Congratulations are in order for our friend  Mesut Özgen—virtuoso guitarist, composer, educator and director of the highly successful Miami International GuitART Festival, the next edition of which will take place at Florida International University School of Music (where he is the head of Guitar Studies) from February 20–26, 2017.  MIGF and FIU were recently named as winners of a Knight  Foundation Arts Challenge award, given this year to “44 artists and projects aimed at exploring the authentic voices of South Florida and bring art to the neighborhoods from Key West to Palm Beach.” The $55,000 grant will help Özgen and the MIGF “honor Miami’s Cuban heritage by dedicating the Miami International GuitART Festival to Cuban music and creating cultural exchanges between Havana and Miami guitar orchestras,” he says. “One of the conditions of the grant is to find funds to match Knight’s commitment. Once we have raised the matching funds, the MIGF will present world-class artists from Cuba and all around the world, including the Havana Guitar Orchestra, as well as a tribute concert to the legendary Cuban composer Leo Brouwer in February 2018.” (If you’d like to make a donation to help match that grant, click here.)

In other MIGF news, December 20 is the deadline for entries to its solo guitar Composition Competition. You can find the competition guidelines here; entries cost just $15 per piece. The winner and runner-up will be announced in January, and the top prize-winner’s piece will be played at the MIGF in February. Among the many fine players appearing at the festival are Muriel Anderson, Evan Hirschelman, Celil Refik Kaya, Celso Cano, and, of course, Özgen himself.

Below is a duo performance by Özgen and Cano right before last year’s MIGF: