Portland's own Peter Zisa, leading Pacific Northwest classical guitarist, accepted my invitation Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2014 to an interview about his music. Here's what's up for Zisa before his spring concert season is set in motion.
Catherine Garvin: Tell me the current state of affairs for the classical guitar in the Pacific Northwest?
Peter Zisa: The centers of classical guitar in Oregon and Washington is largely centered in Portland and Seattle area.
Opportunities for local classical guitar concert performances are concentrated at universities, colleges, libraries, cultural art centers, and community centers.
These performances are largely attended by guitar aficionados, classical guitar students, and teachers.
An important community organization and sponsor in Seattle and Portland is the local guitar society. In Seattle, the guitar society caters to only classical guitar; they sponsor a performance series.
The Portland Guitar Society (PGS), in contrast, is a non-profit organization that celebrates “all things guitar”; that is, PGS supports guitar related events of all styles of music: classical, jazz, latin, flamenco, blues, country, and folk.
The PGS monthly meetings presents a general forum for guitarists - professional and amateurs - to share their music with each other; each meetings also presents a distinguished featured artist.
PGS serves as a sponsor of the Portland Classic Guitar Series, the Instrument Showcase, and community performance events.
Garvin: How do you divide your time up with your performance schedule, teaching, recording and composing, etc?
Zisa: Good question. Balancing time between all of these endeavors is most challenging. Between the regular teaching hours I schedule in my practice and rehearsal time.
Scheduling rehearsal time with other performing artists is perhaps the most challenging, simply because we all have tough schedule. Currently I am working on completing two recording projects.
Composing is largely restricted to time between terms, when I have the most time available. My interest in other musicians has also prompted me to help arrange, promote, and help find sponsorship for community musicians and guitarists.
Garvin: Are you preparing have any performances scheduled soon? This summer music festivals?
Zisa: In the past few years my performance schedule has provided mixture of solo and ensemble work.
In addition to solo performances in the NW and southern California, I perform with my performance group Thousand Waves, a world music group featuring Japanese koto, violin, flute, percussion, and guitar.
The musical style ranges from classical (Bach, Tedesco), to latin (Piazzolla, Powell, Jobim), to traditional music from Japan and Korea. In addition, I have had the pleasure and honor this past year to perform with Ida Rae Cahana & Pink Martini, a number of wonderful Jazz artists.
This spring I have performances a scattering of small concert performances; most notable is an April performance with Ida Rae and LeeAnn McKenna for Friends of Chamber Music, with Thousand Waves at Chehalem Cultural Community Center.
Garvin: What's your favorite guitar to play right now? Why?
Zisa: My favorite instrument is my eight-string 1986 Jeff Elliott. I fell in love with ira powerful resonate tone and its wide range of tonal variety.
I call my precious guitar “Octavia." Jeff Elliott and his partner Cyndy Burotn are Portland treasures. Jeff, an internationally known luthier.
Garvin: Is there a classical concert series in Portland? When and where?
Zisa: In Portland, Marylhurst University hosts the Portland Classic Guitar Series managed and organized by William Jenks.
This series has included many notable classical guitarists of international reputation, such as John Williams, Angel and Pepe Romero, Martha Masters, the LA Guitar Quartet, as well as the exciting new generation of guitarists such as Ana Vidovic, Eduardo Costa and Jason Vieux.
Garvin: Name your favorite top 5 classical guitarist in Northwest? The world?
Zisa: Ah this is most difficult. While I treasure the memories of hearing Segovia, Bream, Ghiglia, Rey De La Torre, and Pepe Romero, there are many younger I am greatly enjoy listening to - Lily Afshar, Ana Vidovic, Martha Masters, Jason Vieux, and Eduardo Costa.
Costa is one of my favorites for a variety of reasons. Besides great technique, Costa performances convey thoughtfulness, passion, as well as a respect and consideration for his audience. His playing is authentically expressive and insightful - lots to admire.
In the NW, well that is harder. So many of the finest guitarists here are dear friends - David Franzen, Scott Kritzer, John Mery.