I was recently at Montana State University where I attended the 23rd annual Christopher Parkening Master Class. Since there is no speed limit in Montana, getting there is most assuredly half the fun. Anyone who has been to MSU before lovingly refers to it as "Guitar Boot Camp", as you are totally immersed in guitar for five full days and nights.
Chris Parkening is joined by David Brandon, his duet partner of 15 years as well as being a fine guitarist in his own right, and John Sutherland, who heads the Guitar Department at the University of Georgia. Both of these men are amazing teachers, and in addition to offering private lessons, they also give lectures on various guitar and music related topics, some of which can be taken for University credit.
Those who send in audition tapes and are chosen as performing students have the unique opportunity to have two private lessons with Mr. Parkening. I say "private" in the very loosest sense of the word - these lessons are conducted on stage in front of at least 60 other people. The lessons learned and the musical insights gained are invaluable. As well, we get to hear first hand many "Segovia Stories", painting a wonderful picture of The Maestro at his best.
There is always a concert - usually one of the highlights of the week - by invited artists. This year, there were two guest artists. The first half of the concert was played by Thomas Geoghan, a composer and arranger from New Hampshire. The second half of the concert, and by far the best part of the evening, was played by none other than our own Caesar and Marcus. The audience was completely charmed by both their music and their sense of humor, and a good time was had by all.
The final evening is a concert given by six of the twenty-four performing students. These students are chosen by their peers as being the best representation of that year's performing class. This year's concert was, according to many veterans and organizers of the class, the very finest concert in many years. The highlight of the evening was a quartet of John Sutherland's students from Atlanta. They captured our hearts and spirits as they wove a magical, musical spell that brought the evening and the entire week to a remarkable end.
I will continue to be involved in this wonderful learning opportunity as much as my schedule will allow and I encourage anyone who has not yet taken advantage of this class to do so. You cannot return home the same as the way you left.- Dayle Besler