Guitarist shares his love of music with students

January 19, 1995|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Aldo Lagrutta firmly believes that the arts are for everybody.

A guitar virtuoso in the truest classical tradition, the 33-year-old Taneytown resident has become involved with the Carroll County Arts Council, trying to bring a little bit of musical culture to the county.

"It's a myth that art is for the frivolous or the rich or the sophisticated," Mr. Lagrutta said. "Art is with you everyday, from the way you dress, to what you cook for dinner, to the way you decorate your house -- art is part of everyday life."

The arts council's current Artist in Education, Mr. Lagrutta has been taking his musical talent into the middle and high schools and presenting cultural programs to music and Spanish students.

Born in Italy, he grew up in Venezuela, so he has first-hand knowledge of the Spanish culture and language. He also is well versed in the history of classical music.

"I do it for the music students to enrich them a little more because there isn't much classical guitar music, mostly band music," Mr. Lagrutta said. "Then I do it for the Spanish students because I can give them some Spanish, and Spanish music represents the spirit of the culture."

Besides playing for students, he gives them a lecture in the history of the guitar and music written for the concert guitar, plus how the guitar is a classical concert instrument.

Eager to take his art form to the community, he also presents concerts at area churches, which he notes, is where classical music has its roots.

"In Europe in many cities, churches are an important part of the culture and in setting up concerts, and even dictating what could be played," Mr. Lagrutta said. "For instance, there is a section of music from F to B that they called the devil's tritone and it was not allowed because it was not pleasing to the ear."

In a further effort to bring the arts to everyone, Mr. Lagrutta will accompany a group from the Carroll County Arts Council to the state capital Jan. 26 for "Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis '95," a statewide lobbying effort for the arts.

Besides participating in the workshops and informational activities during the day, the guitarist will perform at lunch for the hundreds attending the event, "to show what we bring to the community," he said.

Hilary Hatfield, who as executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council will lead the group to Annapolis, said of Mr. Lagrutta, "He's an incredible asset to our community -- he's so accomplished and his credentials are excellent."

A resident of Carroll County for the last two years, Mr. Lagrutta, his wife, Kristin, and daughter, Siddhii, moved to Taneytown to escape the city life of Baltimore. In recent years, the family has moved from Canada to Connecticut to Maryland.

Mr. Lagrutta started playing guitar at age 11 after seeing guitarist Alirio Diaz on television.

"I was impressed with how it sounded," he recalled. "But I thought [Diaz] just played like that always, I never knew you could learn it."

The youngster then went in search of someone to teach him to play, and after being rejected by every music conservatory in Caracas, Venezuela, he found someone who was willing to take him as a student -- Leopoldo Igarza.

"He is a great teacher, a great guitarist, a great friend, mentor, adviser -- he even taught me how to teach myself and how to be myself," Mr. Lagrutta said.

Later, Mr. Lagrutta was accepted at the National Conservatory of Music in Caracas, where he finished a nine-year program in musical studies in three years, the only guitarist in the school's history to graduate in such a short time.

But that does not distinguish him as a genius, he said.

"The only genius I see in that is that I practiced three times more a day than the other students," he said.

He still practices from seven to 10 hours a day when he's not teaching full time at Morgan State University, giving private guitar lessons or school and public performances.

His philosophy is to concentrate on playing one instrument, playing one kind of music and practicing as much as possible to try to achieve perfection.

"At 15, I practiced 10 hours a day," he said. "Parents should not be afraid if their child spends a lot of time practicing -- it gives the child the idea that there are other possibilities."

Another myth Mr. Lagrutta wants to dispel is that you have to be a genius to play an instrument.

"To be a musician, the only requirement is that you love it -- you don't have to have an ear for it -- you just do it, play it and love it," he said.

When he started playing, he couldn't read music, but too impatient to take a year in school to learn, he taught himself one day how to read the notes. Now, he said, he can teach a student to read music in one hour.

Mr. Lagrutta has performed all over the Americas and Europe. Mr. Lagrutta will give a public concert at 7:30 p.m. March 14 at North Carroll High School for Music in Our Schools Month.

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