Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2018

Currently: 45° — Complete forecast

Take Five:

Las Vegas guitar festival

If You Go

  • What: Las Vegas Guitar Festival concert series
  • When: Wednesday through Saturday
  • Where: Doc Rando Hall, Beam Music Center, UNLV
  • Admission: Free to $25, $90 for series tickets;


  • Nathan Fischer: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, $12
  • Ricardo Cobo: 8 p.m. Wednesday, $25
  • Matthew Rohde: 4:30 p.m. Thursday, $12
  • Steven Thachuk: 8 p.m. Thursday, $25
  • Stephen Mattingly: 4:30 p.m. Friday, $12
  • Nicholas Goluses: 8 p.m. Friday, $25
  • Festival participant recital : 4:30 p.m. Saturday, free
  • Adam del Monte: 8 p.m. Saturday, $25

It was sort of a joke, or so Nathan Fischer thought.

Ricardo Cobo was performing at the Alexandria Guitar Festival in Virginia when Fischer, a guitarist himself, casually suggested, “Hey, why not do this in Vegas?”

Hmmm. Las Vegas had been growing into a hotbed of guitar studies and traditional guitar programs both in secondary education and in concerts.

Cobo, an internationally respected classical guitar virtuoso and a Las Vegas resident, was all for it.

Last year Fischer, founder and president of the International Guitar Institute, brought the Las Vegas Guitar Festival, complete with master classes, seminars and a concert series, to the UNLV campus.

This week it returns for four days of guitar immersion.

With guitar festivals all over the country, we look at why we have one, who cares and why:

1. Performances

The concert series is centered on cultural diversity and performers dedicated to specific styles of music. Cobo, originally from Colombia, will perform mostly Latin American music, including tangos. Steven Thachuk of Canada is known for his classical work as well as his arrangements of pop music; expect to hear some traditional stuff, including Izaac Albeniz, and then Radiohead or the Beatles. Nicholas Goluses, a performer who teaches at the Eastman School of Music, will perform Piazzolla tangos and a few pieces by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Matthew Rohde, who lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah and teaches guitar in Palestinian refugee camps, will perform mostly traditional South American music, including pieces by Brazilian composers Heitor Villa-Lobos and Sergio Assad. Adam del Monte, who has studied in Spain, Israel and England, excels in traditional and contemporary classical and flamenco music. Stephen Mattingly, a soloist and member of the Tantalus Quartet, will perform works by Manual Ponce, Frederic Mompou and Vicente Asencio. Fischer will perform tangos from Argentina and dances from Uruguay.

2. Local education

The Clark County School District is nationally recognized for its great music program, and that includes guitar. More than 50 high schools and middle schools have traditional guitar programs. The Clark County School District’s Office of Secondary Fine Arts estimates there are 3,000 guitar students in the district. Music teacher Bob Morris began guitar programs in the School District in the 1990s. The Grammy Award-winning Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts started a guitar program in 2002-03 under the direction of Bill Swick. It has 86 guitar majors.

3. Audience

The UNLV Classical Guitar Series partners with the Allegro Guitar Society of Las Vegas for its annual guitar series, which has brought in performers Pepe Romero, Sharon Isbin, Sergio and Odair Assad and others. Turnouts at these performances helped inspire the festival. The Las Vegas Chamber Music Society brought in Ana Vidovic last year. An interesting tidbit: UNLV’s Charles Vanda Master Series featured Andres Segovia in its 1978-79 season.

4. Recruitment

There are 29 students registered for this week’s festival, 16 from Clark County. Other students are coming from Reno, New York, Maryland, Georgia and Canada. It gives the instructors a chance to recruit and offers students a chance to try out new teachers and consider with whom they might want to study (and why) in college.

5. Players

The Guitar Society of Las Vegas is a resource for all things guitar in the valley. It promotes the education and appreciation of the guitar. At one point we had the Las Vegas Classical Guitar Ensemble.

Cobo lives here and though he’s frequently touring, remains a supporter of the guitar in the community. Though performance venues are often scarce in this town and, well, there is the Strip, we occasionally get some action, as when local classical guitarist Kasey Carmody performed with virtuoso accordionist Lidia Kaminska last month.

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