Andrew York - GRAMMY-winning Composer and Guitarist

Monterey Bay is a very beautiful part of California. The festival takes place on the CSU campus, which is located on the now defunct military base of Fort Ord. It is a twilight zone of a location, but half a mile away the multicolored dunes transition to the pacific ocean.

My old friend Russ De Angelo came with Roland Dyens to the festival. Russ runs the La Guitarra California festival in San Luis Obispo, and has had me twice to his festival. Russ is extremely knowlegdeable about fine wines and will often show up with a magnum or two, endearing himself even more to his friends.

Scott Morris and I had a debate about the distance of the two parking lots to the dormitory, each of us claiming the other was closest. So I invoked the Pythagorean theorem to prove my case. QED.


Maui 2015

Ben Verdery asked me to teach with him at his Maui Masterclass that he presents each year in July on this beautiful island. This was one of the best experiences I've ever had. We stayed in Kihei, on the Haleakala side of the island. If there is a paradise on earth, it must be in the Hawaiian islands.

There were four concerts during the week, at four different churches around the island, and the first evening was across the island near the town of Paia. Ben, Ian O'Sullivan and I shared the first concert, and at the end of the show played Ian's arrangement of a Hawaiian piece. Ian lives in Honolulu and teaches at the University of Hawaii, and he is a cool cat.

This is the church for the first introductory concert, which kicked off the week. I pretended to be king of Maui for a moment.

This is the view from my hotel in Kihei. Each night the wind would rise, and the ocean surf and the swaying palm fronds would compete to see which could sound best. Not a bad vista from this angle - and the other side of the hotel looked out toward the Haleakala volcano.

Here is the whole group of students and teachers in front of the main church in Makena, which is right on the water. You can tell by the faces of all the students that they are very happy to be there. Each day Ben and Ian and I would teach the students in this church. Behind us are John and Gioia Olsen, who took care of the logistics of the event.

In the Aloha spirit we always wore no shoes while teaching, an entirely barefoot masterclass. On the left is Brandon Wong, who is one of my regular students in Los Angeles, working on Sunburst. When he played it for the student concert people went crazy. On the right I am giving a lesson to Nathania.

The Werdegar brothers, Ben and Zak, figured prominently at the festival. Their parents, Helen and Maurice, were super hipsters and wonderful to get to know too.

During some free time, a drive up above the clouds to the top of Haleakala. Maui has two volcanoes, Haleakala (House of the Sun) and Hale Mahina (House of the Moon). While up on top of Haleakala, the clouds parted for a moment and we could see the big island of Hawaii shining in the sun.

It was wonderful to hang with Ben. Each night after teaching all day, Ben and I and Annie would sit on our lanai overlooking the ocean and drink wine and talk until late into the night. Ben's energy and creativity is boundless, and he enriches the guitar world beyond measure.

The students played as an ensemble in two of the concerts, and here we are rehearsing my new ensemble composition "Playground".


Playground was performed by the students twice, at two different locations on Maui. Here is a video of the first performance, at the Jodo Mission Buddhist temple in Lahaina. They rocked.

Ben and Ian took all the students on a hike in the west Maui mountains to visit some waterfalls and swim in the pools. Here I am in the jungle, perched on a rock above a pool, sunburned like a lobster but very happy.

Mama's Fish House! An institution on Maui, Annie and I were treated to an exquisite dinner there. The food is exquisite, the location breathtaking, and the experience unforgettable.

So, each year there is a mustache competition for the students. It is a tradition at the Maui class. This year, Aaron Cardenas won, perhas not only for his prowess in mustache-growing during the week, but also for his hula courage in dressing in a grass skirt and top.

After the two weeks were over, and everyone from the class had gone home, Annie and I took the road to Hana, around Haleakala, visiting waterfalls and ending up on the dirt road back around to the Kihei side of the island. It amazes me how islands have zones of vastly different climates so close to each other. We went from rainforest to arid desert in just a couple hours of driving, and every change was a study in beauty. A wonderful end to the trip. Goodbye Maui, until next time.


Albuquerque 2015

Lynn McGrath invited me to the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival in June 2015. She also arranged a commission for me to compose a new ensemble piece for Guitar New Mexico. I wrote "Playground", and it was premiered here in Albuquerque (it was also performed in Maui a couple months later, above).

But first, the drive across the desert from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Stopped by chance at the Bagdad cafe, and realized it was where the movie of the same name was filmed. If you have seen the film, you will recognize these landmarks. The hotel sign is still there, and the cafe, but the old hotel building is gone. Only the sign remains, a poetic reminder of old route 66 from a bygone era.

A stop at the old west town of Oatman, Arizona, where burros freely roam the streets.

Finally at the festival, for my concert I premiered a brand new solo composition I had just completed - The Equations of Beauty. Six movements, 26 minutes long, it is inspired by my love for mathematics. I dedicated the piece to my friend in Germany, Johannes Tonio Kreusch.

During my encore, the fire alarm went off, and no one moved for a while. Finally I stopped playing, and we all left the building and went out into the New Mexico desert evening. Luckily there was no fire, but some audience members told me it was my fiery playing that had set off the alarm. I liked that.

Students from around Albuquerque converged on the festival to take part in the ensemble, to rehearse and perform "Playground", the piece I was commissioned to write for the festival. We rehearsed for a couple of days, and then they performed at the final concert, where I conducted the premiere of the piece. The students worked hard, played very well, and I enjoyed their spirit.


I got to visit my old friend Michael Chapdelaine and his girlfriend Suzanne. Michael is an incredible performer who also teaches at the University of New Mexico. Michael literally gave me the shirt off his back when I spilled coffee on mine. It was one of his favorite Hawaiian shirts, and it is the shirt I am wearing while conducting in the photo above to the right. Thanks Michael!

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I also did an interview with Brent Stevens for KHFM classical radio while in Albuquerque. We had a very nice chat on the air, and beforehand. For some reason they have a life-size Bugs Bunny in their studio. Here we are with Jeremy Mayne, a good guy who took care of me and drove me around while at the festival.

I love New Mexican chili, both red and green. You can't get it anywhere but in New Mexico. When I am there, I will eat chili three meals a day. How delightful to find that within walking distance from the hotel was the Range Cafe, one of my favorite chili spots. Here is a bowl of their green chili stew . . .

Lynn McGrath had the biggest posters imaginable made of the artists. I love a poster you can hide behind. On the right, here are all the artists and staff of the festival. Lynn McGrath is third up on the right, with artists Rene Izquierdo, Roberto Capocchi and Craig Russell, and organizers Paul Nielsen and Mickey Jones, and more . . . thanks to you all!