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International Artist Juan Carlos Laguna Visits Meadows to Advance Guitar Methodology

Meadows Guitarists Part of Doctoral Research in Sight-Reading

Katrina Leshan | B.M. ’13 Classical Guitar Performance

Music majors dream of having a career similar to that of Juan Carlos Laguna’s: He has performed for audiences all over the world, from Central and South America to the United States and beyond, and recorded with labels in France, England, Japan and other countries. Yet this accomplished, internationally renowned classical guitarist is interested in both performance and pedagogy. He is currently at SMU Meadows doing doctoral research on sight-reading for classical guitar, and teaching Meadows guitar students as part of the process.

Laguna has worked to develop sight-reading skills in guitarists for many years, and has given master classes and taught courses on the subject in Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica and Argentina. Prior to his research at Meadows, he developed a system to teach guitarists not only how to sight-read but how to become more familiar with the intricacies of the guitar fingerboard. He currently teaches six guitar majors in two separate courses once per week. One course employs methods used in France and England to develop sight-reading skills. France and England to develop sight-reading skills. For the second group, Laguna borrowed a sight-reading technique developed by Arizona trumpeter David Hickman and adapted it for classical guitar.

“My work is really progressing here,” says Laguna. “Although I have given lectures and short courses on sight-reading, I have never taught one group of students for such an extended period of time. I am very happy with the two groups of students I have here.”

In April 2013, Laguna will begin to assimilate his observations from the courses at Meadows and hone the sight-reading process he is currently using to teach. His doctoral committee supervisors are Dr. Felipe Orduña (México), Dr. Martín Pedreira (Cuba), and Robert Guthrie, head of the guitar department at Meadows.

“I am especially happy that Juan Carlos is here at SMU this year completing his research on a method for teaching sight-reading to guitarists,” says Guthrie. “I believe he is in the process of perfecting a method which will enable many guitarists to have excellent sight-reading and a vastly greater overall knowledge of the guitar fingerboard. This will invariably lead to a sharper, quicker musical mind, resulting in better technique, musicianship and confidence.

“For the SMU students, it is a wonderful opportunity to get to know one of the world’s great guitarists, who also happens to represent another culture that is in many ways richer than our own, and to gain a glimpse into his mind concerning the most important aspects of music-making. Juan Carlos is that rare musician: a balanced blend of intellectual clarity, virtuosity and warmth.”

Guthrie and Laguna met for the first time in 1991 when Laguna was in the United States preparing for the Tokyo International Guitar Competition. “I was not surprised later, when he sent word that he had won the contest by unanimous decision of the judges,” says Guthrie.

Laguna teaches at the National School of Music in Mexico City (UNAM), where his doctoral research is based. He plays numerous solo and chamber concerts and is also featured in many concertos.

Laguna’s research at Meadows is funded by the PASPA Scholarship and through the support of UNAM. He says he is especially grateful to Claudia Graves, the director of International Students and Scholar Services at SMU, for her organization and support of his research.

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