Columbus State University's Guitar Symposium begins Saturday

Andrew Zohn, the Columbus State University professor of guitar, is feverishly putting last-minute details into place as he gets ready for the ninth annual Columbus State University Guitar Symposium this weekend.

And even as he's getting ready for this weekend, he's aware that next year's 10th anniversary is going to be special.

"I can't think about next until I'm done with this one," he said last week as he conducted a fretwork class with three of his students.

But he promises something special for next year's symposium.

Right now, there are eight students in the guitar studio, down a little because several of his students graduated last semester.

Chad Ibison, a sophomore from Houston; Joseph Palmer, a junior from Dallas and Robert Sharpe, a senior from Albany, Ga., were in the class.

When asked how important an event like the Guitar Symposium is to a student, Ibison, simply said, "Extremely." Ibison said he gets to compete against other guitar students from around the country as well as international students.

The master classes featuring professional guitarists and guitar professors are also very important to him.

Zohn also said this is a good way for his students to meet their future colleagues.

His own performing partner, Canadian Jeffrey McFadden, was someone he met while both were students competing for the same prizes.

Sharpe was a high school student studying with Zohn, who was then teaching at Darton College in Albany. When Zohn came to CSU to teach, Sharpe came, too. He's been to eight of the events.

"The most exciting thing about this year is the incorporation with the Columbus Symphony," Sharpe said.

Zohn worked with CSO conductor and music director George Del Gobbo to bring the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet to perform the same weekend as the symposium. Zohn will also perform a solo guitar piece, "Fantasia para un gentilhomme" by Rodrigo, during the concert.

It's a real opportunity for the casual orchestra-going person to listen to classical guitar, Zohn said. And it's an even greater opportunity for students to hear guitars with a symphony orchestra.

Even though Ibison is just a sophomore, he's done a lot of traveling, competing in various competitions, including the Guitar Foundation of America, where he was one of the semifinalists last semester.

"That was one of the greatest times I had in my life," he said.

This year, Zohn said, so far, there are 120 people signed up for the symposium from 30 states and guitarists from as far away as Chile and Switzerland.

Though CSU is the host school for this symposium, the competition is tough. Mark Edwards was the first CSU student to make the finals last year. Edwards is now in graduate school.

IF YOU GOWhat: The ninth annual Columbus State University Guitar SymposiumSaturday: Registration, 8-10 a.m. First round of competition, 10 a.m. Master classes with Matteo Mela, Lorenzo Micheli and Douglas James, 2-5 p.m. Know the Score lecture by George Del Gobbo, 6 p.m. (must have a ticket to the 7:30 p.m. Columbus Symphony Orchestra concert). CSO concert featuring the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet and An drew Zohn,7:30 p.m.Sunday: Level 1 competition semifinals, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Master classes with Andrew Zohn, Jeffrey McFadden and Joseph Hagadorn, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Competition finals, 4-5:30 p.m. Recital featuring Rucco James Duo and SoloDuo, 7 p.m.Where: RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, 900 BroadwayTickets: All events are free except the Saturday CSO concert ($21-$35; $10 student rush tickets 30 minutes before the concert; $5 for children 11 and younger) and the Sunday concert ($10).Information: 706-256-3612