Attending the 2023 GFA Conference in NYC

I recently returned from the GFA Conference in  NYC. It was a wonderful experience, aside  from living in a dorm for the first time in 50 years. Actually the dorm wasn't as bad as I feared. 

The level of guitar playing was awe inspiring, including watching 10 - 12 year olds tear thru mind boggling works with ease. Some of the highlights for me was seeing concerts by Marcin Dylla, TY Zhang, Jason Vieaux, Gabriel Bianco, Sharon Isbin, and SoloDuo (Lorenzo Micheli duo). I also attended ( not as a participant). Master classes by Judicial Perroy (which include Emmanuele Sowicz) and Jason Vieaux. I also saw several performances of the semi finals and watched the Finals for the GFA guitar composition. "it was great to see Marko Topchii win, though I would have been hard pressed to decide who was the best, they were all so good.

I ran into Emmanuelle several times and met Steve Goss once. It was fun seeing faces from our Tonebase livestreams. 

I also had private lessons with Helen Sanderson (Head of guitar at Wesh Music Academy) , Denis Azabagic and Marcin Dylla, who I was especially excited to meet with. All were very supportive and accommodating my less than stellar playing. They all were very helpful and I will be working on those pieces over the next weeks.

I didn't spend much time exploring NYC as I was very busy attending activities and trying to prepare for my lessons. I did explore a little of Columbia U and vicinity and the riverside park along the Hudson River - both near the Manhattan School of Music.

It was a great experience and I am very glad to be home (and not sleeping in a twin bed and sharing a bathroom!).

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  • That all sounds like a guitarist's heaven, Jack! I am quite envious, particularly of the lessons you were able to have. Thanks for sharing this, and I am sure that we will all be able to hear the fruits of the experience here in your posts.

    By the way, I wouldn't feel too bad about not seeing much of the city. I live in Rochester, NY, which is about a six hour drive from NYC. In my whole life, I have only spent two days there (zero nights; the days were non-consecutive). I am just not a big city kind of guy. The idea of vacationing in NYC has very little appeal to me.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
      • 5 mths ago
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      Eric Phillips 'hear the fruits of the experience ' - bad apples? sour grapes? Durian?

      BTW I do like NYC and have been the recently with m family. Being in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life I like exploring restaurants and food in general. There is also a lot to see I terms of museums etc. That being said, it has its limits. I can get burned out after a few days. Probably the trick is to visit for 2-3 days with specific things to see then get out.

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  • Fantastic Jack, it looks like you got an awesome experience there! I remember in the 90' when the GFA came here twice and I had the chance to participate in different activities, it was a great experience. I'm happy you had the chance to meet all these great guitarists and especially Emmanuel Sowicz who also participated in the competition.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      Blaise Laflamme It was a great time. I was waiting to get into the Perroy masterclass when I looked at the person next to me and it was Emmanuele. He looked very familiar then it occurred to me who he was. He also seemed to recognize me. We attended a couple of concerts together and and ran into each other in between events. It was nice running into people I know from Tonebase.

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  • Thanks so much Jack for giving us an overview of your GFA experience in NYC.  I鈥檓 sure it was an inspiring adventure.  It鈥檚 awesome that you took advantage of private lessons. In the future when you post works that you had lessons on, it would be fun to have you comment on your experiences with the lessons and specifically what you were trying to accomplish in your submissions.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      Marilyn Blodget The lessons were a real treat. I think the last lesson I had was a masterclass I had with Sharon Isbin in the late 1980's. I agree posting objectives on pieces I plan on presenting in lessons would be a great idea. But then that would require rather uncharacteristic forethought on my part.馃檪

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    • Jack Stewart Ha ha!  But just think 鈥 we could all learn something from your experiences, and you could immortalize what you want to remember, before you forget.  

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  • Thanks for sharing Jack you鈥檙e a lucky guy 

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
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      Vilio Celli I am pretty fortunate for being able to attend GFA in NYC, even if I did spend 7 nights in a dorm! (It has been 50 years since I had that experience.)

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  • I have attended three previous GFA conferences and they have all been worth the time. The most recent one I attended was in 2018. It was fun to fall down the rabbit hole of the vendors. I think I visited the booth of every luthier there and brought home a new guitar. I listened to the broadcast of the finals this year and I believe the judges made the right choice. While all the finalists were excellent in their technical presentation, I feel that Marko Topchill had the best selection of repertoire and a lot of audience appeal. Based on the comments from Martha Masters - he was no stranger to the competition. The other finalists were much younger and I am sure we will see more of them as they continue to mature, especially Kevin Loh.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
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      Martha Kreipke Wow! 3 GFA Conferences! That is great, Martha. This was my first GFA Conference. I also attended the First Classical Guitar Congress in 1986. As far as I can tell, it may have been the only one. I don't see any other mention of subsequent Congresses on line. It was very similar in that it had a wide array of the top guitarist of the day, though there were no competitions. I just re-listened to the finalist (YouTube) and I think Topchii deserved first but I am still blown away by Loh and Liu as well.

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    • David Krupka
    • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
    • David_Krupka
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    Sounds like a great experience, Jack! Private lessons with Denis Azabagic (I presume you mean) and Marcin Dylla! (I'm not familiar with Helen Sanderson.) That sounds fantastic!  (Dylla is one of my personal favourites). Did you get any advice on playing without nails from any of these teachers?

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      • Jack Stewart
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      David Krupka Yes, Denis Azabagic - thanks, I have corrected that. Marcin Dylla is also one of my favorites, it was really great to have a lesson with him and see him in concert. Azabagic gave me some suggestions for working around poor nails that I may try. I still miss using nails.

      I just heard that GFA is going to be in LA next year, so I might try to attend that as well, especially since my daughter is there. 

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    • Immanuel
    • Immanuel
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    Thanks for sharing your experiences Jack. Did you attended any technical workshops held each morning. Did you attend any lectures (if yes were they very academic or of interest to the average player?)

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
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      Immanuel Immanuel I didn't attend any technical workshops but I did attend a lecture on Angelo Gilardino by Luigi Attademo. I found it interesting, academic in a positive sense. I also attended a couple of masterclasses (not as a participant), Jason Vieaux, Judicael Peroy (Emmanuel Sowicz was one of the participants)  and Sharon Isbin. All of those MCs were excellent. I also attended a guitar comparison (they sampled about 20 guitars playing the same 30" selection  on each for the sake of comparing the different guitars. That was interesting as well, however, next time I would take notes. I had 3 private lessons, so I opted out of many of the lecture/ workshops in order to practice. 

      Apparently the next GFA is in Los Angeles. I think Tonebase should try to make a presence ( attention: Mircea)

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      • Immanuel
      • Immanuel
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      Jack Stewart hanks for the response. I am thinking of going next year so this is all very helpful. Any reason you didn't do a technical workshop? Did you hear anything about them. The schedule looks really full.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
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      Immanuel The schedule was very full with some things overlapping. Since I had to concentrate on practicing for the lessons I was fairly selective in what I attended. I tried to attended one of the technical workshops with TY Zhang but it was really full, so I left. I saw some of the competition early on and attended the final competition. Those were humbling. I highly recommend going. I will probably try to go next year. Our daughter lives in LA so maybe I can convince my wife to come.

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  • Sounds like it was very productive. Glad you re-experienced all those great nights as a youth living in the dom

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