Three top young guitarists—Americans Adam Levin and Matthew Rohde, and Australian Scott Borg—have banded together to form the Kithara Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that aims to bring classical guitar to underserved communities.
“The mission is to bring the magic of the guitar through partnerships, performances, workshops, and residencies to communities in the U.S. and abroad that don’t otherwise have access to live music or music education,” Matt Rohde says. “These might include schools in many cases, rural communities, juvenile justice centers or marginalized communities and, of course, the connective tissue of our work is the classical guitar, which is a uniquely universal, versatile instrument and is a great medium for the kind of work that we believe in.”
In its inaugural 2015-16 season, the Kithara Project has decided to focus on two of its flagship programs—the first at Fiorentino Community Center, a Boston, Massachusetts-based community center, which opened July 21.
“[It’s built] to hold a variety of activities, but they didn’t have any music,” Levin says of the facility, where Kithara held a successful pilot program before its opening. “It includes a broad population of people from different backgrounds with limited resources, so we thought it was very neutral ground to build our first flagship program.” The second, a program based in Yuguelito, Mexico, where Rohde first had the pleasure of visiting last year while on tour with the state department, called “Empezamos Juntos” or “Let’s Start Together.”
“It’s a marginalized community at the heart of Mexico City that lacks access to running water, among other things,” Rohde says of the town. “In partnership with a local Mexican non-governmental organization, a university, and a radio station, we’re going to be launching the program.” The launch is scheduled for September 1, when Rohde and Levin will deliver at least a dozen guitars and offer a series of workshops and performances. To sustain the program, the project plans to partner with local guitarists and have them return on a weekly basis to teach classes.
Levin and Rohde backgrounds span wider than classical-guitar performance—Levin holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and Rohde pursued a graduate degree in international relations, which he credits as allowing him to find a “meeting point between international relations, global affairs, and music.”
Collectively, the founders recognized an opportunity to use the classical guitar as a gateway to address larger issues. “We’re talking about the relevance of Mexico in relation to the US,” Adam Levin says, “so in some ways we’re bringing in our interest in the political climate there and our neighbors [through classical guitar].”
The Kithara Project, which has no relation to the fine Texas-based Kithara Duo, plans to partner with various public and charter schools and collaborate with community organizations to make music more accessible to more students. Concerts and residencies in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York City, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, are also planned for the future.
“We want to challenge people to rethink the guitar,” Scott Borg adds. “What it means to be a performer; what it means to be an audience member; how the performer [interacts] with the audience and [makes] them active participants in the music-making process. Furthermore, what role can the guitar play in everyday lives.”
Among the programs Kithara has launched are Master Guitar-in-Residence, in which a well-established guitarists share conservatory-level teaching and coaching at elementary, middle, and high schools for a week; Introductory Musical Programs for teaching students the basics of classical music; In-School Visiting Artists who will perform and offer lecture-demonstration programs; and Webcast Student concerts. For more information, visit kitharaproject.org.