SUMMER GUITAR FESTIVAL | Eastern North Carolina Now | Event makes a comeback after two-year hiatus at ECU

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Crystal Baity.

Guest instructor John Porter conducts the ensemble at ECU’s Summer Guitar Festival. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

    Music filled A.J. Fletcher Recital Hall last week as the East Carolina University Summer Guitar Festival returned after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

    More than 30 students of all ages who were interested in learning or improving their classical guitar skills participated July 7-10. Activities included concerts, daily master classes, competitions in three divisions, and guitar orchestra and training for teachers.

    The students - who ranged in age from middle school to retirees - traveled to Greenville from across the southeast and eastern U.S., from New York to Florida and as far west as California.

    The festival was a reunion of sorts for ECU alumnus and international concert artist Adam Kossler, who performed Thursday night with his mentor and former teacher Elliot Frank, ECU professor of music and festival director.

    Kossler has been involved in the festival since 2001 when he was a high school senior. "I've been to every summer workshop since and have participated as a student, competitor, faculty and guest artist," he said. "The ECU festival is unique for a number of reasons, but most of all, it's the people. In addition to presenting world-class performers and classes, the ECU summer guitar workshop is something of a family reunion. Many of the participants and faculty that were present in my first year will be present in my 21st year."

    Another longtime participant is William "Mac" Nelson of Greensboro, who has been to the event more than a dozen times. "This is the one chance a year that I get to spend four or five days being a student again and taking risks and playing for great teachers who have such extraordinary methods of making you better."

    Nelson, whose day job is managing the country's largest cello catalogue, housed in UNC Greensboro's library, said his former professor explained how playing an instrument takes hold. "He said, 'You don't choose this, it chooses you.' People don't leave this. He was right. It's the sound, it's the tone, it's the tactile experience. Once it singles you out, you're toast. You don't leave it. This is perfect."

    Nelson attended the first festival in 1997, and now with the event in its 25th year, some of the participants haven't missed one since then, Frank said. "The caliber of the artists who come to teach and perform is as high as anywhere in the country," he said.

    Along with Kossler, the concert series welcomed back Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, The Li Zohn Duo, The Akerman Teixeira Duo, Isaac Bustos and 2019 festival solo competition winner Oscar Somersalo.

    Kossler, who will begin a new role this fall as assistant professor of guitar at Appalachian State University, reflected on his time at ECU.

    "It's hard to put into words just how important my time was as a student of Dr. Frank and the ECU School of Music," he said. "I received top shelf musical education, but also grew as a musician and a person in an environment that was nurturing and supportive, but also demanded results. These are the values I carry with me now as an educator. I hold my students to the highest possible standard, but also meet them where they are and treat them with the love and respect that they need to become successful."

    Another of Frank's former students, Kate Oliphant, who earned a master's degree in music in 2016, also is a teacher at her business, Happy Tails Music in Winterville. She first attended the festival as a high school student when she lived in Virginia, continued as a college student, and later transitioned into helping at the festival.

    "It's really special for me because I've actually got four of my students here this year," Oliphant said. "I kept saying to my husband yesterday, 'My heart is very full.'"

    Rising ECU senior Jesse Reece of High Point said he played in an orchestra like the one at the festival when he first learned guitar. "It's fun to be in a group with other people, and to see different skill levels and that interaction between people. It's really nice because it fosters a sense of community."
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( July 13th, 2022 @ 4:13 pm )
The first guitar in this image looks just like my own "pawn-shop-classic", and I would love to be sitting in one of those chairs, playing while soaking up knowledge to play more fulsomely; however, there is no way I would ever don a mask unless I absolutely have to, and this lovely guitar session, sadly, would not qualify for such.

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