While just looking to have a little “fun,” Carlos Bolivar, a music education major at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) won first place at the Guitar Foundation of America’s (GFA) Regional Symposium and the opportunity to play solo guitar during the GFA’s Evening Showcase Concert on Oct. 17 in downtown Los Angeles.
“I didn’t plan or prepare to compete, but my instructor Mathew Greif suggested that I should, so I did—to just have fun, meet other guitarists and to get feedback from the judges,” said Bolivar, who competed against 22 others in the college and pre-professional category during the performance auditions. “Since I didn’t have the mindset that I might win, I didn’t feel nervous or pressured to perform. I was very comfortable. I think that is why I won.”
The GFA is the nation’s leading guitar organization and largest multi-national guitar society. GFA members benefit from a full-range of educational and performance resources. In addition to holding regional symposiums, the foundation hosts a national convention and competition that draws performers, educators, and guitar enthusiasts worldwide.
Bolivar competed in morning performance auditions against guitar students from such universities as USC, Vanguard University, and CSU Northridge.
Scott Morris, supervisor of the Guitar Studies Program at CSUDH; Matthew Greif, a member of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet who also provides private lessons in classical and guitar jazz for the music program at CSUDH; and David Isaacs, a new music faculty member who teaches guitar, served as judges during the solo guitar auditions. They did not, however, judge competitions that featured CSUDH students.
“I am very proud of Carlos for playing as well as he did. He was not intimidated by the students from the bigger, more established music schools. He made us all look really good!” said Morris, who directed the GFA national convention in 2007 when it was hosted by CSUDH.
Along with the evening concert, symposium participants had the opportunity to perform in the event’s Symposium Guitar Orchestra and in the evening recital, which was conducted by Grammy Award winners Andrew York and Scott Tennant. Many attended the College Guitar Ensemble Showcase, heard some of the top college guitar chamber ensembles in the nation, and sat in on guitar technique workshops to better hone their skills and to interact with peers.
“While the auditions were going on in the morning I attended a class about guitar improvisation. I learned that the way students learn scales and pieces in class is a bit square, even non-artistic to some extent,” said Bolivar. “You do have to learn it that way—it’s mostly memorizing—but when it comes to playing in a live setting to perform something like jazz, it’s much more difficult. So he gave us practice ideas to develop more fluently—to be able to improvise more.”
After he graduates from CSUDH, Bolivar plans to earn a graduate degree and is thinking about applying to USC or Pepperdine University before launching his professional career.
“In 10 years I see myself being a music director at a church,” he said. “I can also see myself performing for audiences, recording albums, maybe teaching at a school—doing everything that I possibly can to live off of music.”