Performances, master classes taught by professionals, a competition and a night for local musicians to showcase their prowess are all part of the West Texas Guitar Festival set for Thursday to Saturday at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788 in Midland.
Del Castillo will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on the Wagner Noel main stage. Tickets are $25.
Locals’ Night is set for 7 p.m. Friday, also on the Wagner Noel main stage. Admission is free. And Tavi Jinariu will play at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Rea-Greathouse Recital Hall at the WNPAC. Tickets are $15.
Del Castillo will conduct a master class at 10 a.m. Friday at the Rose Building, 415 N. Grant Ave.
Iren Arutyunyan will be the judge and she and Jinarui will be included in the master classes on Saturday. The registration fee for the master classes is $40 and includes a T-shirt, workshops, master classes and admission to all the concerts.
The competition will include solo and ensemble categories. Prizes are everything from gift cards to a concert.
Dan Keast, festival organizer and associate professor and chair of music at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, said this is the ninth year of the festival.
Administrative Assistant Yvonne Drinkard said the Locals’ Night features guitar programs from around Odessa, plus elementary through college students.
“We show the growth from the elementary all the way up through the college students, so the audience gets the scope of the life and trajectory of where they might be going,” Keast said.
Keast said he tells participants to tell everyone they know to come out for Locals’ Night because it’s free and open to the public and the performers are going to be on the same stage as Willie Nelson or Jerry Seinfeld. It concludes with a mass ensemble.
“… Kids realize they’re part of this history. They see the signatures on the wall,” Keast said.
It gives the youngsters motivation to practice and for the time leading up to the festival, they’re giving that extra bit of practice, he added.
Keast said when he looked Arutyunyan up online when he was selecting performers, he noticed that people described her as a world-renowned teacher.
“Everybody said something about her being an amazing and well-adept teacher. Normally, people just go, ‘Wow. Amazing performer; unforgettable performance.’ This one was ‘unforgettable teacher.’ So instead of saying let’s get her as a teacher, I thought let’s go for her as a judge,” Keast said.
Drinkard said judges are always asked to write comments so the teachers and guitarists can see how they did and what their teachers can work with them on.
“It may be something they didn’t hear,” or they might have to work on being calmer, Drinkard said.
“I think she’s going to give some really great feedback to the kids,” Drinkard said of Arutyunyan. “The whole point of this is it’s a learning experience (for the kids). I want them to walk away with something that says I had fun and I learned. Even if it’s one thing, that’s a success in my book.”
She added that the performers are usually motivated to do whatever the organizers ask.
“A lot of times students get the performers to sign their guitars. … It’s something they can keep forever,” Drinkard said.
Another good aspect, Drinkard said, is that the festival is for all ages and skill levels.
“Even if you just walk away with one or two new skills, but you have a good time it’s successful. They could make new friends. … You see them hanging out together, talking about what they’re playing. They might sit back in a corner and play together. It’s really a bonding experience. It’s not just classes. I think the kids really bond with each other,” Drinkard said.
UTPB guitar student Adrian Madrid will be giving a master class Saturday, participating in the contest and giving a solo performance as a result of winning the college division last year.
Madrid said performing is scary, but it feels good when you’re done and realize you’ve done a good job. He added that he struggles a lot with anxiety before he plays, although Keast said he looks calm.
“It’s a weird experience, almost spiritual,” Madrid said. “It sounds kind of hippy, but it is. It kind of changes the way you play after, your thoughts after.”
Madrid has been playing classical guitar for five years. He started playing acoustic rhythm guitar in church and didn’t learn classical guitar or to read music until 2012.