>> Video: UTSA music student Michael Cohen
(Video by UTSA Video Production Services: Ernest Hernandez III, James Borrego,
Dwayne Feuerbacher and Spencer Jones)

UTSA students compete in Southwest Guitar Festival

By Kris Rodriguez
Public Affairs Specialist

(Feb. 4, 2009)--This week, the UTSA Department of Music hosts the 2009 Southwest Guitar Festival featuring concert performances and student competitors from around the world. The first-place winner will receive $5,000, while the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers will receive $2,500, $1,500 and $1000, respectively.

Among the 35 competitors are four students from the UTSA Department of Music. Representing UTSA are graduate students Jesse Garcia, Michael New and Tomas Vela and undergraduate student Michael Cohen.

A UTSA senior and San Antonio native, Cohen took up classical guitar after learning to read music and taking music theory classes in high school. He chose UTSA for its music department and the close-knit faculty who provide one-on-one instruction.

To prepare for the competition, Cohen has spent six hours a day practicing the required piece "Nocturno" by Federico Moreno-Torroba, as well as the second piece he selected, "Songe Capricorne" by Roland Dyens. For Cohen, it's his first competition and he looks forward to the week ahead.

"It's going to be exciting going up against some of the top talent in the world, and I think it will be an eye-opening experience that will show me the demands required to be a top acoustical performer," said Cohen.

According to Cohen, the festival brings the spotlight to San Antonio's music community and allows the city to receive more national attention and continue to grow musically. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master's degree in classical guitar with an emphasis in performance.

In addition to the four-day competition, the festival will showcase the UTSA music department's top faculty with the opening concert at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Arts Building Recital Hall.

The evening features the World Premiere of "Triqueta for Guitar, Horn and Chamber Orchestra," composed by UTSA Professor James Scott Balentine. The piece will be performed by UTSA Assistant Professor Matthew Dunne and conducted by UTSA Associate Professor Eugene Dowdy.

At 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5, Nicaraguan Isaac Bustos, a runner-up in the 2007 Southwest Guitar Festival Competition, will perform in the UTSA Arts Building Recital Hall. At 7:30 p.m., Bosnian guitarist Denis Azabagic, winner of 11 international competitions, takes the stage.

The Southwest Guitar Festival is presented by the UTSA Department of Music and co-sponsored by Arts! San Antonio, City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs, San Antonio Chamber Music Society and the San Antonio Symphony.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the Southwest Guitar Festival Web site.

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