“I’m very happy that my U.S. debut has been here,” Snowden said. “I just like the vibe of the festival. It seems like it is very genuine and its heart is in the right place.”
Festival founder and director Harris Becker had been working diligently with Snowden to coordinate her visit. “I’m very happy that you’re all here,” Becker said at the start of the concert. “This is a wonderful event for the festival. We’ve tried to make this happen for a year-and-a-half. Laura was kind enough to tell me last year that she was going to have her U.S. debut at this festival, and that’s really special.”
While taking place on Long Island, about 30 miles east of Manhattan, the festival celebrated international music and culture through a wide array of high school ensembles, international musicians, college students and performances. “It feels quite student-oriented and oriented toward learning and helping young people, rather than anything too competitive,” Snowden said.
Snowden’s program included seven works by composers such as Fernando Sor, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Agustín Barrios, Lennox Berkeley, and Giulio Regondi, in addition to two pieces of her own. Discussing her work titled Anpao, Snowden explained that the piece was inspired by the early hours of the morning: “I have to say, [these hours] are not hours I am particularly familiar with, but I do occasionally get to experience them,” she said with a laugh. “[Anpao] is really about that very peaceful stillness you get in a busy city in the hours of four or five in the morning, when everything is quiet for once.”
Her other original work, L’étoile et la Rose (The Star and the Rose) was inspired by her childhood. During an intimate conversation with concert-goers, Snowden explained that after moving away from home she grew very nostalgic for her past and began to read books in French, particularly Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s, The Little Prince. “I really liked the imagery of the star and the rose,” she noted, “and that’s what this piece is about. In the end, the Little Prince shows the man how he has lost a lot of his wisdom in growing up, and I liked the idea of the star. The idea of possibility and wonder, and the rose is something tender… so I tried to combine those ideas.”
She went on to explain that the imaginative air to the piece stems from themes within the novel. “The book is quite surreal and it is sort of hard to understand sometimes exactly what is happening. So I tried to put that kind of ambiguity into the piece, as well, by writing some music where at times perhaps you don’t know if you’re hearing what you think you’re hearing, or just the music of your own imagination.”
The journey toward classical guitar wasn’t a set path for Snowden, who began playing the guitar when she was just nine years old. “It was more like I knew I wanted to be involved in the arts and something creative. I didn’t really mind or know what that should be, and then it was more like an opportunity arose to do that particular art form,” she said of her acceptance into the Yehudi Menuhin School of England, where her guitar tuition was made possible by a donation from the Rolling Stones.
Snowden’s accolades include winning First Prize at the Volos International Guitar Composition Competition and being commissioned by a multitude of groups. Her music, particularly her song “Live Free,” has been performed across 60 countries in over 300 concerts for charity. Snowden was chosen by Julian Bream twice, in 2015 and 2017, to give the Julian Beam Trust concert at Wigmore Hall in London.
On Saturday April 13 at the LIGF, Snowden led a master class in the Krasnoff Theater at the university, helping classical guitar students to spend time thinking about the music outside of the guitar, focusing on the connection between the mind and body.
“The physical act of playing is really difficult, so I also advise people to do a practice—anything from yoga to the Alexander Technique—something that helps with their whole body,” Snowden explained.
“Music is so subjective and I think it’s quite important to find what it is that you love. If you come across someone that inspires you or a thing that makes you excited, follow your nose and go towards that thing.”
When asked to describe her experience at the Long Island Guitar Festival, Snowden humbly smiled and recalled the joy she found in performing and teaching. Her words to describe the weekend? “Friendly and full of heart.”
Taylor Clarke is a journalism student at Hofstra University, and news editor of the Hofstra Chronicle.