We are very excited to announce that we are expanding our lesson program to include classical guitar. Renowned classical guitarist, Gerry Saulter, will lead this wonderful program. Mr. Saulter stopped by our Smithtown location and I was fortunate to be able to ask him a few questions about the classical guitar and his vision of the future of this program at the Long Island Violin Shop. We discussed how well Spanish guitar works with other instruments, including orchestral strings. I was thrilled to perform with Mr. Saulter and was stunned at how beautifully cello and guitar paired. Please Click here to listen to our performance of ‘Caro Mio Ben’ by Tommaso Giordani.
What makes the classical guitar unique?
The classical guitar’s roots are in Spain, which is why it is also called Spanish guitar. Mr. Saulter pointed out a few unique features about the nylon string guitar, firstly saying that, “it is a very special and unique guitar in that it is played with all of your digits.” Modern acoustic and electric guitarists often use a guitar pick to strum out chords. To play the classical guitar, you must use all five fingers in your right hand to individually pluck out the strings. This is a wonderful technique that completely alters the performance of the guitar. Another unique factor about the nylon string guitar is, “like the violin or the cello, you teach and learn it [Spanish guitar], from the score of music”. While other forms of guitar may be based on chord charts and lead sheets, classical guitarists will read off of sheet music more similar to that of a classical bowed string instrument, aiding in the process of learning guitar for current string players.
What age did you begin learning the guitar?
“My introduction to the guitar was probably about 7 or 8 years old”, says Mr. Saulter. While this age may have been when he began the guitar, it was not the start of his musical education. Gerry Saulter first studied piano with his grandmother. From the beginning, he had his eyes set on a certain six stringed instrument, which was owned by his uncle. Yes, young Mr. Saulter was enchanted by the guitar but his parents were set on him learning piano. So, he struck a deal with them. It was decided he would first learn piano, and then could expand himself to the guitar. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the agreement ended up being extremely beneficial for Mr. Saulter. Once the guitar was placed in his lap, “could look at music, and read it”, no differently than a string player. For musicians who are already accustomed to reading sheet music, reading classical guitar music will come naturally. “That's the real magic of the Spanish guitar, that it's taught with such a high academic standing”, says Mr. Saulter.
What other extracurriculars can you pursue while studying the classical guitar?
“Well, interesting you should ask”, leads Mr. Saulter, “In addition to weekly lessons, once a month, there will be a guitar workshop ensemble as part of the guitar program coming to all three Long Island Violin Shop locations. What this will be is an opportunity for like-minded people to be in one place, perform for one another, have a sense of fellowship, and, in fact, be assembling a string quartet-like performance” shares Mr. Saulter. At each of the LIVS locations, included in the enrollment of the classical guitar program, students will be placed into a Spanish guitar ensemble. This ensemble will rehearse once a month, and have performances throughout the year. Additionally, “classical guitar works wonderfully with orchestral instruments”, shares Mr. Saulter. “My debut, in 1997 at Weill Hall, was with flute. There is an endless repertoire, going back 500 years, and new material being created all over the world today”. The nylon string guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, and its ability to function both as a melodic and an accompaniment instrument makes collaboration incredibly fruitful.
What advice would you give to someone who is unsure of whether or not to learn the classical guitar and enroll in this program?
“The first thing that comes to mind is to put the guitar in your lap,” says Mr. Saulter. “There is nothing like the embrace of classical guitar”. The size and shape of the classical guitar is slightly different than an acoustic guitar. The body is a slightly different shape, and smaller. The neck of the instrument is wider. According to Gerry Saulter, “It’s the perfect size”. “As you start to play and develop, you realize what potential it has”. Due to the different shape and that, “the strings are made of nylon and composite materials means that it’s very soft” shares Mr. Saulter. The sound of the classical guitar is one that is gentle, subdued, and simply enchanting. Even by just holding the instrument, and plucking out its open strings, its beauty is instantly recognized.
What drove your interest in the creation of this program at the Long Island Violin Shop?
“I think I approached Charles a good 15 years ago, and asked ‘What do you think about guitars, at least from a retail perspective?’” shares Mr. Saulter. And although the guitar program did not come into fruition all those years ago, Charles Rufino thought it a good idea.
Now, as the Long Island Violin Shop has become an educational center, as well as an esteemed store, an opportunity has created itself. Mr. Saulter likens this possibility with the chance to have “a Spanish guitar institute for Long Island in 3 unique locations”. With this, he goes on to share that his “goal is to see the guitar not be as fractured. With the pandemic and the closing of a couple of principal retailers, I feel like my instrument has almost been forgotten in this region”. With the opportunity to study classical guitar dramatically decreasing due to these changes, it makes this new program at the Long Island Violin Shop all the more important.
To hear Gerry Saulter play classical guitar with me, click here.
Article written by Erica Garcia