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thomas kirchhoff

The Altamira Guitar Festival in Shanghai or: greetings from Iserlohn

Every year more and more Chinese guitarists are travelling to Germany to participate the guitar festival in Iserlohn, one of the biggest guitar festivals of the world.

Because of some Chinese guitar students in Germany, the Chinese guitar company Altamira got involved into that festival. Since some years Altamira is supporting the guitar competition in Iserlohn with donated guitars as prices for the winners.

And this year this company organized a guitar festival in Shanghai! No wonder, that they invited a lot of teachers from Iserlohn.

Beside Thomas Kirchhoff and his wife (and duo partner) Dale Kavanagh, Gerald Garcia was there, too and made a big guitar ensemble with around 50 students. They performed the second movement of the piece “silver clouds chasing the moon” , Gerald has written for Jun Hong Kuang, an outstanding Chinese guitarist, and which was a performance in Iserlohn before. And there were other great western artists in Shanghai, too: Aniello Desiderio, Eliot Fisk, Eva Beneke, Emma Rush and Adrian Walter to name some.

And there were around 500 participants for the competition, but only very few students, who wanted to take masterclasses. I think the average were 2-3 students for each teacher during the whole festival. In Iserlohn it would be probably the opposite.

I went to the concert of the Amadeus Duo (Thomas Kirchhoff and Dale Kavanagh). They made an excited and spirited concert during a huge thunderstorm. The sound of the rain and the thunder outside increased the tension and the good atmosphere inside the concert hall.

Eva Beneke and Emma Rush were introduced as “the two Beauties”. They made a concert with wonderful, fantastic played music, but unfortunately there was a misunderstanding with the sound engineer: the sound engineer didn`t know the word for reverb in Chinese and translated it with loudness. So the microphone was turned off and only a few people who were sitting in the first three rows could hear the excellent performances. Sometimes it is really pitty if there are no professional translators!

The last evening was given to the price winners of the competition: a lot of very young and very good playing guitarists with astonishing performances. One may be seven year old girl opened the concert with the Vals Nr.3 of Augustin Barrios Magnore. Even she played not the real rhythm, it was incredible good and I really would like to sit beside in her guitar class and watch the lesson. How can such a young child learn to play such a difficult piece? Amazing!

More normal seemed to me the first and biggest price winner. His performance of the “Mozart Variations” of Fernando Sor was a little bit boring compared with the other very interesting performances, but perfect. (and he didn`t play the slow introduction, which is a part of that piece and important).

All in all it was a great festival and very new and very good to have such an event in Shanghai! Thanks to the Altamira company, whose leader again showed that industry and commerce sometimes can help to develop culture in a very successful and effective way.

The Guitar Symposium in Shanghai: Two lectures of Thomas Kirchhoff

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From May 22th through May 24th there was a Guitar Symposium at the Conservatory of Music in Shanghai with a lot of excellent concerts and lectures. Ye De Min, the guitar professor of the Conservatory and organizer of the Symposium invited a lot of extraordinary guitarists – like the young special talented Kang Jun Hong and the Japanese composer and guitarist Shingo Fujii, but also the German professor and organizer of the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium Thomas Kirchhoff to teach.
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I listened to two of his lectures and made a summary for you.
The first lecture was: “how to become a student for guitar at a German Music Academy”, the second lecture was: “how to develop a career with the guitar”
 
Thomas’ First Class:
How to study in Germany:

If you want to study guitar in Germany, you first have to find a Conservatory or a Music Academy and a teacher. You can find the website of each Music Academy by typing the www.hfm- (city of your choice).de. For example: If you want to study in Munich your address is: www.hfm-munich.de, or if you want to study in Detmold, the address is: www.hfm-detmold.de.
 
On the website of the Music Academy, you also can find a list of the guitar professors. It is strongly recommended to contact the teacher before the entrance examination. There are two times for entrance examinations each year. If you want to start in April (summer term), you have to sign up for the examination by December. The examination will take place in January. If you want to start in September (winter term), you have to apply by March and your aptitude test will be in June.
 
Before taking the test you should contact your professor. But please don`t give big gifts. This is not usual in Germany and will not help you. You can only give a small present like a box with Chinese tea or something like that, but that is of no importance and will not help you to get a better test.
 
Without playing the guitar, you need a second instrument and basic knowledge in ear training and music theory. And of course you have to understand and to speak German. The test for these subjects are different at each Academy, and some are easier, some are more difficult. You can find  more information on the website of your chosen academy.
 
The tuition fee in Germany is generally very low, so if you have around 1000 Euro each month you can live very well as a student. Students are allowed to work beside their studies too. Most of the guitar students have jobs as a guitar teacher at several music schools.
 
Foreigners are allowed to earn up to 400 Euro each month. For a German visa you also need to verify that you have a balance in a bank in Germany. The amount of this deposit changes from year to year, so please inquire about the current requirements.
 
A lot of Chinese think that it should be an advantage to study first in China, but for the subject “classical guitar” that is not true. The German guitar professors like to have young and flexible minds. You only need your high school preparation. But on the other side, there is no age limit in Germany. Theoretically you can study until you are a grandfather, if you find a professor who takes you. Sometimes this is easier or more difficult.
 
Sometimes there are 50 students who want to start at the same semester with the same professor, but only one place. And other times there are only four students who have applied for the entrance test, and three free places…that is luck…
 
Thomas Kirhoff`s second lecture: “how to develop a career with the guitar”
 
Most important beside good skills is your individuality. All the famous good players play differently. It is not necessary to win a lot of competitions to be a successful concert guitarist. People who can win the prizes in competitions are not always successful with playing good concerts. A lot of guitar players with great names never won any competition.
 
As important as your skills and your personality are “Vision and Will.” That means you need to have a vision of what you can give to the world and where you want to be several years later. You have to be realistic: are you made for the big international stages or more for to play in a restaurant?
 
If you know what you want to be, you need name cards, a website and a CD. It is better if you already have planned your second and third CD. And then you have two possibilities: one is to manage yourself and the other one is, to find a good manager to help with the details.
 
And it is very important not only to try once. If you really love what you are doing, you will try a lot of times and do not give up so fast. Being a musician takes persistence.
 
And if you want to make a living from concerts, you have to see what kind of other requirements you have. To become really rich playing guitar, is not easy or almost impossible. But if your requirements are not too high, it is possible to live a happy life with playing guitar.
 

The Guitarsymposium in Iserlohn

The whoole week is over and I didn`t have any time to read my emails or to write something in my blog. Now sitting in the train to my mothers home the days passes through my head. Every day was full with guitar. Every evening we listened excellent and outstanding guitarconcerts. It is difficult to decide which of the concerts was the best. The first one was on Saturday before the festival really started. Irina Kulikova, the winner of the International Guitar Competition in Iserlohn 2008 made a wunderful performance followed by the Romero brothers on Sunday. On Monday Alvaro Pieri from Uruguay played a phantastic concert. For me he is the most special and outstanding guitar artist I know. From Tuesday there were mostly three concerts every evening, so we came back to our guesthouse always very late, but that doesn`t mean that we didn`t make any parties at night…..

 

During the daytime we could participate the masterclasses or compare guitars from different guitar builders. There were also a sheetmusic exhibition were I bought a lot of music. The most famous names of the teachers  who were teaching the masrterclasses: Eli and Ann Kassner, Gerald Garcia, Oscar Ghiglia, Alvaro Pierri, Tom Johnson, Roman Viazovskiy, Danielle Cumming, Hans-Werner Huppertz, Dale Kavanagh, Los Romeros, Ulrich Stracke, Andrew Zohn, Laura Yong, Irina Kulikova and last but not least the Baltic Quartett and more very good players I didn`t remember the names …..

 

The composer Gerald Garcia made a beautifull piece special for the festival essemble. The performance of that piece were on Saturday evening and a full success.

Beside participating the activities we enjoyed delicious food and could socialise with the other guitarplayers who came from more than 48 countries over the whole world . Thanks for Thomas Kirchhoff  the organisator of that symposium for his great job!