Guitarist Matt Kaplan, as a benefit for his upcoming trip to Rome, performed a classical recital the evening of April 23, at the Church Farm School Chapel of the Atonement in Exton. Kaplan, an alumnus of the school, held the benefit in hopes to unite the campus and community for an evening of music. Kaplan’s goal is to continue raising for his trip in sponsorship with the Rome Festival Orchestra. In the following interview, Kaplan discusses himself as a musician and divulges more about the sponsorship.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the organization that is sponsoring this trip? How is someone selected for this opportunity?

A: The Rome Festival LTD has been offering musicians the chance to experience Rome for over 30 years. Musicians that get selected travel to Rome to play music with others for a couple weeks in the summer. Towards the end of their stay they even get to perform in a couple of concerts.

The Rome Festival requires that aspiring musicians mail in a CD of their music. I sent in a CD of myself playing a couple of solo classical guitar pieces, as well as a concerto with West Chester pianist, Dan Townsend. I recorded the CD for my application at Spice House Records in Philadelphia.

Q: How long is the trip? Is there a planned repertoire of music that you’ll receive prior to traveling?

A: I will be in Rome for about four weeks, give or take a couple days. The repertoire for the trip is actually up to me. Next month I have to send a list of pieces that I have prepared to perform. I have countless solo pieces in the guitar repertoire that I really enjoy playing, so it will be tough to decide. However, the Rome Festival will focus on my ability as a chamber musician so I will need to pick a couple of pieces that shows I can play with others. I have a couple of pieces for guitar and violin, double bass, flute, even marimba. I am really looking forward to playing Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Concerto No. 1 for Guitar and Orchestra.

Q: Can you tell me a bit of your history as a musician?

A: I started out playing jazz, blues, and rock, taking guitar lessons from Rich Zerby at Taylor’s Music in West Chester the summer before high school. When I decided that I wanted to pursue music in college, I made the decision to switch over to classical guitar. I then started to take lessons with Jeremy Hutson and Kinsey Sullivan who have both been through the guitar program at WCU under Glenn Lyons. I heard really good things about the music program at West Chester and I am really glad I made it my decision.

Q: How did you hear about this opportunity?

A: I remember seeing a flyer for The Rome Festival up on a bulletin board in the Swope music building last year. I thought that this was something I really wanted to do so I started learning the Villa-Lobos concerto for guitar so I could mail it as an applicant. When the deadline approached to enter in as an applicant for the summer of ’09, I decided that I was not ready yet. I am really glad I waited; I entered this summer and got accepted to do it, so the time definitely paid off.

Q: Have you traveled much before?

A: I have done some traveling before. The only two places I have traveled to out of the United States were Peru and England. I love to see new places and experience different cultures so I cannot wait to go to Rome.

From the looks of it, I will have a decent amount of free time while I am in Rome. Aside from practicing, rehearsals, and concerts, the Rome Festival plans time for musicians to visit museums, cultural centers, etc. I really want to plan time for myself to go out, meet new people, and explore the city. I think I will also be staying fairly close to a beach, so that will be really nice.

Q; What would you like to see in Italy?

A: I think I really want to see the Coliseum. I’ve only ever seen pictures of it and the architecture and history of it have always interested me. Call me a nerd, but I also really want to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is supposed to be one of the most epic churches in the world. I would also like to explore the city on my own and just get a feel for the local life. That kind of non-touristy stuff has always fascinated me, just to see how other cultures live their lives.

Q: What do you hope will happen from this experience? What do you hope to gain?

A: I really just want to take my music to the next level. Meeting other musicians from around the world will be an experience in itself. I think that while I am in Rome, the intensive performance schedule that I will endure will really challenge me in a way that I have not been challenged before. I can only imagine that being immersed in a city of music across the world with people that have the same passion as I do, can only be beneficial.

Q: What is your life like academically? What else do you do?

A: I am double majoring in music performance and music education. I play piano as my minor instrument. As much as I love to play, teaching is always a nice back up. Fortunately for me, guitar is really my main hobby (it is the only thing I’ve ever been halfway decent at). I really enjoy teaching guitar over at Richard’s Guitar Studio in Aston, PA. I teach students of all ages different styles of guitar (not just classical), which usually keeps me on my toes. Whenever I have free time I really like getting out to concerts, Phillies games, etc. I really love to play music with my friends whenever I can. My roommates and I are in a band called 20 Minute Tango and we have a pretty big gig coming up on May 7 at the Stadium Bar in Pottsville.

Tara Tanzos is a third year student majoring in English and minoring in creative writing. She can be reached at TT649875.

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