The classical guitar world lost one of its most distinguished and accomplished educators and advocates when Hector Quine passed away on January 1, 2015, two days after his 88th birthday.
Quine (known as “Bill” to many of his friends), was a key figure in the development of several college classical guitar programs in England, dating back to the late ’50s, and also wrote or co-wrote a number of seminal instruction books that are still enlightening guitar students and aficionados.
Born in London in 1926, his interest in classical guitar was piqued after he got out of the British Army in 1948. He purchased a guitar from a friend for two pounds and began taking lessons from a Russian teacher in London named Alexis Chesnakov, and through him, Quine encountered Dr. Boris Perott, also Russian, who at the time was president of Philharmonic Society of Guitarists. At one of that group’s monthly meetings, Quine met the 17-year-old wunderkind guitarist Julian Bream, who became his teacher for a period.
Bream taught Quine much about technique and theory, and also inspired his older pupil to get into making guitars—indeed, at his Wigmore Hall debut in 1951, Bream played the second guitar Quine built, and also used one on his 1956 album, Sonatina By Turina. In a 1983 interview with Nick Morgan, Bream recalled that the guitar “was made by a friend of mine, Hector Quine, who was an amateur maker, eventually Professor of Guitar at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He built it on his bedroom table! It had a certain bell-like quality I liked at that time. I didn’t play it very long, but it was different from any other guitar I played.”
In all, Quine built just eighteen guitars over about 20 years, as teaching became his passion and dominated his life more and more. In 1958, he started teaching guitar at Trinity College in London, and the following year he began his long association with the Royal Academy of Music, becoming that institution’s first Professor of Guitar and the first Head of Guitar for the school’s new Guitar Department. Through the years he taught many students—several of whom have gone on to be quite well known, including David Russell and Michael Lewin (who followed Quine as Head of Guitar at RAM, a position he holds to this day). Somehow Quine also managed to find time to teach at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the mid-’60s, and even took on students willing to commute to London from the Royal Northern College of Manchester to study with him. And beyond teaching generations of guitarists, he also taught many who became top teachers of the instrument as well, so it’s a legacy that will continue for many years.
David Russell commented to CG, “I was fortunate to spend some very important formative years with Hector Quine as a teacher. I went to London as a 16-year-old and Hector accepted me as a student. He was a kind and demanding teacher. He has left a strong legacy in the guitar world through his students. I will always be grateful for his support during the years I spent at the Royal Academy of Music.”
In a fond and quite comprehensive tribute to Quine on the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance website, Roland Gallery, who studied guitar with Quine in 1977, wrote, “As a teacher, Bill was always committed to the idea that the guitar should stand alongside instruments such as the piano and violin in terms of interpretative possibilities, and that it should be accepted as a concert instrument in the world of classical music. This approach mirrored the philosophy of Andrés Segovia, but Bill took it further by establishing general musicianship classes at the Academy in fingerboard harmony, ensemble playing, and chamber music with wind and string players. A wealth of publications by him appeared of transcriptions and arrangements for the guitar, and there was a series of arrangements for guitars with orchestral instruments to encourage guitarists to integrate with players of other instruments.”
One of Quine’s most popular and influential books was one he co-wrote with the great British composer Stephen Dodgson, called 20 Studies, originally published in 1965. This marked something of a departure from what few standard technique books existed at the time—it was specifically designed to supplement more traditional classical guitar studies and, as he noted in the introduction, was “written in the spirit of exploration.”
The fine guitarist and lutenist Rod Wilmott remembered in 2012, “I was studying with Hector Quine at the time that he was working on the studies with Stephen Dodgson, and [I] was used as a guinea pig trying them all out. I still have a copy of the scores from which worked before they were in print. I played a selection of them in my first Purcell Room recital; have they been played in public since? Hector was a good player—I remember hearing him at the Festival Hall [in London] in a performance of Britten’s ‘Gloriana’ on the night that Kennedy was shot [Nov. 22, 1963].”
Composer/guitarist Stephen Goss added in a recent email to CG, “Hector’s collaboration with Stephen Dodgson remains one of the great composer/pedagogue pairings in the history of guitar music. The studies and sight reading exercises they wrote together should be part of every guitarist’s education— systematic yet imaginative, progressive yet unpredictable.”
That adventurous streak coursed through many of Quine’s other books, too, including Modern Guitar Music (1970, it featured pieces by eight British composers), Introduction to the Guitar (1971), Progressive Reading for Guitarists (1975, also with Dodgson), 12 Transitional Studies (1980), Carols for Guitar (1983), and, most popular of all, Guitar Technique: Intermediate to Advanced (1990).
In Michael Lewin’s fond remembrance of Quine on the RAM website, he notes, “In many ways Hector Quine was the unsung hero of the classical guitar in this country. He never sought fame for himself, but his contribution to the serious study of the instrument will certainly outlive him and continue to inspire those who, like me, knew him as a teacher and a friend.”
Hector Quine is survived by his wife, Penny, and children Adrian and Francesca.
(Photo by Colin Cooper, c.1983, courtesy of the M.J. Summerfield Archives)