Archive for the ‘Report from ‘On The Road’’ Category


What an honor to receive the exciting news that a scholarship has been created in my name to assist a deserving child’s study of guitar in Guatemala.

On behalf of my colleagues in Central America I am always happy to work very hard because I know their deep desire to support the arts and education in their countries. This is just another example of how wonderful their hearts are to reach out and share what they have.

I am so proud of all of them! I look forward to meeting the recipient and watching her development with music.

The photo below is from a past Festival, just to help put a face to the story. This boy is NOT The child receiving the scholarship – that news has not yet been released – he is a young man from Guatemala City where the school is.

Here is a link to the story and below that, the text in Spanish with English translation.

“El día de hoy en ALARTE & Estudio de Guitarra Paco Godoy se decidió crear la “BECA ANDREA CANNON” en gratitud a la Maestra Andrea Cannon por sus esfuerzos, entrega, corazón y el trabajo que realiza en pos de la enseñanza, aprendizaje y compartimiento de la Guitarra Clásica y la aplicación del Método Suzuki en Guatemala y Centro América. Muchas gracias maestra Andrea Cannon, así como a la Asociación Suzuki de las Américas, Asociación Suzuki de El Salvador y Asociación Costarricense del Método Suzuki. Pronto compartiremos acerca de la niña que recibirá esta beca, la cual procuraremos mantener y renovar de por vida. Gracias de nuevo. Atrévete… Libérate… Elévate… ven Alarte.”


“Today at Alarte & The Guitar Studio of Paco Godoy it was decided to create the “ANDREA CANNON SCHOLARSHIP” in gratitude to Master-Teacher Andrea Cannon for her efforts, dedication, heart and the work done towards teaching, learning and sharing Classical Guitar and implementation of the Suzuki Method in Guatemala and Central America. Many thanks Andrea Cannon and the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Suzuki Association of El Salvador and Costa Rican Suzuki Association. Soon we will share about the girl who will receive this scholarship, which will seek to maintain and renew her throughout her lifetime. Thanks again. Dare Yourself … Free yourself … Rise Above… and come with Alarte.”

Two teachers from Guatemala City with their young student

Two teachers from Guatemala City with their young student


FINALE! Sunday Tour

Guatemala, the Honduras border and all of the El Salvador that lies in-between. Did it all in one day on a relaxing Sunday excursion w/ Familia Rodriguez.

Our destination Sunday Morning was the Aguas Termales de Santa Teresa in Ahuachapán, near the Guatemalan border. These ‘thermal waters’ are heated by the nearby volcano.

Aguas Termales

The warm steam rising from the ground at the Santa Teresa Hot Springs in Ahuatachatan, El Salvador

Departing from San Salvador, the drive leads away from the city. Paved roads soon became dirt-covered, rocky one-lane passages. Stores and apartments gave way to countryside with sparse, make-shift housing. People and dogs wandered about, walking in the afternoon sun.

The road grew more and more narrow as we neared the entrance of the Santa Teresa Termales. At the point of the entrance was a grassy field with a pond that seemed to billow smoke. The steam rose in swirls above the water. See Video. Pretty interesting.

Needless to say, the time spent at these relaxing waters provided a contrast to the high-energy work schedule of the preceding week.

Combine all of this hot, spring water w/ the fertile volcanic soil that adds up to growing beans that make great coffee. The mountainside that’s not oozing steam is covered w/ Really Big Machines and mounds of coffee beans in process. This coffee is processed with the thermal mineral waters that are heated by the volcano and produce some of the most flavorful organic coffee in the world.


Processing the coffee beans at the volcano in El Salvador

more pictures are here at the accompanying link…below…

One last stop ‘between the clouds’ at the Entrenubes Café – another relaxing getaway full of food and flowers.

…and just because it was so much fun…here are some final pics of the After-Concert Party at Abbi Pupuseria, Planes de Renderos – the village famous for it’s fantastic pupusas!

Pupuseria Abbi after the Final Concert
Faculty and Festival Directors



Link to all of the pictures!!

Looking forward to when I can return to Central America!


Back home now and ready to share about the closing days of the VI Festival in El Salvador.

This year’s festival was bigger than ever. Teachers in my course represented four countries: Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and, of course, El Salvador. Our classes were held in the Albert Einstein University in nearby Antiguo Cuscatlán.

Teachers Course 2012

Teacher Training Course
12 Teachers from 4 Countries

Many teachers and some of the students traveled in a delegation from Visión Mundiál (World Vision) in Guatemala. There they are doing great work providing Arts Education to underprivileged families. This video is in Spanish, but you get the idea.
Guatemala ‘Visión Mundiál’ in the news!

One afternoon, right outside the window in my classroom was the bird that the Barrios composition “Bicho Feo” was named after. Since I recently uploaded a video of this piece, it was really cool to be seeing the bird ‘Live!’ He was chirping away in the same manner as the intro ‘sweeps’ from the piece!

It happened the next day, too, and this time I pointed it out to everyone and asked if they recognized the bird. They didn’t recognize the name as it’s more commonly known as benteveo.
BichoFeo or Benteveo
There are legends surrounding the origin of this bird’s voice. The following was translated from an article in ‘Wikipedia:’

In some places, they believe that when benteveo cries it’s unique melodic call beside a house, he is announcing the arrival of unexpected company: relatives, friends or strangers. In other places they consider it a birth announcement. In rural areas of the Argentinian coastline, it’s cry is generally considered a warning of a bad omen which one should flee to avoid. A legend of the guaraní tribe says that the benteveo was a wicked grandson who the god Tupá turned into a bird because he would not give his dying grandfather a glass of water.
Legends of Benteveo!
Now I really know more about this bird than I probably ever needed to!!


Santiago was my last student every day of the festival. He also plays cello, so his guitar lesson had to fit in around all of the cello classes. Since his dad is the festival director, I’ve watched him grow up to his ripe old age of 8.

At the end of every lesson, I ask the student and the parent (if one is there) if they have any questions. Usually, the response is “No.” His lessons stood out because every day his answer was “Yes!”

The questions ranged from “Who ARE you?” to “why did you choose that activity to do in my lesson today?” to “what do you call that thing on the guitar?” (indicating a guitar support that was used)


Santiago at his lesson

Well, one day in his lesson, we focused on using vibrato. He seemed to already know how to do it and said something about playing the cello. But when I ran into his cello teacher, she insisted he wasn’t ready for vibrato on the cello yet. “Well,” I told her, “he did a great job with it on his guitar today!”

On the day of the Final Concert, Santi was the most enthusiastic vibrato-er of all. He didn’t miss one chance to use vibrato on the long notes of the pieces we performed as a group. Funny thing – he was the only one! Many of the others know about it and should have been playing with vibrato. There he was – because he’s restricted from it’s use on cello – faithfully and beautifully vibrato-ing his little heart out on his guitar.

The Final Concert for the students and Presentation of Certificates to the Teacher Course participants is always both exciting and sad at the same time. The most exciting announcement is the formation of a new Festival in Guatemala to be held alternating years with the one in El Salvador. So, the greeting “see you next year in Guatemala,” replaced having to say only ‘Goodbye.’

Guitars on Stage

Guitarists in the Final Concert


Flying early Saturday from Houston to San Salvador is a good time for a first-class upgrade. It doesn’t happen too much anymore since United and Continental merged because there are so many more VIP customers with United. A big woo-hoo! A couple of confused folks thought I was in their seat due to the similarity in numbers of the gate – E2 – and my assigned seat – 2E. Other than that, it was an uneventful flight.  

The VI Festival Events began Sunday Evening. So, Saturday was a day to settle in at the Hotel Terraza, change guitar strings and later, meet for dinner. Festival Director Julio and his wife, Alma, took the three teachers who were already in town – Barbara, Caroline and     me – to a favorite local restaurant – Tipicos Margoth de El Salvador. Margoth celebrates 50 years of service this year and the food is well-known for being authentic. I can’t tell you the names of much of it, except for pupusas – the runaway national favorite of all foods.  Margoth is laid out sort of like Luby’s or LaMadeliene.  You walk past items on display and tell the servers what to put on your tray.

Tipicos Margoth

Typical food of El Salvador – yucca with vegetable/salsa topping, green tea, bean and cheese pupusa, pumpkin soaked in sugar and cinnamon.

I CAN tell you about another local food. Elote Loco (el-LOW-teh) is corn on the cob rolled in a grated cheese mix and then drizzled with mayonnaise and salsa. Sounds strange, but looks interesting. I decided to give it a try.  In return, it pulled out my front tooth. As in, there it was, on the cob next to the corn. Hence the title of this entry as my tooth actually *was* in my pocket – in a little plastic vial of water. 

Elote Loco

“crazy” corn on the cob.
This stuff broke my tooth. Maybe it’s not totally to blame, though.

AGHGHGHGH!!!! Yikes. Really. Yes, my imagination was over-reactive flashing forward to the start of classes Sunday night. “So, kids, let me introduce you to your teacher – the Wicked Witch from the United States…”

 It was an uneasy night for me, but on Sunday morning early, someone took me to a dentist who is Julio and Alma’s relative. He came in to the office Sunday just for me. He made a post for it and glued it back in less than 30 minutes; but warned me not to bite down on it any more. After all, he said “the tooth is broken.”

 I’m so happy to have all of my teeth together again that the prospect eating only soup, oatmeal, ice cream and the like is really OK with me. 

 That evening the Opening Concert was very successful. It’s a nice reunion with students and teachers from past years as well as an opportunity get acquainted with new ones.

At the end of the evening post-concert reception on my way out of the buiding, somehow I tripped on the pavement. With my guitar in the heavy Calton flight case strapped to my back. It was embarrassing enough, so just got up and kept walking.

Everyone says my Spanish is much better. Which is funny – because I was disappointed with my preparations.  I listened repeatedly to recorded podcasts about using the conditional and subjunctive tenses, which are advanced for me. They never really made sense and I did not master them.  However, there are some vocabulary words I picked up as well as more confidence just using sentences and simple constructs. 

When we started classes Monday and I met with the students for the first time, it was natural to speak in Spanish to them. As the afternoon ticked on, however, I felt my brain on overload and when one of the kids said “I speak English. You don’t have to teach me in Spanish,” I actually took him up on it.  Usually “I speak English,” means they go to an “American School” in San Salvador, which does not necessarily mean they are conversational and often they do not understand simple instructions.

Master Class

12 yr old student working on interpreting a Renaissance piece from the Chilesotti collection

In addition, my foot and one knee were bruised from my fall the night before which did not become apparent until I started teaching the afternoon waves and waves of students. One hour in particular, 7 students reported to share the hour of private lessons.  Since my teaching style is pretty active, this became really painful as the day continued.  There was not a minute between as one mega-class dovetailed into the next.

There is plenty in the plus column, however. Already noted is the camaraderie between the faculty, meeting the students – especially those that return from previous years – and their families.  Many volunteers help things run smoothly and they have such big hearts to serve the faculty and help make us comfortable in their country.

Guitar Professors

Leading a class of guitar professors from Guatemala,El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This year’s festival is my 4th visit to El Salvador. My first visit was for the IIIrd Festival in 2005.  It’s always exciting to work with a group of local teachers and see them progress in their knowledge and confidence about setting up new students to be life-long learners and lovers of guitar. Couple that with the loving nature of the Salvadoran people, and it’s an even richer experience.

More to come…..


Getting started tomrrow morning with the ALEXANDRIA SUZUKI GUITAR INSTITUTE


Keeping the blog caught up should be easier this week since I have access to the internet!  There are overdue posts on the conclusion of the GFA not to mention a 9-day event in Austin last week that was really good – the AUSTIN Suzuki Guitar Institute.

For now – something totally unrelated to being here in Alexandria. It’s a new video from a 10-year old phenomenal guitarist from Hungary.  I’ve followed his playing on youtube and am very impressed. Hope you enjoy it!

Back later with more!!

All About Groups.

GROUPS!   I think it’s the word of the day…..five group events shaped the Third Day of GFA Convention events…

EDUCATION COMMITTEE MEETING  May not sound exciting…but the idea is to plan strategies to place more teachers in guitar programs in schools. There are lots of facets to this – as you know, good guitar programs don’t grow on trees. It’s always inspiring to get together with others and share ideas.

YOUTH SHOWCASE   Ensemble performances featuring groups selected by audition.  First up, the Mile High Guitar Ensemble coached by my colleague Steve Bondy.  AND including students who have been in classes with me thru the years in the Colorado Suzuki Institute.  How fun to see them here and enjoy their wonderful performance!  Also featured in the Showcase today was the Helios Quartet.  Last Thurday at my studio in Houston, this Thursday at the GFA Showcase.  They were great as always and received a pretty impressive ovation!

Mile High Guitar Ensemble in the Youth Showcase

Mile High Guitar Ensemble in the Youth Showcase

Helios Quartet in Legacy Hall. (note the cinnamon-bun looking objects on the wall behind them (!)











GUITAR ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL   On Sunday a volunteer guitar orchestra will perform two pieces under the direction of William Kanengiser of LAGQ fame.  Our first rehearsal was this afternoon.  At first, it was a little uncomfortable. One of the other members in my immediate vicinity is one of those high-strung performers who felt the need to let us all know he was pretty important.  Usually in groups like this, everyone is pretty friendly… Oh, well. By the end of rehearsal he seemed to relax a little. So, maybe he won’t end up impeding the fun-factor.  Updates (as always!) to follow…

SOLODUO IN CONCERT  Tonight’s Feature Concert was Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela – the guitar duo of Italian virtuosos. Their sense of ensemble and the smooth manner in which they finesse a melody is just incredible. They play everything from memory and flow seemlessly through their selections…Every performance is amazing.

"Soloduo" in concert. (again, note the 'cinnamon buns' on the walls behind them...!)

GATHERING AT CANNON’S  The crowd GROWS!  It was standing-room-only tonight!  A tough way to enjoy drinks and snacks. However, as they say, it was apparent that in spite of it, a good time was had by all….tomorrow night will likely be even bigger.

Seeee you then!

“Chattahoochee” is an unusual word…

Columbus is a really cute town. Well, I guess that statement should be clarified to say that the area in which I’m staying is really cute. Friendly, clean and accommodating.  There are a lot of military personnel in town here who are stationed at nearby Fort Benning. There were several on my flight and on the van ride out here. They’re everywhere! So, thought they deserved a shout-out in the blog about Columbus.

The GFA Convention is taking place at Columbus State University with all concerts at the River Center, adjacent to the School of Music.  Guess why it’s called the River Center??? Well, the close proximity of the Chattahoochee River, that’s why.  Here’s a picture!!

Chattahoochee Riverfront near the River Center

First thing today at 9am Alvaro Pierri gave a technique class.  His concert was such a big hit that there were lots of us there at 9am, guitars in hand, eager to hear what he had to say.  I’ll sum up this way – he’s pretty far above us.  He had some ideas he wanted to communicate. In the process, he did meander and what he did say will change your approach to everything you play.  So, he advised go very slowly and thoughtfully as you implement changes.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“Use the ‘big finger!'”  this referred to the use of the arm to support the hand so it doesn’t have to move as much.  He advised this with applications for both hands and did give a couple of examples.  Shifting the left arm keeps us from over-crunching the fingers.  Using the right arm can alleviate the need to change hand position when making quick string crossings – especially over many strings.

“Why not shift the guitar?” He is able to move his guitar very high, to the left and to the right by shifting his legs (on the footstool!) and somewhat his arms and body as well.  I’ve heard the idea of moving the guitar before, but not to the extreme that he demonstrated.

The 5pm Concert featured Nigel North with a program of all John Dowland compositions on the lute. This guy has made over 200 recordings.  His bio said he ‘thrills and mesmerizes audiences…’ it also used the word “stunning.” Well, I’ll say it’s very good lute-playing.  Not sure about all of that thrill stuff.   The evening concert was David Starobin.  Both of these artists I had not seen before, though I’ve long known of them. Both sounded great.  For me, the concerts are the main attraction of this convention…

Back at ya again tomorrow…

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