Andrew Zohn is one of the finest guitarists I’ve ever heard. It’s not like I’ve heard every world-class guitarist, but I’ve heard my share covering the arts for many years.
I do know that Andrew is a world-class guitarist. And that we’re lucky to have him at the Columbus State University Schwob School of Music.
The Schwob School and the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians asked a true “guitar hero,” Sergio Assad, to compose something new for the CSU Guitar Ensemble.
Assad wrote “Suite Brasiliera.” The world premiere of the piece will be Sunday at Legacy Hall in the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.
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Andrew’s students, Chad Ibison, Arash Noori and Donovan Butez, will be playing “Suite Brasiliera.” Another Assad piece, “Menino,” will be played by guitarists Christopher Atkins and Todd Holcomb and cellist Harrison Cook.
Todd send me a list of questions that he said he and some of the other students wanted to ask Assad.
I e-mailed their questions, along with a couple of mine, to Assad overseas. With musicians in different countries, it’s easier to do interviews this way. I really don’t like to, but sometimes, it’s got to be done. These are questions that the students asked.
When did you start composing?
I started as a songwriter when I was 13 to participate in my high school music competition. It was a surprise to find out that I could actually do it. If you can create melodies as a start point you can develop into the more complex craft of being a composer later.
What are your influences and has your time in America had any influence?
I’ve been pretty much driven by my instrument and growing up I heard all sorts of guitar playing from Julian Bream to Wes Montgomery. On the other hand, Brazilian music had nourished a lot my sense of harmony and melodies. The ’60’s and ’70’s musical movements in Brazil, such as the bossa nova and the tropicalismo had also to do with blends of our traditional music with the French impressionism and guided me through a long stretch of time in my composing life. We are the result of what we are exposed to and in that sense American jazz and minimalism have also given me tools to deal with.
Do you find the guitar to be your ideal medium for composition?
Yes! It is the instrument I know the best and I think the guitar, besides being an excellent solo medium, can also have a role in chamber settings comparable to any keyboard instrument.
How do you see your career going in the future? More composing, performance based or both?
As I grow older I feel that I must dedicate more of my time to composition. Composing requires full dedication and it is quite difficult to maintain both careers running simultaneously. At this time in my life I think I’ve done a lot in terms of playing but haven’t done as much as I think I could in terms of writing.
Having traveled all over the world, what are your favorite places and experiences?
Places and people are extremely different and their reaction to a performance are dictated by their culture. We cannot expect a Japanese audience to react like an European or a Latin American one. By cultural similarities with my background, I would prefer the Mediterranean sort of reaction that I find also in the Brazilian culture.
Sandra Okamoto, email@example.com or 706-571-8580.