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Explicating Boston GuitarFest XVIII


We live in “interesting” times. Fundamental “truths” we once held to be “self-evident” are now under attack from all sides while a pitiless, monster of our own invention called “AI” looms over us, not “slouching its way towards Bethlehem waiting to be born” (like the beast in Yeats’s prophetic poem The Second Coming) but already here!

For Co-Director Zaira Meneses and me, Boston GuitarFest has been part of a very personal answer to the challenges of 21st-century existence, one of the ways we try to make a difference. Since 2022 we have run “BGFest” under the auspices of the Eliot Fisk Guitar Academy (“EFGA”). Events take place in East Cambridge from June 27th – July 2nd. Details HERE and below.

Started in 2006 on a shoestring, Boston GuitarFest has become an important annual event in the always-bustling Boston cultural calendar. Its inter-disciplinary, internationalist approach and educational focus mixing live performances by master artists in multiple musical idioms and educational opportunities for all ages and levels of skill, have attracted generous support from a wide variety of foundations and individuals.

With the classical guitar as its point of departure, BGFest has welcomed guest artists from around the world featuring the guitar, solo, in chamber music settings and even with orchestra. The Festival has also explored related plucked string styles from around the globe including flamenco, Argentinian tango, jazz guitar, electric guitar, Indian sitar and Chinese pi-pa. Over the years we have presented guest artists and guest speakers from every imaginable walk of life earning the public support of major figures in American life such as the late US Sen. Ted Kennedy, US Sec. of State, John Kerry, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and former US Sen. Scott Brown, among many others.

Program variety has been reflected in the freely chosen themes of this annual 5 – 6-day summer event.  And have included: “The Guitar in the Global Village,” “The Latin American Tradition,” “Viva Mexico!,” “Bell’ Italia,” “America, America,” “British Invasion,” “Viva España!” “Feria Latina,” “Back to Bach,” “The Eternal Feminine,” “Peace and Variations,” “Freedom” and this year, from June 27th to July 2nd 2023, “Transformation.

After 3 years under the shadow of COVID, including two all-online years and last year’s “hybrid” festival, 2023 is a year of rebirth for us. We are back to all-live events, supplemented by an all-online International Academy Program, created for participants in faraway time zones.

For the first time ever, the live portion of Boston GuitarFest leaves the New England Conservatory, where it was conceived and flourished for 17 consecutive years and moves into new venues a few blocks apart from one another in East Cambridge. In harmony with this year’s BGFest theme our 2023 venues have themselves been transformed from the function for which they were originally built to become what they are today: open spaces encouraging experimentation and community participation:

The Foundry at 101 Rogers Street, East Cambridge will host:

Tuesday, June 27 at 7:30 PM (opening night gala evening): Guitarists Zaira Meneses (Mexico)(pictured at the right), Adam Levin (USA), Alexander Romanov (USA), Thatcher Harrison (USA) & Lautaro Mantilla (Colombia) in concert.Arrive early to get the best seats and to grab a cocktail before the concert!

  • Young Guitarists Workshop (“YGW”): educational and performance program for young people up to age 15)
  • Adult Education Program (age 30 and above, all levels welcome!)

 The Multicultural Arts Center at 41 Second Street, East Cambridge will host BGFest International Guest Artists Series:

  • Wednesday, June 28, at 7:30 PM: Boston International GuitarFest Performance Competition (“Challenge”) Finalists perform for the judges and the public.
    Thursday, June 29, at 7:30 PM: Lutenist, Nigel North (Great Britain) in solo recital
    Friday, June 30, at 7:30 PM: Guitarists Jorge Caballero (Peru)and Gohar Vardanyan (Armenia) in solo recital
    Saturday, July 1, at 7:30 PM: An Intimate Solo Concert with Eliot Fisk
    Sunday, July 2, at 3:00 PM:2023 Boston International Guitar “Challenge” Winners Showcase

Also at the Multicultural Arts Center:

  • BGFest afternoon Master Class Series: guest artists teach advanced students in master classes open to the public
  • BGFest guest lecturer series. This year the focus is on Baroque music and features renowned scholar, Christoph Wolff lecturing online from Germany on the life and work of J. S. Bach (opportunity for Q and A following) and master lutenist, Nigel North lecturing and demonstrating aspects of Baroque performance practice with participation from BGFest participants.

All of the above events at the Multicultural Center and the Foundry are open to the public:

For the first time the BGFest all online International Academy will be taught mostly from Europe with live translators on call as needed. Most of the faculty are prize-winning virtuosi and alumni of my class at the “Mozarteum” University in Salzburg, Austria. BGFest events happening live in Boston at times inconvenient for International Academy participants, will be available to participants in this program for asynchronous viewing for up to one month after the Boston – based live events end on July 2nd.

The International Academy widens the reach of the Festival and underscores the power of music to unite people around the world in pursuit of a noble, common endeavor. Many of students participating come from the class of Shanghai Conservatory Professor, Zhenqi Min, who studied with me here in Boston at the New England Conservatory.

BGFest 2023 pays tribute to a great figure in the classical guitar world who was taken from us recently by a cruel twist of fate.  On May 1st, 2023, our beloved mentor, guiding light, and universal inspiration, Bruce Holzman, Professor of Guitar at Florida State University in Tallahassee for more than half a century, suffered a horrific car accident. On May 6th he passed away from injuries sustained in that tragedy. Bruce, my beloved friend and treasured colleague for 55 years, personified the highest values of humanity: he was endlessly generous, patient, hard-working, and giving.  Self-effacing and avoiding the spotlight, he was a living foundation of spiritual strength without whom none of us could have arrived where we find ourselves today. He was truly and in every possible way a transformational figure! We dedicate Boston GuitarFest XVIII to his sacred memory.

Please join Zaira Meneses and me and the entire Boston GuitarFest team in whatever capacity works for you!  And as Shakespeare has it: “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Eliot Fisk, Artistic Director/Co-Director, Boston GuitarFest XVIII

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