To promote and foster an understanding and appreciation of music for the classical guitar and allied fretted instruments such as the flamenco guitar, Baroque guitar, and Renaissance lute;
To create opportunities for both American and international performers of high achievment to demonstrate and share their art;
To reach out to and engage new and previously underserved audiences; and
To utilize the fretted instruments to demonstrate the potential benefits of wider and deeper involvement in the musical arts.
Christopher Parkening with a young fan.
We also present two additional Special Performances each season designed to appeal to new audiences, ensembles such as the Brazilian Guitar Quartet and the Modern Mandolin Quartet (2000-01); the Baltimore Consort Early Music Ensemble and the Romero Family (2001-02); and the Santa Fe Guitar Quartet and the Paco Pena Flamenco Company (2002-03), all of which were presented during a three-year advancement grant from the Whitaker Foundation. During 2005-06 we presented Saffire: The Australian guitar Quartet and the Festival of Four; flamenco guitarist Marija Temo with local dancer Kristina Martinez during 2006-07; and Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang in 2008.
Our primary sources of funding have traditionally been the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis. From 1982 to 1992--before the program was dissolved--we received nine annual grants from the highly competitive Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the only guitar society in the nation to receive this
support. In October of 1985 we were the host organization to the Guitar Pedagogy Symposium of the American String Teachers Association, held at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel. We were also instrumental in bringing the national convention of the Guitar Foundation of America to St. Louis in the Fall of 1997, a weeklong convention of classes, concerts, and a major international guitar competition.
The guitar is prominent in most styles of popular music, and we see the classical guitar as a natural bridge between popular and classical music. Due to its familiarity, availability, affordability, and musical versatility, we are convinced that the guitar is the ideal instrument to introduce young people to the principles of classical music. Our programs juxtapose music of different cultures, or of different historical periods within the Western European tradition. As such these programs foster the realization that the musical arts are multi-faceted, and relate to each of us in many different ways.
We continue to offer our Master Class Series which affords top local students (college or community members) to be coached by these world-class performers. Cost for performing or auditing is $5, and free to our members. This series is co-sponsored with, and presented at, various local universities. The success of our evening concerts allows us the opportunity to use these outstanding artists as educators and role models in a cost-effective manner, as these programs all occur during their stay in St. Louis.
Our concert audience does not significantly overlap that of any other presenter in St. Louis. By cultivating and educating this audience, introducing them to a wide variey of musical styles, and reaching their children and teachers through our matinee programs we play a catalytic role in developing new audiences for the musical arts within the St. Louis community.
Most of our performances are presented without amplification. Sarah Bryan Miller of the Post-Dispatch recently commented on how attentive audiences are at classical guitar concerts (* below). Our audience members really listen! And by doing so we all experience the meaning of music-making at its finest. As the only area organization committed to furthering awareness and understanding of the many important roles of the classical fretted instruments, we feel that we are also both meeting a need for music-making on an intimate scale, educating our children and teachers, and developing new audiences for quality music.
We also offer a membership program to provide performance opportunities to area students and aspiring performers, free admission to the master class series, and the opportunity for social gatherings for those who love the guitar. We stand ready to serve as a public source of information on national and local guitar activities, and to assist area schools and other sponsoring groups in procuring artists for demonstration and performance. We continue to strengethen and diversify our activities with the aim, as always, of promoting the guitar and other fretted instuments (such as lute, mandolin, and flamenco guitar) as essential and vital elements in the cultural climate of greater St. Louis.
* see "Turn Down the Volume So You Can Really Listen," by Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 2000.