Classic guitar festival features talents, music classes at EWU


By Rebekah Frank

Graphic by Vania Tauvela
Graphic by Vania Tauvela

EWU senior Joel Gorman has been practicing for the Northwest Guitar Festival almost every day since January 2014.

The 23rd annual Northwest Guitar Festival is coming to EWU for the third time on April 11-13. The festival was founded in 1990 by the University of Idaho’s professor James Reid, who will be performing at the festival and has also produced eight CDs, according to the Guitar Festival flyer.

Gorman, who is competing for the first time, submitted a CD for consideration, and his music earned a spot in the competition. He will be performing about a 10-minute set for the semifinal round.

This festival is a chance for the region’s best and brightest classical guitarists to show their talent. There will also be classes and recitals by concert artists Michael Partington, Mak Grgić, Giacomo Fiore and others.

The festival will also hold an open-mic night and a social on April 11. EWU guitar lecturer Michael Millham said the opportunities this festival provides exceed others like it.

“The festival serves as the annual classical guitar convention for the Pacific Northwest region, drawing teachers, luthiers [guitar makers], international performers and the top collegiate students from five western states and two Canadian provinces. It’s the oldest and widest-reaching festival of its kind in the [Pacific Northwest],” said Millham.

“NWGF is a great event that takes place in the region. Classical guitar seems to be such a small musical interest these days for the general public, and it’s great to see people being proactive in its preservation,” said Gorman.

Millham has had some personal experience with the festival as well. He said Reid competed in the festival in 1991. The festival is also where he met many of the region’s current teachers.

“The list of schools employing guitar instructors who competed in the competition over the years is extensive,” said Millham.

The festival will also include a composition workshop taught by award-winning composer and head of Western Washington University’s guitar department David Feingold. Millham says the workshop is approximately one hour long and is for players who have had some training but have not composed their own instrumental music for guitar.

“The idea is to give guitarists the tools, and permission, to just get started,” said Millham.

For this reason and the large marketing tool that the festival provides, Millham believes this festival is important for young musicians.

“The networking aspect is very important for the next generation of young guitarists and is the main reason that EWU has been in regular rotation hosting the festival over the last eight years,” said Millham.

“NWGF is more than just a competition. It also provides several concerts throughout the weekend performed by some of this region’s, and the world’s, best guitar players. … Whether I play great or terribly at NWGF [2014], I will still benefit from the festival,” said Gorman.