CANTON If Kent State Stark adjunct professor Adam Larison was sure of anything heading into the second annual Kent Stark Guitar weekend, it was that he was in for a ton of work. And he wanted the event to reach even more people.
As the weekend came to a by-all-accounts triumphant close Nov. 18 with a two-hour plus performance from renowned classical guitarist Judicael Perroy, Larison could confidently mark both those predictions as completed.
"The Cleveland Guitar Society is one of the best in the country and George Dean (instructor at Canton City Schools’ Arts Academy at Summit) works tirelessly to get high level guitar teaching in the Canton Schools," said Larison, noting that increased master classes and community outreach efforts defined the second year of the Kent State at Stark Guitar Weekend. "We can teach you in class, but it is different to see, at a high level, what you can do with the guitar."
Along with master class workshops and concert performances from world renowned classical and jazz luminaries like Perroy, The Nir Felder Trio, and Mickey Jones and Stephen, Guitar Weekend included performances from the Canton Guitar Society Youth Guitar Ensemble, the McKinley High School Guitar ensemble and participation from students from across Stark County.
Speaking at the end of the Perroy concert – which Larison, incidentally mentioned was the highest attended classical guitar concert ever at Kent State at Stark – Larison added that since a guitar is such an accessible instrument, the hope was to bring even more visitors who may not otherwise attend concerts by musicians such as those on the bill.
"The goal of the festival is to be educational as well as diverse in terms of styles (demonstrated)," Larison said. "I think the main goal has been to deepen the impact of (guitar) on the larger community."
Kent State at Stark Guitar Department and Studio Ensemble Coordinator Professor Erin Vaughn has been Larison’s right hand man with Guitar Weekend since Larison conceived the concept. Vaughn called this year’s lineup simply "humbling."
"Attendance is up overall and this is playing at a completely different level," Vaughn said. "For the last three days, we’ve seen the top 1 percent at what they do. It is amazing just getting players of this caliber here."
In some cases, booking was not nearly as complicated as it might seem.
"It’s a little bit special – I met Adam five years ago at a workshop and we have had this friendship, so I was very pleased to come here," said Perroy, a French born guitarist and teacher who has toured internationally behind eight albums interpreting the works of artists from Bach to Mel Bay.
Closer to home, Brett Amacher and his daughters, Mackenzie and Maggie, had a front row seat to the Perroy concert.
"My son, Callum, is a junior at Lake High School and plays guitar and is hoping to come here (Kent State at Stark) for music technology," Amacher said. "He was at (Perroy’s) master class, but couldn’t make it to this. And (Maggie) plays a little guitar."
Both girls gave the performance wide-eyed thumbs ups and Amacher said he hopes Guitar Weekend at Kent Stark continues for a long time.
"I hope they keep it going – it’s a great thing for the community," he said.