Aytahn Benavi is 13. He is in the seventh grade at Kealing Middle in Austin, Tx. He started taking guitar lessons in the Childbloom program at age five with Chris Stone. Kevin Taylor and Dr. Joseph Williams are his current teachers. He is a member of ACGYO and the Austin Bella Corda guitar ensemble. Aytahn is a prize winner in numerous guitar competitions including the Texas A&M guitar festival (1st prize), the UT Dallas guitar festival (1st prize), the Domaine Forget guitar competition, the Classical Minds festival and competition, and the Mid-America Guitar Camp solo competition.
Aytahn writes: I attended the Texas Guitar Conference at the Universtity of Mary Hardin Baylor (UMHB) as a member of Austin Classical Guitar Orchestra (ACGYO). The prospect of the ACGYO joining and playing with a much larger ensemble was an interesting and exciting thought.
When I attended the first rehearsal, it was amazing to hear how much collective sound we could make, and how we could all unite around one main point of focus. Dr. Williams had the entire group, nearly 40 guitarists, under complete control. He had an excellent sense of how to manipulate and use the sound of so many guitars. The sound we created was simply amazing; the collective mass of it all was very powerful. The piece, A House in the Arms of Dread and Accusations from Dr. Williams film score to The Lodger by Alfred Hitchcock, on its own was extremely cool, but with a sea of guitarists, it was even better.
I had a masterclass with Dr. Jonathan Dotson. His knowledge of the piece I played and its style stunned me. He was very in tune with this genre of music and knew exactly how to make the piece sound in character. It was definitely the most useful masterclass on that piece I have ever received.
I think the best part of the Texas Guitar Conference was the final concert. We heard many wonderful guitar students play a variety of pieces. For me, the most amazing part was when we all got on stage and played A House in the Arms of Dread and Accusations. Dr. Williams walked on stage, just like in our rehearsal and everyone clapped. Dr. Williams gave us two measures and we began playing.
Inside the church, the sound was more intense than in the rehearsals. It was like riding on a wave of sound. It was massive. Dr. Alejandro Montiel was sitting right next to me (it was an honor). He was playing the solo parts. When he began playing, the sound coming from his guitar almost made me jump out of my seat. It exploded off of his guitar and filled the entire room with the most beautiful sound.
Playing this piece with so many guitarists was a very memorable and moving experience for me and I hope that I will get to do it again.