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23 years of International Guitar Night

Australian-born guitar player Stephanie Jones got into the guitar because she thought it was “cool.” It wasn’t necessarily a pursuit of playing like a particular artist she admired, or learning a certain style or genre; she just dug the instrument. Raised in a musical family but never forced into lessons of any kind, Jones ultimately became a “classical” guitar virtuoso, a player with a load of technical proficiency, finger picking speed and a ton of chops. “Classical” is a genre she falls under, but its also perhaps selling her a bit short, as she’s an excellent craftsperson with the instrument, no matter what style played.

Jones will be in Durango on Valentine’s Day, one of four guitar players performing for the 23rd anniversary of International Guitar Night at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. Performing with Jones are guitarists are Jesus Guerrero, Jocelyn Gould and Olli Soikelli.

“I think music was always encouraged in the family, which is a really great thing for everyone to explore. And I started on actually the piano and violin, and then I thought, ‘well the guitar is a pretty cool instrument, so I have to do this,’” Jones said. “And I think the guitar is so special because it’s so versatile. There’s so much you can do with it, so I say I’m a classical guitarist but that doesn’t mean I’m just playing classical music like Bach. There’s a whole world of styles that you can do with it – that flexibility I find the most intriguing.”

Those styles include sounds from South America, in particular the traditional music of Brazil or Argentina. She’s also an inquisitive music fan, finding herself, partly in thanks to the urging of a rock ’n’ roll loving guitar instructor, on a quest to dig into the limitless possibilities of the guitar itself.

If you go

WHAT: International Guitar Night – 23rd anniversary

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive

Tickets: $27/$50

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.durangoconcerts.com

“I was always exploring the instrument in different ways,” she said. “I think I was quite a fast learner; I was keeping my first teacher on the toes a little bit. One of my earlier teachers, he always made sure at the end of every lesson we learned some Jimi Hendrix licks or some blues playing. So, he helped open my eyes to the different aspects of playing guitar.”

Aside from being a chance for music lovers to be wowed by four guitar virtuosos, International Guitar Night serves as an educational camp for the musicians. Each year, four different players are selected from around the world, and begin by studying each other’s catalog, along with sending tunes back and forth online. When they finally meet for pre-tour rehearsals, they’re well-versed in each others’ styles, ready to influence – and be influenced – by each other.

“There’s so much to learn from these guys, it’s really amazing what they can do. The improvising, the voicings, the response to chords and harmony, it’s something very special and I’m hoping we can learn a lot from each other,” Jones said. “I’m sure we will.”

For the music lovers in the audience, it’s a full night of guitar theatrics. Jones, Guerrero, Gould and Soikelli will each play by themselves, but then will also be part of a round-robin of performances, a fusion of guitar theatrics that will cross and fuse genres.

“You get these guitarists and their different styles. Flamenco, jazz, Gypsy-Jazz, and I’m sort of like the classical player, and we all play a solo set, and then we come together, play some quartets, then some duos with each other,” she said. “So, we’ve been working on some sort of fusion style, so it’s really great for our own development. And it’s also just so much fun, it’s just so great to share this type of music with everybody. So, there’s something for everyone for sure.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.