Interviews with division 1 winners (ages 11-14) of the 2014 Dallas Guitar Competition.

Hosted by the University of Texas in Dallas, the annual Texas guitar competition and festival is now in its 13th year. Enric Madriguera is the Festival Director. Eddie Healy is the Assistant Director and Youth Competition Coordinator. This year’s festival included performances by Juan Carlos Laguna and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

We asked prize winners to share some thoughts about their experiences in this years competition.


AytahnAytahn Benavi won first place. He is a sixth grader at the Austin Jewish Academy. He started playing guitar when he was six years old through the Childbloom guitar program. He currently studies with Kevin Taylor and Joseph Williams.

How much do you practice?    

A good guitar practice for me is determined by how well I am able to focus, and not how much time the practice lasts. A good practice could be thirty minutes long if it’s highly focused and productive. It’s always good to get a practice in every day if possible. It helps me remember all the details of the pieces I am working on and keeps my hands moving well.  I usually practice an hour to an hour and a half every day if possible and increase that time three weeks before a competition. If I miss a day I will always do a longer practice the next day.

How did you prepare mentally ?

Being prepared before the competition was essential. It helped me play better and helped build my self-confidence, so I didn’t worry as much about making mistakes.  When you feel prepared it allows you to focus on playing well and bringing out all the great details in the music. It is always very helpful to have a practice room to prepare and focus right before you play before the judges. You can almost never eliminate being a little anxious, so you have to just try your best.

What did you play at the competition?

I played two pieces. The first was the prelude to suite 1, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The second was Tango de Lejos by Maximo Diego Pujol. The Bach piece was the most difficult to learn and master. It was more musically deep than many of the pieces I had previously played.

What are your goals for the near future?

I would like to apply all of the musical skill I gained in preparing for and playing at this competition towards future performances. I want to learn new and more advanced pieces.

What are your long term goals?

To be able to play some of the pieces I have wanted to play for many years but have not yet developed the skill level to play.

What is something unrelated to the guitar that is interesting or unique about you?

Aside from music, I am interested in photography, war history and other historical trivia, and I love to ski.

 

TiffanyTiffany Chang won second place. Her guitar study started at a summer camp when she was 7. She then took group lessons at a local music store. She also took lessons with Mr. Eric Gracia for 6 months. Her formal classical guitar training started at age 11 with her current instructor, Dr. Isaac Bustos. She is a 7th grader at Fort Settlement Middle School in Sugar Land.

How much do you practice?

I usually practice 2-4 hours on week days and 4-6 hours when I don’t have school.

What music did you play at the competition?

I played Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 and Etude No1 by Villa Lobos.

How did you prepare mentally?

I told myself to relax and stay focused.

What are your goals for the near future?

I need to find a good balance between my school work and music practice.  I also plan on going to more competitions, so I can get more experience and meet more friends.

What are your long term goals?

I would like to continue my classical guitar study in college.  I would like to be a concert artist someday.

What is something unrelated to the guitar that is interesting or unique about you?

My other passions also include art and writing.  I like to draw and write stories in my spare time.  My dream is having a published novel one day­.

 

E BalmuthEliza Balmuth won third place. She is homeschooled and has been playing guitar for 6 years. Her instructor is Mitch Weverka. She has played in master classes with Dr. Lynn McGrath, Dr. Isaac Bustos, and Maria Luisa Harth-Bedoya, among others.  A few weeks ago, she and her duo partner played Vivaldi’s Concerto in G major for Two Mandolins accompanied by the Collin College Guitar Festival guitar orchestra.  She also plays cello in the Ft. Worth Youth Orchestra.

How much do you practice?

I try to practice 2-3 hours daily.  Sometimes I practice more or less depending on the amount of  time I have.

What music did you play at the competition?

I played Caprice no. 2 by Luigi Legnani and the Allegro Solemne from La Catedral by Agustin Barrios.

How did you prepare mentally?

This is hard. I get really nervous, and it’s hard to seem confident when I don’t feel that way at all.  I try not to think about what my fingers are doing and focus on the dynamics and the story the music is telling. I also try not to let my mind wander, which is difficult.

What are you goals for the near future?

I would like to manage my time so that I can practice 3 hours of guitar and 3 hours of cello every day.

What are your long term goals?

To study music at a good conservatory and love music forever!

What is something unrelated to the guitar that is interesting or unique about you?

I do circus arts and can juggle while riding a unicycle!

Thank you to these contributors and to the Dallas youth competition coordinator Eddie Healy. Fretbuzz also recently published a video interview with the first prize winner of the upper division (ages 15-18), Augustus Woodrow-Tomizuka.

 

 

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