When George Sakellariou became the first member of the guitar faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1964, he was a 20-year-old acolyte of Andres Segovia and his new employer a respected regional outpost of classical pedagogy.
When Sakellariou took the stage of Hume Hall at 8 pm on October 11, he opened a gala concert in celebration of the 50th anniversary of a guitar department known for unparalleled eclecticism and excellence at an institution now considered among the elite American conservatories.
Under the guidance of department chair David Tanenbaum, 46 performers treated the ebullient crowd of fellow musicians, aficionados, and well-wishers to a game of musical chairs at its finest.
Current faculty member Marc Teicholz performed “Capricho Catalan” by Isaac Albeniz in an arrangement by former faculty member Michael Lorimer, a parallel repeated when Larry Ferrara played two movements from Dusan Bogdanovic’s “Jazz Sonata.”
The Mobius Trio – alumni Mason Fish, Matthew Holmes Linder, and Robert Nance – gave the world premiere of the evocative and engaging kalimba-inspired “Thinking Songs” by alumnus Santiago Gutierrez Bolio.
Tanenbaum, who led 24 current students in a compelling performance of Leo Brouwer’s “The Sky, the Air and a Smile,” returned to the stage with Teicholz, Ferrara, and faculty member Sergio Assad to perform selections from Federico Moreno Torroba’s “Estampas.”
Richard Savino, the department’s early music specialist, led his ensemble, El Mundo, in music of the early baroque by Domenico Mazzocchi and Francesca Caccini.
Also performing were alumni Jonathan Mendle and the Living Earth Show (Travis Andrews and Andy Meyerson) as well as current pre-college student Ashwin Krishna, whose performance of Villa-Lobos’ “Etude No. 7” thrilled the audience.
Bass guitar, sazouki, arch guitar, harp guitar, and both acoustic and electric steel-strings seasoned a foundation of classical instruments when the exhilarating game of musical chairs concluded. Alumni Tatiana Senderowicz, Antoniy Kakamakov, Giacomo Fiore, Nahuel Bronzini, and Adrian Murillo, along with current student Zoe Holbrook, joined the current faculty under the baton of David Tanenbaum to perform Sergio Assad’s “Wednesday at Sugar,” whose title alludes to the nearby bar where the guitar faculty congregates.