Classical Guitar for everyone

Recently, Samuel T. Klemke and Oegmundur Þór Johannesson visited the classical guitar student community at the Calcutta School of Music for a seminar / workshop. They both founded The Global Guitar Institute (GGI) which provides classical guitar lessons, seminars and concerts rooted in the European tradition of classical music. Samuel T. Klemke is a German classical guitarist. Born into a musical family, he got his first guitar lessons from his father Tobias Klemke when he was four years old. At the age of ten he won his first national competition followed by many more. Talking about his tryst with classical guitar, Samuel says, “I was born into a musical family. My great grandfather was a hobby piano player. My grandmother was a professional opera singer. My father was a professional musician and learnt classical guitar. I often saw him practicing at home. So, it was quite natural for me!”

Icelandic classical guitarist Ögmundur Þór Jóhannesson began studying the classical guitar at the age of 10 and went on to finish his music studies by completing multiple degrees with top honours. Ögmundur says, “I got my first inspiration from my father. He was not a professional musician but was a very multi-talented person. One day I went to my uncle’s place that was playing a classical guitar. It was the best moment! I was totally blown away."

Samuel T. Klemke with Oegmundur Þór Johannesson
Talking about the present scenario of the classical guitar, Samuel feels, “Classical guitar is quite a famous instrument. Lots of students want to learn the classical guitar. It is a respected instrument and most classical guitarists are respected by the players of other instruments. But it is still a niche instrument. Unfortunately, we still have the difficulties in the concert field.”

Ögmundur adds, “In the last two years I have been spending lots of time in Asia, especially mainland China, it is exciting to see the development taking place. However, there are still many improvements to be made. In this age of the YouTube generation, it is so easy to get inspired from the many videos of classical guitarists. It is both a blessing and a curse. In earlier times, one had to go to the library and do lots of research, to find out the best guitarists and to get more knowledge about them. We are working to improve awareness in this area."

Encouraging guitar students to attend the symphony orchestra, string quartet concerts allows them to get inspiration from all classical music opportunities. To make a classical concert more interesting and attract more audience Ögmundur suggests, “Maybe something can be done to ease up the structure of classical music concerts. It becomes way too serious and it’s a challenge for the audience. There is a lot of experimenting, taking place, for instance inside an art café. The concerts need to be shorter. To find a model that could make artists, audience and organization happy. It has to be well organized and respectful to the artists.“ Samuel adds, “If we look at the opera of the olden times, it was just not about listening to music it was more of a modern entertainment; audiences could eat and talk among themselves. Of course I don't want to encourage eating and talking at concerts, but the point is to make concerts an entertaining event again for the broad public again."

Word of advice for aspiring classical guitarists? Ögmundur says, “Listen to other genres, do research, learn about the artists who have made it big, listen to opera, listen to the orchestra, get the feeling. It will give awareness about harmony, musical style, texture and even inspire to compose one’s own music.” Samuel feels “Don’t give up, love the music. The guitar is quite a difficult instrument and takes a long time to learn. Something you, love you don’t give up easily! And more importantly, open to relearn yourself.” The Global Guitar Institute (GGI) just started its activities, this summer with events in Indonesia and the India tour in October / November. There was a first summer camp in Germany attended by about20 people. They are working on setting up a larger camp in Bengal soon as well as other activities throughout India. The first thing in the New Year will be a guitar retreat in Bali for the last two weeks of January. Samuel adds, “ We are also working on a Charity programme  to provide instruments and lessons to underprivileged. So anybody who would like to support our mission in spreading guitar knowledge or helping some kids is happily  invited to contact us."

Biplav Singh  from the Calcutta School of Music felt, " The students had a wonderful experience. The students got to learn many things-technique, phrases, dynamics, finger positioning. They got to learn some interesting finger exercises as well. Both Samuel and Ögmundur spoke about some composition. Anybody who wants to learn or play guitar instrument should take benefit of this. There needs to be more and more such workshops."

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