Artist Profile and Interview: Marc Teicholz

American virtuoso and 1989 Guitar Foundation of America Winner, Marc Teicholz has been heralded by the Los Angeles Times as, “technically gifted and musical to the core.” An active performer, recording artist, chamber musician, and teacher, Marc seems to have done it all. He’s collaborated with some of the world’s greatest musicians, premiered countless new works for guitar, and given masterclasses all over the world. He teaches at Cal State University at East Bay and is also part of the esteemed faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and has taught there for many decades.

On a personal note, the first time I heard Marc play was on his GFA tour where he received both a standing ovation and my instant admiration. Years after that, when I moved to Oakland, Benjamin Verdery insisted that I look Marc up. We’ve been great friends ever since. Over the years that I’ve gotten to know him, besides being the great guitarist who seems to learn massive amounts of repertoire from one day to the next, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of both his guidance and his friendship. It’s a treat to finally feature him here where he shares insight and some advice with Six String Journal readers. Enjoy!

Personal

When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially? 

I was drawn to the guitar through American folk music and singing songs around the campfire.  My first musical heroes were Pete Seeger and Joan Baez.  I found a local music store in Berkeley, CA (where I grew up) that offered guitar lessons.  The teacher was primarily a classical guitar teacher who told me that learning classical guitar would prepare me for any kind of music that I might want to learn later (totally untrue, by the way!).  But when she played for me a few bars of Villa-Lobos (I later learned), I was instantly hooked.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? 

I don’t want to specialize.  I enjoy playing a variety of music. I think my tastes are usually a bit old-fashioned although I can think of a few times where I have gotten involved in some contemporary chamber music projects that I really enjoyed even though they involved playing music that I wasn’t initially attracted to.  So I think it is important for me to occasionally try music that is outside of my comfort zone.  

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

 I am ashamed to say that I currently own eight guitars. But I try to be loyal to each of them!  I usually perform on either my cedar top Stephan Connor or my Spruce/Cedar double top Glenn Canin, especially when I am concerned about issues of projection and volume.  But I have performed on all of my guitars.  I get emotionally attached to them which makes them hard to sell even though I obviously don’t need that many.  I usually play on hard tension D’addario strings although some guitars sound better with other strings.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

Some of the many players that I have listened to obsessively include: Pete Seeger, Glenn Gould, Julian Bream, the Assads, Yo Yo Ma, Vladimir Horowitz, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Itzhak Perlman.  And although he is not as famous as the others, violinist Ian Swensen has also made a big impact on me.  But it would be presumptuous of me to say that these players have influenced me other than to say that they have put me in my place. 

What recording/s are you most proud of? 

I am not proud of any of them but recording “Valseana” was very exciting because I was exposed to so many amazing guitars and it was a lot of fun to choose the “right” guitar for each piece.  

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar? 

The two records that come to my mind are Bream’s Granados and Albeniz album and his 1st duo album with Williams.  The 1st pieces on each record (the Granados Dedicatoria and the Lawes duo) sounded so creamy and lush that they sent a shiver down my back.  

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

I am currently involved in recording some videos for a new website called “Guitar by Masters” which allows guitarists to study the pieces in an interactive way.  I have so far recorded 3 pieces by Sergio Assad (Imbricatta, Phyllis’ Portrait, and Seis Brevidades.)  I am glad I have had this opportunity to promote these great pieces.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

I try to practice a lot and irregularly.  I usually tailor my practice to whatever performing obligations I have in front of me.  But in these last few pandemic years I just starting to go down my wish list of pieces that I have wanted to learn.  As far as practice methods are concerned, I usually go back and forth between playing pieces through and practicing in tiny little pieces.  There are endlessly different ways to practice.  I think each way has their advantages and disadvantages. 

Are there aspects of guitar technique or performance that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

I struggle with everything!  Every area of my technique could be so much better.  

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory? 

 I have tried different methods but I don’t have a magic bullet and still struggle with memory slips.  I would say the one that probably works best for me is to learn the music in little bite-size bits.  Thomas Viloteau wrote in his technique book that we can only focus on seven little things at a time.  I think that sounds about right.  

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I have published a book of my fingerings of some of Sor’s greatest “hits” and a book of my fingerings of Sergio Assad’s arrangements of Ernesto Nazareth.  I have made a lot of transcriptions. Perhaps I will try to publish some of those.

Do you have a favorite drill or set of exercises you use to warm up?

I like to sight-read new music to warm up.  I also like to play very slowly at first.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I like to take a nap in the afternoon.  But I enjoy naps anytime!  I used to make funny faces in front of a mirror backstage in order to loosen up but I haven’t done that for a while.   But I probably should because I think it helped.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger aspiring players? 

I think practicing should be fun and interesting because most of us have to do a lot of it.  I try to feel like I am learning something new about the music or my technique each time I practice.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I think students should listen to as much music as they can (as long as it doesn’t become a burdensome chore.)  They should be able to recognize all the main pieces in our repertoire.  Most of the music they play should be pieces that they are excited to play but I think they should also try some music that is outside of their immediate interests in order to experience the feeling of broadening one’s taste.  It is also helpful to learn pieces that develop their technique.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?  

That is probably an outdated question.  I listened to all the Segovia, Bream, Williams and Parkening recordings when I grew up (to name just a few) but that is not how people listen to music these days.  But all of the professional musicians I know have a passionate relationship to the music (and not just guitar music) they listened to when they were young.  I think that is the most important thing.  

Tangent

What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s? 

RIght now, I am reading a book by Walter Isaacson called “The Code Breaker” which is a biography of Jennifer Doudna.  She helped pioneer the technique of CRISPR which is form of genetic engineering that has many amazing and terrifying implications for the future.  But I like to read almost anything.  I loved the book that you once recommended to me about searching for buried treasure under the sea (“Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea”.)

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I like to walk.  And listening to you tell me about your long runs makes me sweat.  I don’t have a favorite pre-concert food but I always enjoy cookies!

Do you meditate in any way? 

I have tried some breathing exercises.  I think they are a good idea but I am not disciplined about it. 

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I like to walk and read.  I started doing jigsaw puzzles during Covid and they are addictive.  Netflix gets too much attention.  I like annoying my daughter.  I like playing duos with you!

Any thing else you’d like to add?  

I am just very grateful that I have had the guitar in my life.  Although there have been many times when I have been frustrated with my limitations, its struggles and pleasures have given meaning to my life.  It has allowed me to meet many wonderful people, it is special to have an activity that combines all together the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of life, and I like feeling that there is always so much more to learn.

Website: Marc Teicholz

San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Marc

Recording: Valseana

Leo Garcia plays Etude Nº1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos

Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Twelve Etudes form part of the foundational pillars of modern guitar technique. Etude Nº1 in E Minor begins the cycle by setting an impressionistic harmonic stage for the evolution of the remaining eleven.

This particular etude has right-hand fingerings suggested by Segovia which over the years I’ve used but I like experimenting and have recently found that I like a different pattern. Each pattern yields a slightly different feel. Here I am using p m p i p m p i p m p i p i p i but also warm up using many others. I love working on this etude and come back to it often when I have lots of time to practice. Try these patterns to see if any work or to simply improve your command of the instrument.

p i p i

p m p m

p a p a

p m p i p m p i p m p i p i p i – I use this one in the video above.

p m p i p m i a i a i m p i p i – I find this one to help with the transition into each measure. Honestly, I think it is the best one for me but I need to be warmed up for it to feel great.

p m i a p m i a p i p i p i p i – I think this one is nuts but I saw someone do it really well.

p m p m p m p m p i p i p i p i – This one retains the natural right hand finger position in relation to the thumb.

Any others that you all use?

I’ll try to get a video post of chaining to show how you can practice at tempo. It’s a valuable practice technique for a piece like this.

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Leonardo Garcia plays Vals sem nome by Baden Powell

I first stumbled upon Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell’s recording Estudos while scouring the listening library at my high school. It was hard to resist the immediate appeal of his Vals sem nome (Waltz Without a Name). I sat in that listening room for hours afterwards until the librarian kicked me out that night and went back the next day armed with a cassette to record it. His music has captivated me ever since.

New Series: My Favorite Fernando Sor Etudes, Part 1

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)

Every now and then, I find myself in a sight-reading mood and will pull out the complete Etudes by Fernando Sor. I could spend hours enjoying their perfect structure, their ingenuity, or the wonderful musical moments where Sor charms you by introducing a key or harmony you did not expect. Like a calm path in the forest, there may be something out of the ordinary to draw our attention but just enjoying the path in and of itself is reason enough to be there.

Though many of you are probably familiar with the 20 Etudes by Sor that were curated and published by Andrés Segovia, there are many, many more etudes that he wrote that range from simple to profound. Covering so many musical and technical concepts, they are valuable pieces to those fortunate and patient enough to study them. One great joy as a teacher is to introduce one of Sor’s etudes to a student and have them react with excitement or anticipation that they’ll someday extract their beauty from the guitar.

Anyway, enough rambling!

I decided to start pressing the record button while sight reading to eventually compile a series of videos so that younger and less experienced players get to hear some of the etudes I find particularly nice. I’ll include pdfs below and maybe I’ll even make a video or two demonstrating how I like to play them to develop technical flexibility.

I hope these videos help you discover some new nice little gems.

Previous post about Fernando Sor:

Expanding Sor Etudes

New Publication of Three Fernando Sor Etudes

Please support Six String Journal content creation! Shares, likes, and comments are welcome. : )

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Artist Profile and Interview: Celil Refik Kaya

celil_refik_kaya_june_2013_photo_orhancemcetin_5534Young Turkish guitarist, Celil Refik Kaya, is taking the guitar world by storm. He has won numerous victories in some of the most important international guitar and concerto competitions with displays of stunning musicianship and brilliant technique.

In addition to playing some of the most demanding repertoire with what seems like a magical touch, Celil is a prolific and gifted composer as well, and equally at ease playing with top notch orchestras as he is playing solo.

In the interview below he shares some insight and tips with Six String Journal readers about his musical journey so far…

 

When did you start playing and why? What drew you to the guitar initially?

I started playing guitar when I was six years old because my father used to play classical guitar and many other instruments. He has been professionally playing Rebab which is a traditional Turkish bow instrument. My father was my first teacher and when I heard him play, the sound of the guitar was magical to me and not comparable to any other instrument. The year that I started playing guitar I wanted to be like Andres Segovia and John Williams who were my childhood idols. Besides playing classical guitar, I play many other traditional Turkish instruments such as Rebab and Oud which I learned from my father.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

I enjoy playing 20th and 21st century South American composers as well as 20th century Spanish composers. Besides those, I enjoy playing my own compositions.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I have guitars made by Garreth Lee and Glenn Canin. Both are phenomenal guitar makers. I play both of my guitars depending on the setting of the concert. In fact I recorded my first album Jorge Morel Guitar Music from Naxos, with Gary’s double top guitar which has incredibly beautiful warm sound. I recorded my second album with Glenn’s guitar and it features the music of Carlo Domeniconi which will be released by Naxos. For both of my guitars I use D’Addario EJ46.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

As a performer I was influenced by Andres Segovia, John Williams, Alicia de la Rocha, Maria Callas, Itzhak Perlman.  As a composer I admire Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Ponce and Tedesco.

What recording/s are you most proud of?

To me every recording has its own unique quality.

Which recordings do you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

Recordings that I have done with producer and guitarist Norbert Kraft were the finest I would say. When we listen to all of the Naxos guitar recordings that Norbert recorded, they all sound phenomenal.

What are some up and coming projects you are excited about?

I will be recording the last two volumes of Agustin Barrios Mangoré which I am very much looking forward to. Starting from September 2017, I will be a fellow of Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. I was recently invited for this prestigious fellowship program and I am looking forward to my performances in D.C. as part of my fellowship program.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

How much I practice really depends on my schedule and what is coming up. I practice as much as I need to which can really change according to the importance of the concert or difficulty of the new piece that I include in the program. When I competed in competitions, I practiced about 8 hours a day which I divided as 2 hours arpeggios and scales and 6 hours repertoire. For concerts I practice 2 to 3 hours a day.

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

Not in terms of technique. In terms of musicality every dedicated musician grows musically until the end of their lives.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I memorize the pieces naturally very quickly. Therefore I don’t have a specific method that I use for myself. For my students I recommend them to read the music from the end to the beginning or sometimes making them play specific passages of the piece only. Because most of the time, guitar players play with the muscle memory rather than really knowing what notes or fingering they play and this can cause many problems such as memory slip and lack of control.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

My transcription of Valses Poéticos by Enrique Granados was published by FDP publications in Austin and my original works such as Sonatina, Longing, Suite of the Witches and Dream were published by d’Oz publications in Canada. I am working on the next projects for publishing including some of my solo guitar pieces and chamber works.

Do you have a favorite drill/routine you use to warm up?

I generally warm up with playing passages slowly from the pieces that I am going to play in my concerts.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals? 

I usually eat a banana and chocolate before performing. It significantly helps the energy and concentration.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Practicing consciously and slowly. Whatever they are practicing, awareness of every single note and its quality should be the goal. Sometimes when a young player practices, they continue playing even if the passage is not perfect. It is very beneficial to have a self critical mind in that sense.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I am always a fan of traditional classical guitar repertoire rather than only new works. There are many composers that young players don’t play anymore and I consider them the core of the guitar repertoire. Turina, Tedesco, Ponce, Torroba and many others are fantastic composers who wrote the skeleton of the guitar repertoire. Their works are not only challenging both musically and technically but they are also audience favorites. If a person hears classical guitar for the first time, it is very likely that they will like 20th century Spanish composers. What these composers achieved with the emotional expressivity of their works is not replicable.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

Every young guitarist should be familiar with the recordings of Andrés Segovia, John Williams, and Julian Bream. Today, the level of guitar playing is so much higher than before, but the foundation of the guitar technique and soul is hidden in those recordings. To understand rhythmic stability and inner pulse they should listen Williams. Although the aesthetic of musical interpretation has changed significantly, Segovia’s playing conveys great musical expressivity. Listening to these artists provides a great foundation. Besides listening to other great guitar players, learning harmony, counterpoint, music analysis, listening to orchestral recordings, chamber works, and great instrumentalists (non- guitarists) will transport young players to another level. After a certain point it is important to listen to more non-guitar recordings.

Tangent

What is the last book that you read? 

The last book I have read was “A Composer’s World” by Paul Hindemith.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food? 

I don’t follow a particular diet but I am trying to eat everything in balance. Since I am Turkish, the majority of the time I eat Turkish food and my wife loves it, too. Before concerts, I don’t have a particular pre-concert food as long as it is not too heavy.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I like to spend my time in coffee shops with my wife reading books and sometimes composing. Besides that, I also practice Wing Chun which is a branch of Kung Fu.