Guitar congress is set for Towson

Campus, Meyerhoff to play host to musicians from around the world

March 05, 2004|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

There was an announcement, then a little guitar playing and a promise of a whole lot more as officials from Towson University held a mid-morning news conference yesterday at Baltimore's Hard Rock Cafe in the Inner Harbor to release details of its World Guitar Congress, set for June 2-9.

Towson says it has so far signed on nearly 50 professional guitarists from genres as diverse as jazz, flamenco, blues, rock and classical for the Guitar Congress, a blend of concerts, clinics, master classes, exhibits by guitar manufacturers and lecture-demonstrations targeted to middle and high school students in Baltimore City.

"The mission of the congress mirrors my vision for the guitar," said acclaimed classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, who will participate in the festivities to be held on Towson's campus and at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. "The guitar is an instrument without boundaries."

"We want to center the activities in the metropolitan area," said Towson president Robert Caret, "and bring attention to arts in the region."

Among the 47 confirmed acts are former Police guitarist Andy Summers, folk-jazz duo Tuck & Patti, R&B-fusion musician Jeff Scofield, the Brazilian Guitar Quartet, Derek Trucks and others.

(Towson says it hopes to confirm attendance by three additional rock guitarists, who university officials did not name.)

The congress is being called the first of its kind, bringing together artists from an array of styles and mixing them at the performances, which are open to the public.

"No artist will be opening for another, like what you see in pop music," said Helene Breazeale, executive director of the World Music Congresses at Towson. "In the concerts, each artist will have 25 to 40 minutes. And guitarists from different styles will be in one show."

Spanish players will pluck their strings on the same bill with blazing rock guitarists. Graceful classical notes will mesh with fluid, progressive jazz chords. The idea, Breazeale said, is to expose people to the many ways the guitar is used musically.

The WGC was inspired by the success of the World Cello Congress, a showcase for cellists established in 1995 that garnered more than $800,000 in sponsorships. At yesterday's news conference, the D'Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts presented Towson with a $25,000 check.

And Johnny Hiland, a legally blind Nashville-based guitarist who has played behind such acts as Parliament and Sammy Hagar, closed the news conference with three fluid country-rock numbers.

For registration and information, visit www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses, or call 410-704-4012.

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