OKLAHOMA CITY – For a select group of musicians, a weeklong guitar program at Oklahoma City University is offering what some would consider the chance of a lifetime.
At the Wanda L. Bass School of Music, students as young as 11 are spending the week refining their skills in classical guitar with performers known in some circles as the royal family of the guitar.
Gathered outside a rehearsal hall on Thursday, three of the students, guitars in hand, spoke about their love for classical guitar and how it has shaped their lives as Pepe Romero, of the guitar quartet Los Romeros, listened.
“It’s about much more than the guitar. It’s kind of like one, like everybody’s one big family here, so we all go to lunch together, we practice together, we all do most everything together,” said Collin Holloway, 20, a student at Eastman School of Music who has been playing since he was 10 years old.
Originally from Panama, Gustavo Samudio, 27, studies at the University of Arkansas and came to work with masters of the classical guitar, an instrument and music style that has been his passion for more than a decade.
“For me, classical guitar has been part of my life since probably 11 years ago and once you start, you cannot stop it. I’ve been doing jazz guitar but I cannot give up classical guitar, that’s part of me already and that’s the lovely part of doing classical guitar, it’s such a sentimental instrument … it doesn’t matter where you go, what language you speak or anything else,” Samudio said.
David Crabbs, a teaching artist of guitar at Drake University in Iowa, said he’s spent 30 years mastering the instrument.
“If you love music, you love music. I think that’s how I started; I wanted to play so badly, it was like a volcano,” he said.
Crabbs, 39, said he plays in a quartet in Iowa and often hears people describe the idea of a guitar ensemble as “exciting,” but said it’s nothing compared to seeing the members of Los Romeros perform.
“It is exciting but it’s not as exciting as what I’ve experienced firsthand in watching the Romeros play. It’s just undeniable, intoxicating,” he said.
“You can thank the Romeros for all of the group guitar stuff; you can thank them for that. They inspired every one of us to get to know each other, instead of playing solo repertoire. The repertoire they created, the environment they created makes music so much more exciting.”
Pepe Romero described the students’ enthusiasm as being part of human nature. He said to share something you love is to be human.
“It makes me full of joy because I see that which I have loved all my life and that which I have given great effort to, it will continue and that the future generations will love it just like I did and will dedicate themselves to sharing,” Romero said.
“This camp is really so special, the feeling, the mood that is here. It’s through the brotherhood of music and brotherhood of the guitar, it’s all about sharing.”
Pepe Romero, the son of guitarist and composer Celedonio Romero of Spain, has been performing in the family guitar ensemble for decades. Teaching in the OCU program alongside his brother Celin and nephews Celino and Lito, he said it’s overwhelming to see young guitarists drawn to the same passion he’s had since he was a child.
“I’m hoping to be better than I was before. Being in class with Maestro Romero is such a rewarding experience,” Samudio said.
Matt Denman, director of the Celedonio Romero Guitar Institute and instructor of guitar at Oklahoma City University, said since the program started in 2009, it’s always been filled to capacity.
“We’re always full and this year, we have 32 students. All of the students who were accepted are very talented,” Denman said.
Three free concerts will be held this week at the school, showcasing the solo talents of the students and their ensemble skills.
Student concerts are scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Petree Recital Hall. On Friday, a concert featuring the students playing alongside members of Los Romeros is scheduled for 8 p.m.