This year the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Classical Guitar Department under the direction of Clare Callahan, who was approached in 1972 by then Dean Jack Watson to create and head the program. Her mandate was to develop a comprehensive course of study in classical guitar that included repertoire, pedagogy, and ensemble requirements as well as private lessons, which would parallel those requirements in other instrumental degree programs at the conservatory. Using this foundation as a base, her personal mission has always been to bring the classical guitar repertoire to an increasingly expanding audience. These two goals are at the heart of the Classical Guitar workshop that she began twenty years ago.
The Classical Guitar Workshop is open to players of all levels from beginner to professional. It has no age limitations, and it offers every participant a chance to perform in an ensemble setting. There are solo playing opportunities for those who have repertoire ready, special sessions on a variety of topics, technique classes, ensemble coaching, and master classes. The special sessions this year included Introduction to Alexander Technique by Erik Bendix, The Music of Stephan Rak by Stanley Yates, Selecting a New Guitar by Armin Kelly, and South Andean Rasgueados by the writer.
Of the ninety some registrants this year, fifty percent were returning students such as Catherine Fleming, who has been attending the workshop for the last ten years. What keeps Catherine coming is the great atmosphere of camaraderie among the faculty and the contagious enthusiasm and humor of Clare Callahan. What Catherine hoped to achieve this year was "to share the joy of music with fellow guitarists, get ideas for new repertoire and improve technique, performance practice and confidence". Other students say they come just to have a good time with other guitarists, or to check the school and prepare for auditions. The older amateurs, who have dedicated a fair amount of time to learning the guitar, come to meet and perform with other players--as one of them, Paul Nielsen, well demonstrated in a recent Sunday concert.
Clare is the organizer, facilitator, and producer who brings an array of people together. Among them, for example, is Jeffrey Van, composer and guitarist from St. Paul Minnesota, a ten-year veteran of the event. Another example is Renato Butturi, from the University of Evansville in Indiana, a professor of guitar, world culture, and jazz ensemble, as well as early music aficionado and all-around Renaissance man.
Jeffrey Van has written pieces for large guitar ensembles. This year he gave us "Toccata Milongata," a celebratory piece to seal the whole week of events. The piece was cleverly conceived to be totally inclusive, with parts easy enough for a real beginner and also challenges for the intermediate and the advanced student. It made extensive use of rasgueados (strumming techniques) and percussive effects, all framed in meters that shifted from 9/8 to 5/8 to 4/4 and 3/4. The excitement of the piece for guitar orchestra kept everyone focused and engaged throughout the week as different coaches worked with the various groups. At the final 20th Anniversary Recital there were over 100 guitarists on stage and one could hear a pin drop before Renato Butturi, the conductor, raised his baton.
What makes this workshop a special treasure in the guitar field is the devotion and dedication of the faculty. Rodney Stucky heads the preparatory program at CCM and is Co-Director of the summer workshop. Rod is an early music expert performing on Renaissance lute, baroque lute, and archlute, as well as the nineteen-century guitar. He prepared a continuo realization of the final duet and aria from Monteverdi's Poppea, which were performed at the 20th Anniversary Concert with two archlutes, theorbo, four baroque guitars, and singers Megan Monaghan and Mary Henderson.
The founders of the workshop in 1983 were Judith Handler, Richard Goering, and Robert Mercer; all of them graduates of the CCM guitar program, along with Clare Callahan. Other alumni, such as Brian DeLay, Amy Brucksch and Joe Fratianni, come back often. This year the workshop included Leighann Narum, Murray Holland, Carlos de la Barrera, Robert Brown, Duane Corn, David Ferrara, Julie Goldberg, and the guest recitalist Monica Mugan. All these former students of Clare, plus some that are still in the program, including Michael Zollinger and Kevin Ebert, a returning student, are beneficiaries of seeds that Clare Callahan planted and nurtured. Now they take time from their jobs to come and teach, play, rekindle old friendships, and meet with students individually to share their expertise and offer advice.
In the participants' evaluations, students say how helpful it was to have rotating instructors; how their practice sessions bring good results after attendance at the workshop; how the faculty created a positive atmosphere where one could take risks, make mistakes, and have fun; and how as participating students their brains were stretched in many new directions. For guitarists this is very important since we lack many of those experiences in the typical workshops that are offered around the country, where emphasis lies primarily on helping those who are working on a career in music.
For many guitarists this is an opportunity to share their love of music and the wonderful repertoire of the classical guitar. In the words of Brain DeLay, one of Clare's former students, "Love for the guitar fuels Clare's curriculum, and it's all presented in a uniquely nurturing environment At most of the other festivals, one (competition) winner is the celebrity of the moment; at CCM's workshop, everybody goes home a winner".
It is Clare's philosophy that all playing levels and interests should be included in the workshop; they stimulate and support each other. The small percentage who will go on to professional careers need to have a base of support, both morally and financially. Enlightened, enthusiastic amateurs become intense devotees, buying CDs, attending concerts, sponsoring events; they are an essential part of the equation and must have access to the inner circle. Robert Shaw, the conductor, once remarked "Music is too important to leave it to the professionals." Of course, that means an expanded staff of faculty and an increase of activities, but this broader palette serves the profession more realistically and creates the kinds of connections that generate more players, more concerts, more interest in the guitar, and greater joy of playing it.
As a two- time presenter at this workshop I found it extremely friendly and open to all, a place where ensemble music is celebrated and technique is covered at many levels to address each individual player. The special sessions offer a break from the routine of the workshop, and the faculty and guest recitals keep everyone involved, all experiencing the joy of sharing music. The workshop encourages risk-taking by providing an environment where collaboration rather than competition rules.
What fuels this major undertaking and the great success of the workshop is Clare Callahan's devotion and beliefs. She is a crusader in the development of artists and audiences. In an article for the American String Teachers Association magazine in 1984 she wrote: "The artist leads, not the public. Where there is real art, the audience follows, without challenge, and with eager loyalty. If the product is valid, but not recognized, you do not alter its integrity and redesign it to suit other goals. You sell it better. In the case of the fine arts, one has to admit tacitly that they are a minority taste and always will be. The task is to find that minority and serve it. When an artist has the talent, honesty, and commitment to continue his/her trek, revealing new treasures, growing, and refining the craft, an audience must be nurtured to receive the products. Audiences can be won over. They enjoy being wooed, enlightened, excited. But it is a process as long and as arduous as the artist's journey."
Clare's success comes from understanding these simple statements. Her love for the guitar, for teaching, and for exposing audiences to music, is part of this crusade. She markets these values in an open and creative way by never speaking down to her audiences, whether they be students, professionals, or aficionados, but by winning them over with her grace, enthusiasm and humor, including them all in the fun of either making music or appreciating it. The organization alone takes an enormous amount of energy and dedication, and the affordability of the workshop does not yield any financial gains. The actual gains are of a different nature; they are long lasting, they nurture the spirit, and in the long run they inspire us and give us hope. Clare Callahan has made a generous and significant contribution to classical guitar teaching and performance, a contribution she hopes will encourage others to join in the mission.
Patricia A. Dixon
Lecturer, Wake Forest University