Ball State’s Annual Guitar Festival showcases professionals and students

The Daily News

Ball State’s Annual Guitar Festival is showcasing a slew of talented classical guitar artists for its three-day event. This year’s festival, which is celebrating its 25th year, includes performances by the School of Music’s Classical Guitar Ensemble, Paul Reilly and Daniel Lippel. 


Reilly, a professor and coordinator of music performance, performed the opening night for the festival on Sunday with scores that reached from composers of the late 1600s to contemporary artists. 


Reilly said he has been studying the classical guitar since he was a teenager. His office is decorated with posters and photographs of some of his favorite classical guitarists, such as Julian Bean and John Williams, and his passion for the classical guitar is a characteristic that seems to define him.


Reilly said he enjoys performing for audiences, especially when he takes it to distant lands. Taiwan is a place he’s had the chance to tour multiple times, and he enjoys showing audiences what he’s made of.


“There’s just a certain excitement about being on the road,” Reilly said. “Meeting new people, performing in different halls ... you just keep getting better.”


Before he took up the classical guitar, he studied jazz guitar when he was about 10 years old. In college, he worked in Chicago jazz clubs, but he eventually started to focus on  classical guitar more when he realized that the jazz atmosphere was not what he was looking for. He found himself working until getting smoked out every morning at 3 a.m. and then attending class at 8 a.m. He also felt repelled by the drug usage in the jazz scene.


“Back in Chicago, every place you went to there was drugs involved,” Reilly said.


But Reilly isn’t the only accomplished guitarist to perform in the festival. The guest artist for the Master Class portion of the event is critically acclaimed musician Daniel Lippel, who will perform Tuesday. Lippel has been part of a few recordings under the New Focus Recordings label, based in New York City. His playing garnered rave reviews.


The Chicago Reader said,  “Lippel manages to wow us with his instrumental prowess.”


In addition, the Chicago Tribune said, “Daniel Lippel is sturdy and reticent. At first glance, one gets the impression of a young Marlon Brando; he is exceptional in his craft but he does not ham it up. The apotheosis of the modern guitarist ...”


Practiced Ball State students in The School of Music’s Classical Guitar Ensemble will also perform a number of duets, trios and quartets today. While most college-aged guitarists are learning “Smoke on the Water,” this group is seeking after classical guitar masters that reach far past 80s metal. 


Reilly said that the festival will bring light to these artists and genre of music. 


“It’s an important event for guitarists at Ball State,” Reilly said. “Hopefully they’re going to go to the concert and learn something from me and from the guests.”


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