The fingerstyle guitar program encompasses styles as diverse as folk, jazz, and classical guitar. It will consist of four component activities: lecture demos by the artist faculty; masterclasses in which each student will perform a piece for critical feedback; one-on-one lessons with the artist faculty; and participation in an ensemble performance piece of a composition by the artist faculty.
Technical instruction will focus on improving fundamentals such as tone production, timbre, and dynamics, as well as making smooth transitions through challenging passages by utilizing position shift and guide finger techniques. During the lecture demos, we will analyze the rhythmic, harmonic, and overall compositional structure of one or more of the artist faculty’s original compositions. We will work with the Alex de Grassi Fingerstyle Guitar Method, as well as a variety of exercises and musical excerpts provided by the artist faculty. Be prepared to perform two pieces of your choosing.
Alex de Grassi
Alex de Grassi has been a unique voice in the world of acoustic guitar for the past 42 years. Often cited as one of the world's top fingerstyle, steel-string acoustic guitarists, his innovative approach to composing and arranging for solo steel-string guitar has influenced a generation of younger players. From his first solo performances in university coffeehouses and as a street musician to his engagements at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, de Grassi has followed his own vision and helped lay the foundation for contemporary fingerstyle guitar. The Wall Street Journal has called his playing “flawless”, and Billboard praised his “intricate finger-picking technique with an uncanny gift for melodic invention.”
de Grassi’s career has drawn acclaim for numerous studio recordings as well as for live performances as a soloist and within ensemble settings. His 1978 recording, Turning: Turning Back (cited by Acoustic Guitar magazine among their top ten essential fingerstyle recordings), the subsequent recordings Slow Circle (1979) and Southern Exposure (1984), and his GRAMMY®-nominated recording, The Water Garden, (1998) are considered classics of the genre. He has twice been commissioned by the New York Guitar Festival to compose and perform live scores for the festival's Silent Films/Live Guitars series. Festival director David Spelman says, “Alex de Grassi is a treasure… his technical wizardry as well as his vibrant and poetic music-making make him one of the most distinctive steel-string guitarists performing today.”
His latest solo studio recording, The Bridge (released in April 2020), features six new original compositions and arrangements of Gershwin (“It Ain’t Necessarily So”), Hendrix (“Angel”), and a pair of classic folk songs (“Shenandoah”, “Sí Bheag Sí Mhór”). The Bridge was recorded by multi-GRAMMY® award winner and TEC Hall of Fame engineer Leslie Ann Jones at the legendary Skywalker Sound studio in Northern California.
de Grassi has also taught masterclasses at the Interlochen Institute, Berklee School of Music, the Omega Institute, the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop, and the National Summer Guitar Workshop. He founded the Mendocino Summer Guitar Workshop near his home in Albion, California. His guitar transcriptions have been published with Hal Leonard, Stropes Editions, Tropo Music, and numerous guitar magazines. The Alex de Grassi Fingerstyle Guitar Method, a reference book on the fundamentals of acoustic guitar technique published by String Letter Publishing in March 2012, is being used as a primary text for the first fingerstyle guitar degree program at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where de Grassi is a frequent artist-in-residence. He currently resides in Ukiah, California, where he runs the guitar program at Mendocino College.