original instrument just like
violin and piano. I started directly with the classical guitar unlike many
of my students and professional performers that I have met in the U.S. who
first learned to play other types of guitar.
Q: Please elaborate on the guitar’s sound. Why does it appeal to you?
A: I think the main aspect of classical guitar sound is its warmth because
of which the instrument lends itself to the performance of emotionally
elaborate polyphonic music. The warmth comes from the nylon strings and the
right hand fingernails. This combination provides the optimum sound and
technique for bringing out the human emotions in almost any type of music in
the world, as a soloist. Another peculiarity of the classical guitar is the
way it is held. I think it is the only instrument that is “embraced” and
held directly on ones heart. No wonder many classical guitarists are in love
with their instruments!
Q: In 1990, you came to the United States from your native country, Turkey.
What led you to the States?
A: The U.S. graduate education system is the best in the world. After
staying in Turkey I wanted to get advanced degrees here and was able to get
full scholarships in California. It is also important to get exposure to new repertoire,
different approaches to music and participate in the classes of
well-established musicians. All these opportunities widely exist in the U.S.
At first I did not intend to stay, but after about six years, San Francisco started to feel like home as much as my home in
Q: You recently released your third CD, “Desde El Alma – Tango Classics,”
which is quite a style change from your first album, "Pièces de Viole",
which consists of gamba music by French baroque composer Marin Marais; and
your second CD "Contemporary Music for Guitar.” What inspired you to change
your musical interest for the third CD, and what type of audience is
attracted to your music?
A: When making CDs I concentrate on a project and spend most of my energy to
do the necessary research to understand the music and the culture that
created it. Having studied at a French school for seven years in Turkey and
having learned the language at the age of 11, I had a natural interest in
the French Baroque music. This background and the music of the famous movie
“Tous Les Matins du Monde” led to the first CD. The second CD is a
reflection of my interest in supporting the creation of new music by playing
works of emerging composers.
My third CD “Tango Classics” is my most recent project. I got involved in
tango through the music of well-known composer Astor Piazzolla. He called
his compositions “Nuevo Tango” or new tango, which had been disliked by
traditional tango dancers. I wanted to explore what “old tango” was and its
relation to the dance. When I was living in San Francisco I tried some tango
dance lessons and quickly became addicted to the dance itself. Later I
realized that there is a great collection of authentic tango music created
by well-educated Argentine musicians and tango orchestra leaders. My CD is a
compilation of various tangos that I like dancing to. Now I am looking
forward to working on a new project.
Q: You’re an international artist. Where have you performed recently?
A: I’ve recently performed at the Weill Recital Hall/Carnegie Hall in New
York, and in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, France, Poland, Greece,
Turkey, Serbia-Montenegro and the U.S. in various guitar festivals and
concert series. I have also appeared as soloist with the Presidential
Symphony Orchestra in Turkey, the equivalent of New York Philharmonic there.
Last year I was invited to the Istanbul Festival in Turkey, one of the
biggest and most prestigious in Europe. There I collaborated with gamba
player John Dornenburg and harpsichordist Yuko Tanaka to play the music of
the 14th Century French Court.
Q: You’ve received critical acclaim in international magazines such as
American Record Guide, Fanfare, Classics Today, Classical Guitar and BBC
Music. The students you teach must feel honored to work with a famous
A: I sometimes do feel famous! Nowadays, due to globalization it is ever
more difficult to be individually recognized; there are so many musicians,
so many CDs. However I have been working very hard to increase my output,
and contribute to the music world. My students appreciate it; it is always
exciting and inspiring to work with someone who has international experience
and is a role model. I have to say it feels really good all of a sudden to
hear your own CD played on NPR when driving, and felt very strange first
time, when someone recognizes you having read an article or when someone
stops you on the street and says he was at your concert. I think this aspect
of music is very rewarding.
Q: Where are your degrees from?
A: I have a master’s of arts in composition from Stanford University, and
another master’s degree in guitar performance from the San Francisco
Conservatory of Music. I later completed my graduate guitar studies at The
Juilliard School with Sharon Isbin, a Grammy award winner.
Q: Do you write your own music?
A: Although I have extensively studied composition, I enjoy performing much
more. Therefore I don’t compose much at all nowadays. However my
compositional skills come very handy for arranging music to the guitar.
Prime examples are on my French Baroque CD and the Tango CD. I have various
collaborations with other composers. Some of them send their music to me,
and I try to feature a new composer in every recital I play. I also
commission music particularly written for me. One of these is a guitar
concerto called “In and Out of Blue” by Robert Strizich. With Angel
Gil-Ordonez, his Ensemble of the Americas and I are planning to perform this
in the fall.
Q: You have an upcoming recital in Hartford on April 15 in conjunction with
the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society, and another performance in New
York May 27. What will you perform at these concerts?
Connecticut Classical Guitar Society
is one of the biggest in the U.S. I will be playing in their concert series
on April 15. This program will include selections from my tango and baroque
CDs as well as music from Rodrigo, Tárrega, Bach and Giuliani, composers
well known to guitar audiences.
The concert in Merkin Hall/New York is part of an annual Turkish Cultural
Festival organized by the
Moon and Stars Project. It is
titled “A Mediterranean Journey” and will include music from Turkey, Greece,
Israel and Spain as well as tangos and Broadway favorites. In this
performance I will be collaborating with a wonderful Greek/American soprano
Q: What are your interests and hobbies aside from music?
A: My main hobby has been dancing tango for many years. After I did my first
tango lesson in San Francisco I studied with most of the well-known
Argentine Tango dancers. In San Francisco, I used to go dancing three nights
a week. In Connecticut there are some venues for dancing tango, but many
more are in New York and I go there every now and then to dance.
Q: For more information, where can people find you online?
A: My Web site is
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection