Connecticut Guitar Festival expands its reach internationally through virtual performances

Music is meant to be shared and while the COVID-19 pandemic has altered life significantly, it hasn’t robbed us of music.

While the Suzuki Music Schools’ fourth annual Connecticut Guitar Festival (CGF) will be running virtually this year, the coordinators took the pandemic lemons and made them into a sweet lemonade with this year’s lineup.

The three-day festival, which runs March 5 to 7, features performances, master classes and educational panels with guitar players from around the world. It will include performances by Rami Vamos, Benjamin Verdery, the festival’s artistic director and classical guitarist Mak Grgic and others.

“It definitely helped us gain access to international artists without travel and scheduling concerns. On opening night we have four in-demand female artists performing at our annual Kickoff Concert: Camila Meza, Sus Vasquez, Badi Assad and Ana Vidovic.

“I don’t think we could have gotten these particular guitarists together on one stage on one night without the magic of the internet,” festival promoter Lory Ambrosini said.

“It also allowed us to stretch out in certain areas locally as well, like turning our annual student guitar orchestra project formally into the CGF Guitar Orchestra and allowing a wide swath of Connecticut guitar teachers and their students to participate because we could now accommodate an unlimited number of players.”

Holding the festival virtually has some benefits, such as allowing the festival to have international performers and more control over the sound quality of the performances, but Ambrosini said hosting the festival over the internet removes some of the “human connection” from the event.

“The concept of the festival is to bring people together of all ages, across all styles and genres, to share their love of the guitar, trade tips and show off each other’s work. In the end, nothing truly replaces that raw physical interaction and energy,” she said.

However, Ambrosini did say the festival might keep some of the virtual components even after the festival is able to resume in-person performances.

“Moving forward, I think it will always be a component. It’s a lot less hectic. Usually I’m juggling venues, artist travel delays, sound issues and an assortment of last- minute hiccups. Now, we just have to make sure the power is on and the internet connection is solid,” she said.

When asked why it was important for the festival to continue this year, Ambrosini credited the Suzuki Music Schools’ mission to make music accessible to the public.

“As a classical music school in an environment rich with rock, blues, Latin and world music, the CGF allows us to reach across the genres and unite the community together around a common instrument.

“The guitar is wonderful for this purpose because heavy metal guitarists borrow from classical players, rock artists from Latin and so on,” she said.

“Guitar players have a mutual admiration for each other that can be both unique and universal. It allows Suzuki Music Schools to bring everyone together under one tent.

“We did not want to undo the strides we had made in building these connections in our community.”

The festival is free and attendees can register online to attend at connecticutguitarfestival.com.

tinamarie.craven@hearstmediact.com