All-City Reflection, by Tyler Grice
As a college student who was previously in the participants’ shoes, assisting at the Oklahoma the Oklahoma City All-City Guitar Workshop and Concert provided me with a unique moment to reflect on the classical guitar and the community it fosters. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by seventy-four other classical guitarists in one space, all striving to keep the beat stable and the melody strong. In middle school and high school, I was privileged to play the viola in several honor orchestras. I couldn’t help but examine the similarities that arose between those experiences and the All-City workshop. Several unique challenges became apparent.
An immediate congruency I find between All-City and standard orchestra workshops lies with the intense focus every player brings to the table. The feeling of urgency in hitting the right notes. The effort to make smooth, accurate dynamics. The care in paying close attention to the conductor. These are several universal traits of classical music performance that ensure that the music and the moment are alive. All-City was certainly a great learning experience for those who had not yet been challenged in this way, and it was exciting to watch it all unfold.
The new challenge with All-City was surrendering my sound, heart, mind, and hands to the collective body consisting of four-hundred-and-fifty strings. With seventy-four identical instruments around me, it became hard to play as I would normally play by myself. I could hardly distinguish my sound from those around me, and I had to listen critically to understand who was playing what, and when. As the pluck of a string takes a small fraction of a second, and the decay of sound it produces is typically less than five, it becomes immediately apparent how tight a guitar ensemble is. This can lead to a lot of pressure in a highly focused environment. While many anxieties surface during situations like this, we were strove to move past our worries and be supportive rather than critical of one another. I noticed the positivity saturate those around me; I felt strong.
I consider it an honor to have been given the opportunity to participate in an event like this -one I wouldn’t have dreamed of happening when I was a classical guitar major at Classen School of Advanced Studies. All-City revealed to me that the ever-growing guitar world is alive and well in Oklahoma City. It also proved to me that it is working for the kids who need it. This is in every way made possible by the outstanding teachers who have devoted much of their time and energy to the programs. Without them, Oklahoma City would have no pride to place with the classical guitar, and I would have no footsteps to follow.
Tyler Grice is graduate of the Classen School of Advanced Studies. He currently studies classical guitar with professor Matt Denman at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK.