For the past eight years, a unique experience showcasing the stylistic versatility of the guitar has been taking place on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston and the surrounding …
For the past eight years, a unique experience showcasing the stylistic versatility of the guitar has been taking place on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston and the surrounding areas in South County. Known as the URI Guitar Festival, it has brought a wide array of artists, which include the post-rock wizard Kaki King, fingerstyle phenom Andy McKee and blues and reggae singer-songwriter Corey Harris to name a few. This year’s edition of the spectacle is taking place from October 18-22 and along with the music that’ll be present throughout the four days, there’s going to be a mandolin workshop and a Rising Stars’ Competition featuring musicians who are in high school and others who are between the ages of 18-35. Kids who are between the ages of 6-16 have the opportunity to be trained in technique and other aspects of the guitar as well.
The person behind the URI Guitar Festival is Adam Levin, who has led the event as the Artistic Director since its inception in 2015. He also runs the classical guitar program at the University of Rhode Island while being a sought-after educator, performer and recording artist. In fact, his last four full-length albums have been on the top 10 of the Billboard Traditional Classical Albums Chart.
“The 2023 URI Guitar Festival is going to be an international hotspot for musical creativity,” Levin says about this year’s edition. “For eight years running, the festival has brought world-class artists to the campus of the University of Rhode Island with the goal of bringing together the community around the guitar and its plucked instrument relatives. We offer a series of seven concerts that feature different global music traditions and styles as well as artists with international renown. We’ll start with three young hotshot guitarists from Costa Rica and Greece at the Courthouse Center for the Performing Arts [on 3481 Kingstown Road in West Kingston]. Adrian Montero is a Grad Assistant at URI, Jeisson Ramirez is the winner of the 2022 National Costa Rica Guitar Competition, and Filippos Manoloudis is the winner of the 2022 Rising Stars Virtual Guitar Competition.”
“Thursday will feature Georgian blues guitarist, Jontavious Willis, who will bring his unique down-home blues flair to the festival,’ he adds. “Then we will hear from URI’s very own jazz guitar faculty member and Grammy-nominee, Jay Azzolina, with his Jazz quartet which includes Dave Zinno, Sonny Barbato, and Rafael Barata. This will all occur at The Towers [on 35 Ocean Road] in Narragansett. Then, we will travel to Italy for an evening that showcases the evolution of Italian music from the 16th century all the way to the present day. This will feature lutenist Elisa La Marca, 19th-century specialist Mauro Zanatta, and 10-string guitarist Nicolo Spera with each of them giving us a different portrait of Italian music.”
Prior to the concert, musicologist Dr. Danilo Prefumo is going to be giving a lecture as well, so show up before the music starts at 7pm. The final day plans on concluding the festival in grand fashion with workshops, masterclasses and a French music showcase.
“Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm at St.Augustine’s Church [on 15 Lower College Road in Kingston] will feature members from the newly created course titled ‘Elite Mandolin’, as well as French new music champion, Pierre Bibault,” Levin describes the festival’s last installment. “That evening, titled ‘French Night’, is at the URI Fine Arts Center and we will hear the world-premiere performance of composer-in-residence Mathias Duplessy’s new work for The Great Neck Guitar Trio, called ‘A Thousand Lives’. The trio and Duplessy will then team up to perform his guitar quartet. The second half will feature the wild, spontaneous Cavalcade Trio, which includes Duplessy on guitar, Jeremy Jouve on classical guitar and Amit Kavthekar on the tabla. This band will unite Eastern and Western musical traditions while highlighting three extraordinary artists.”
Finishing it all off, Argentinian folk legend Jaun Falú will be taking the audience on a sonic voyage exploring the varied rhythms and styles of his home country. Then Luca Stricagnoli is going to be bringing forth his fingerstyle approach while doing renditions of various rock songs with a three-neck guitar.
“The URI Guitar Festival has brought South County and the University of Rhode Island to the world stage and assembled a one-of-a-kind lineup of artists who are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge as well as creating music together,” Levin says about the festival as a whole. “There is something for everyone, whether you are interested in the most iconic music of America such as rock, blues and jazz, or you want to explore the French, Italian, Greek, Argentinian, or Costa Rican cultures. As the Artistic Director, I am looking to create a sustainable platform for cultural and artistic exchange at one of the leading research institutions in the country.”
For all the details pertaining to tickets, schedule, workshops, and all of the performers, log on to uriguitarfestival.org.
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