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Guitar Department Breeds Passionate Students Under Robert Guthrie

Students Display Committment; Thrive as Musicians After Graduation

by Katrina Leshan (B.M. Guitar Performance '13)

When auditions roll around each January, guitar department head Robert Guthrie knows exactly what he's looking for. He wants students who love music so much that they have no real question about what they want to do. He wants students who will add to the atmosphere of a small family within the guitar studio. He wants students who are on fire and passionate about the guitar even before the freshman level, because once students come to SMU, they will have to work hard to keep that fire burning bright. With one required recital every semester, chamber rehearsals and private lessons every week with Mr. Guthrie, and a general accumulated knowledge of the guitar required of each student, passion is something that is absolutely necessary.

Past students of Robert Guthrie have all kept the fire going and become very successful as a result. Frank Koonce heads the guitar department at Arizona State University. Husband and wife Anne Waller and Mark Maxwell (both past students of Guthrie’s) are the guitar teachers at Northwestern and DePaul Universities in Chicago. The majority of guitar programs in Texas are run by SMU guitar graduates. “I train my students to become professional musicians,” Guthrie says. “Nothing more and nothing less. Studying guitar at SMU means that you will leave with the ability to have a job as a musician.”

Russel Braga, who is earning a B.A. in Spanish and music, said, “Professor Guthrie always gets me out of my comfort zone, and that has put my performance at a different level. I am now playing pieces that I thought were out of my reach. I feel that I better know my instrument, and I have become aware of new areas for improvement.”

Studying guitar at the Meadows School means that personal attention is the basis of learning. Students in the guitar department function as a family, supporting each other in multiple ways. Each student not only does their best because they want to succeed individually, but they do their best to support each other in ensembles as well as to uphold the guitar department's standards.

The guitar department currently has three undergraduate students and five graduate students.

One of the graduate students, Rachel Loss-Cutler-Hull, said, “I love studying in the guitar department at SMU. Professor Guthrie is wonderful. He is insightful, analytical, and musical, and has clearly thought out technical issues to the point that he can clearly explain how he reached a given answer and why it is the best he has found. After almost two years as a graduate student with him, I am more confident in my abilities and am very pleased with the music I have learned.”

Members of the public are invited to attend five free guitar performances in April 2010:

April 13th, 8:00 PM in Caruth Auditorium: Meadows Guitar Ensemble
April 27th, 7:00 PM in Perkins Chapel: Katrina Leshan and Leo Garcia, recital
April 29th, 7:30 PM in O’Donnell Recital Hall: Nathaniel Earhart and Gabriel Dehoyos, recital
April 30th, 7:00 and 8:30 PM in O’Donnell Recital Hall: Tanja and Darka Miric, graduate recitals
May 1st, 7:00 PM in O'Donnell: Rachel Loss-Cutler-Hall, graduate recital

For more information, please call the Division of Music at 214-768-1951.

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