For the first time in Tallahassee, 60 guitarists from all around the state will strum together and present music like composer Sergio Assad’s seminal work, “The Walls” as a classical guitar orchestra.
Ben Lougheed, a Ph.D. candidate in music guitar performance at Florida State University and director of the Florida Guitar Festival, is at the helm of the upcoming event, which will take place Oct. 5-7 at FSU’s College of Music.
Though it began four years ago as a small series of performances arranged by community members, Lougheed has seen the festival grow into a nationally and internationally attended event.
He is excited to present this new component as guitar orchestras are growing in popularity. The composition they will play, “The Walls,” is a fivemovement piece that explores the guitar via famous walls throughout the world. Lougheed says it will be the first time it has been played in Florida, and only the second time worldwide.
“Every culture throughout history has some kind of plucked string instrument, and the guitar can emulate those,” says Lougheed. “There’s one that emulates the Chinese pipa and another that emulates a hora. It’s a phenomenally incredible work.”
Lougheed grew up surrounded by music in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He listened to Mozart in the womb and at age 6 started playing the guitar. He went on to attend the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute in Maryland where he received instruction from world-renowned musicians like Julian Gray. It was during this time that he transitioned from playing guitar as a hobbyist to becoming a professional, and learning how to prepare, practice, memorize and present pieces.
He credits his hometown instructor Mary Lou Roberts for giving him the foundational knowledge he needed to succeed on the instrument. Roberts taught him from age 6 through high school. Around his sophomore year, Lougheed took a lesson from a guitar professor and by the end of the session was offered scholarship money and a spot to start in the fall.
“I said, ‘No I can’t drive yet, that’s why my mom is here,’” laughs Lougheed, who was only 15 at the time. “But, that got me more seriously thinking that it could be a possibility.”
Though he’s dabbled in other genres like rock, pop, and country for gigs and cocktail hours, Lougheed remains enchanted with classical guitar music. Hesays the emotional depth of the compositions are both fulfilling to listen to and play as a performer. At the moment he’s tackling Astor Piazolla’s “Invierno Portena,” arranged for solo guitar by Sergio Assad.
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