Look toward the Long Center for the Performing Arts beginning Tuesday and you're likely to see hordes of guitar-carrying folks.
Just don't expect to find any volume and tone control knobs or pickups on any of those guitars.
That's because these guitar-welding masses - nearly, 1,000 of them - are here in Austin and at the Long Center for the Guitar Foundation of America's annual convention and competition, the largest gathering of the classical guitar industry in the world.
Hosted this year by the Austin Classical Guitar Society - the nation's largest classical guitar organization - the nearly weeklong event attracts most major performers on the scene as well as producers, industry professionals, luthiers (guitar makers), composers and just about anybody else whose business is the classical guitar.
And then there are the more than 100 emerging professionals who have entered this year's competition. The prize is quite literally career-making: a solo CD recorded and released on the Naxos label; a yearlong tour of approximately 50 concerts throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and China; a Carnegie Hall debut; $7,500 in cash; and a DVD recording.
The six-day festival culminates in a public concert that determines a winner. (Preliminary and semifinal performances are open to convention registrants only.)
Matthew Hinsley, executive director of the Austin Classical Guitar Society, began pitching the idea of bringing the foundation's convention and competition to Austin more than five years ago. 'The opening of the Long Center two years ago tipped the scales for us,' Hinsley says. 'It's really important to have one central venue where everything can take place. And we'll be using every stage and corner of the Long Center.' Large public concerts will be in Dell Hall, competition performances will occupy the smaller Rollins Studio Theater and the Kodosky Lounge will play host to a vendor fair.
It was also important to Hinsley that if he was going to bring the foundation and its crowd to Austin, he was going to do it Austin-style and make the festival as accessible and as open and as generally appealing as possible.
And that means that the ever-popular children's performers the Biscuit Brothers will be joined by the Grammy-winning LA Guitar Quartet for a children's concert. And so that no guitarists take themselves too seriously, Hinsley's invited Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to set up its Rolling Roadshow screen on the Long Center Terrace for a free screening of 'Crossroads,' a 1986 film starring Ralph Macchio. Macchio plays a young classical guitarist smitten with the blues who sets out to find the root of famed bluesman Robert Johnson's supposedly magical talent. And while the movie screens, comedy troupe Master Pancake will performs its signature live spoofing.
LA Guitar Quartet member William Kanengiser, who is also a Guitar Foundation of America board member, is down for that. And not just because he was Macchio's classical guitar coach for 'Crossroads' and also the actual guitarist on the movie's soundtrack.
'This particular festival is a great chance for the often parochial classical guitar world to reach out to a wider public and get new fans energized about the music,' says Kanengiser. 'And Austin is the perfect city to do this in. It's kind of a no-brainer for us to bring (a classical guitar convention) to a city like Austin.'
Kanengiser calls the guitar 'the ultimate universal instrument,' a musical calling card for any audience.
'A version of the instrument exists in just about every world culture,' he says. 'And it's the ultimate pop instrument, beginning with its roots in the Spanish Renaissance and in flamenco, which was the popular music of the time. Originally it was really a folk music instrument, and yet concurrent with its folk status (over the centuries) it has also had this serious art music side.
'In a way, the allure of the guitar is that it is both things - a pop instrument and a serious classical instrument - and if you ignore either side of it you miss out on its potential.'
'Austin Goes Classical'
8 p.m. - Pepe Romero. From the so-called 'first family of classical guitar' of southern Spain, the one-time teen prodigy is now arguably the senior ambassador for the instrument. Romero will play an all-Spanish program. (Concert will be live broadcast by KMFA 89.5 FM.)
11 a.m. - 'Austin Stars: Tom Echols, Isaac Bustos and Steve Kostelnik.' Local top talents play program ranging from Bach to the world premiere of new piece by Peter Lieuwen.
4 p.m. - Jorge Caballero. The Peruvian-born up-and-comer returns to an Austin stage.
8 p.m. - 'The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote,' LA Guitar Quartet with Phil Proctor.
With multimedia visuals as backdrops, actor Phil Proctor plays 12 different characters as he recites from Cervantes' masterwork while the LA Guitar Quartet plays music from the time of Cervantes. 'It's almost like a live radio drama,' says quartet member William Kanengiser. 'The story drives everything, but the music reacts to everything. The music puts you in the harmonic and rhythmic world Cervantes was in.'
10 p.m. - 'Crossroads,' Alamo's Rolling Roadshow screening with comedy troupe Master Pancake Theatre on the Long Center Terrace. Free.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema sets up its giant Rolling Roadshow screen on the Long Center Terrace for a free screening of 'Crossroads,' a 1986 film featuring Ralph Macchio. Macchio stars as a young classical guitarist smitten with the blues who sets out to find the root of famed bluesman Robert Johnson's supposedly magical talent. Lest anyone take the somewhat campy movie too seriously, comedy troupe Master Pancake will be on hand to perform its signature live spoofing of the film. And William Kanengiser of the LA Guitar Quartet - who was Macchio's guitar coach for the film and actually the guitarist on the soundtrack - will be there to indulge the crowd with a few stories.
11 a.m. - Florian Larousse and Berta Rojas. Larousse won the GFA competition last year. From Paraguay, Rojas is a longtime champion of South American composers. She plays a program featuring music of Agustín Pío Barrios, an early 20th-century Paraguayan composer.
4 p.m. - Ourkouzounov/Ogura Duo. Guitarist Ourkouzounov and flutist Ogura play their own compositions as well as Béla Bartok and Ggörgy Ligeti.
7:15 p.m. - GFA Youth Fest Orchestra. A giant youth guitar ensemble plays 'Powerman,' a new piece by Austin composer Graham Reynolds inspired by the classic Marvel comics character, and Roland Dyens' 'Austin Tango.'
8 p.m. - 'Local Heroes: Miró Quartet with Adam Holzman.' Austin's internationally recognized string foursome teams up with Austin master Adam Holzman for a program ranging from 18th-century classics to recent pieces by Argentine composer Jorge Morel.
4 p.m. - Ana Vidovic. The young Croatian guitarist performs music by tango great Astor Piazzolla and Italian modernist Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
8 p.m. - 'Flamenco Wizard: Grisha.' A Russian virtuoso of Spanish flamenco guitar? You bet. The critically acclaimed Grigory Goryachev, aka Grisha, plays Paco de Lucía, Vicente Amigo, Manolo Sanlucar, among others.
1:30 p.m. - Children's Concert: Biscuit Brothers with the LA Guitar Quartet. Everyone's favorite Austin children's musicians are joined by the LA Guitar Quartet. $12 general admission.
4 p.m. - Ronn McFarlane. Lute is the cousin of the guitar, and lutist McFarlane plays classics along with his own compositions.
8 p.m. - Austin Symphony Orchestra with Pepe Romero and the LA Guitar Quartet. A stellar program features LA Guitar Quartet performing 'Interchange,' a new work by guitar great Sergio Assad that seamlessly blends classical, jazz, samb and flamenco styles. Then, Romero returns to the stage to join the orchestra for Rodrigo's Concierto de Arangjuez. Peter Bay conducts.
11 a.m. - Marcus Tardelli and the GFA Festival Guitar Orchestra. The Brazilian guitarist plays an all-Brazilian program with participating festival musicians.
4 p.m. - Katona Twins. Two is better than one when the Hungarian-born twins Peter and Zoltán Katona play Spanish and Italian guitar classics.
6:30 p.m. - International Competition Finals. The "American Idol" moment of the classical guitar world when finalists compete for the grand prize.
What: The Guitar Foundation of America's International Convention and Competition along with a six-day concert festival
When: Tuesday through June 27
Where: Long Center for the Performing Arts, 711 W. Riverside Drive.
Cost: Individual concerts: $17-$52. Build-your-own ticket packages offer 5 percent to 15 percent off. Children's concert with the Biscuit Brothers $12. Screening of 'Crossroads' free.
Festival information: 300-2247, www.austingoesclassical.org
For tickets to main events: 474-5994, www.thelongcenter.orgwww.thelongcenter.org