Clara McLain began studying classical guitar when she was seven-years-old and began home schooling at the age of nine. When she was twelve, her family moved to a ranch ten miles south of the small west Texas town of Monahans.
On a weekly basis for four years, family members drove Clara (until she was able to drive herself) 350 miles round trip to Lubbock for her private lessons with the acclaimed guitarist and composer David Brandon at Texas Tech University. Under the tutelage of Mr. Brandon, she placed first in the senior division of the 2011 West Texas Guitar Festival and Competition and also took first place in the 13-17 age division at the 2011 Permian Basin Fair and Exposition Talent Show, both held in Odessa.
In April of 2012, Clara returned to Dallas and began studying privately with Robert Guthrie, Professor of Guitar at Southern Methodist University's renowned Meadows School of the Arts. Under Mr. Guthrie’s instruction and guidance, she placed second in the high school division at the 2013 University of Texas Dallas Guitar Festival and Competition, was a finalist in the high school division of the 2013 "Classical Minds" Guitar Festival and Competition in Houston and a finalist in the high school division of the 2013 Indiana University International Guitar Festival and Competition held in Bloomington, Indiana. In May of 2014, she received the Alice Jones-Berding Music Award from Brookhaven College, where she also studied with Rodger Bennett .
Since the fall of 2015, she has been studying full-time at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts where she is pursuing a bachelors degree in classical guitar performance. Clara is the Music Education Assistant at Classical Minds and will teach theory and guitar class.
Jessica Emilee began her classical music journey at age 9 when her grandmother introduced her to the classical guitar. Her development was augmented each year by attending the "Classical Minds" International Guitar Festival and Competition. Thanks to scholarships awarded to deserving students each year, Jessica was able to attend the festival. These experiences fed Jessica’s passion for the classical guitar.
Three years ago, Jessica’s life changed and she was forced to quit high school and guitar. However, she has since received her GED. A month before the 12th edition of Classical Minds, Jessica learned a scholarship was available for her. She spent the next month learning two classical guitar pieces: Yradier’s La Paloma and Malagueña. Despite having merely a month to learn her solos, she was the first to volunteer to perform in the student recital. She played Malagueña with improved technique from her lessons that week; doing so with flair and stage presence.
Jessica now wants to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a music educator. This year she returns as part of the teaching staff at the 2017 edition of ‘Classical Minds.’ Jessica is an admirable example of the success possible through music education.