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Meadows Guitarists Outplay the Competition at the Brownsville Guitar Festival

Five guitarists from the Meadows School of the Arts traveled to the 2011 Brownsville Guitar Festival at the University of Texas-Brownsville and won top honors

By Sean Frazier (B.A., Creative Advertising '12)

Five guitarists from the Meadows School of the Arts competed in the 2011 Brownsville Guitar Festival at the University of Texas-Brownsville this spring, and took top honors in their divisions.

Russ Callison (B.M. ’13), Gabriel Dehoyos (M.M. ’12), Brendan Johnson (M.M. ’12) and Leo Garcia (M.M. ’11), who earned his bachelor’s degree in guitar studies at UT-Brownsville, won first place in the college guitar quartet division, considered the most competitive division in the festival. Callison and Katrina Leshan (B.M. ’13) won first place in the college guitar duet division.

Robert Guthrie, who heads the guitar program at SMU and is an internationally known classical guitarist, also attended the festival and gave a master class to student soloists and ensembles.

The guitar festival is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Quantz, head of the guitar program at UT-Brownsville. Under Dr. Quantz’s leadership it has evolved into one of the most prestigious guitar festivals and competitions in the country, attracting middle school, high school, and college students from across the country as well as amateur performers. The annual festival began in 2001 to give young guitarists the opportunity to perform in a competitive but encouraging environment, and to showcase the talent of veteran guitarists as an inspiration to both students and audiences.

The festival included afternoon and evening recitals and classes by guest artists, master classes, community involvement opportunities and the highly anticipated competition, which was divided into three levels: high school, university and amateur. Each of these levels was sub-divided into duo, trio and quartet categories. The first, second and third place winners in each division were announced at the final concert of the festival. This year, the festival featured internationally acclaimed classical soloist Isaac Bustos, Denis Azabagic, and the legendary quartet The Romeros.

Professor Guthrie gave high praise to his students for their winning performances. “I consider this a remarkable achievement, especially considering the number of competing ensembles, and the overall quality of musicianship displayed throughout the festival,” he said. The festival drew ensembles from UT-Austin, Texas A&M, UT-San Antonio, Del Mar College, Collin County Community College and many other schools with highly recognized guitar programs. Dr. Quantz said, “This was by far the highest level of competition in the 10 years of the festival’s existence, with over 100 guitarists entering in various ensembles.”

Sam Holland, director of the Meadows Division of Music, said that although the Brownsville Guitar Festival does not award cash prizes, “winning top honors only reinforces the reputation of Meadows School of the Arts as a top-tier school, and warrants great respect for the Meadows guitar program and all five guitarists who practiced hundreds of hours to play their classical repertoire with command, eloquence and sensitivity.”

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