History and Curriculum
This year, “Classical Minds” Guitar Festival & Competition celebrates its 12th Anniversary as one of the premier, guitar festivals in the nation. Students come from throughout the United States, and we have hosted many International students from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela.
Founded by Artistic Director Valérie Hartzell, her goal was to educate the community about classical guitar, and to enhance their knowledge of the instrument. For 11 years “Classical Minds” Guitar Festival happily coexisted with the Immanual and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. Both festivals grew, and it became necessary for "Classical Minds" to spread its wings and seek larger space. This year, we are excited to hold the festival on the beautiful campus of Episcopal High School, centrally located and easily accessible just off Loop 610 in Bellaire, Texas – just 2 miles south of Houston’s Galleria.
“Classical Minds” Guitar Festival & Competition is open to all ages and levels of ability. CM offers private lessons, large guitar ensemble, technique and theory classes (one class for beginners and the other is designed for intermediate/advanced students), master classes, lectures, workshops. We have one group guitar class for beginner middle-school and high school students which includes ensemble, technique, and sight-reading which will be run by Erin Naylor. The large ensemble for int/adv high school and adult students will be conductor by Eddie Healy and Dr. Tamara McCoy. Our goal is to increase sight-reading skills, improve technique, gain performance experience, and to help our students reach their individual goals.
A competition was added in 2008, and it has grown to be a very well respected event nationwide. Students who participate not only gain extra performance opportunities, but they can list a prestigious event on applications to university music programs and conservatories.
Stellar guitarists from around the world come to teach, coach, and perform. This year’s artists have appeared in Carnegie Hall, at the United Nations, at the White House, in English castles, and in some of the most prestigious concert venues in the world. They greatly enrich the lives of both the students and the community. Concerts by guest artists are offered to the public and regularly sell out. Student recitals and the final round of the competition are free and open to the public.
Medical Component and Outreach
A unique component to the 2016 Festival is a half-day at Houston Methodist Hospital, through its prestigious Center for Performing Arts Medicine. Medical professionals will address health issues common to musicians, and a cardiologist will showcase his collection of rare classical guitars. Our students will perform as soloists and as an ensemble in Crain Garden, the major gathering spot for staff, visitors and patients who come from all over the world to this flagship hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Guest faculty artist, Susan McDonald, will present a live concert of her original music set to video footage, creating a multi-sensory experience. The public is invited to these free performances that will be aired on the hospital’s TV network. When rebroadcast to all patient rooms throughout the year, they reach an international audience.
Many students return each year and renew old friendships and build new ones. They thrive under the instruction and tutelage of world-class classical guitarists. “Classical Minds” Guitar Festival & Competition strives to give individual attention to these talented students. Our greatest source of joy is to watch them become even more accomplished on their instrument as they improve in knowledge and technique.
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