Our culture deliberately forces us to look outside ourselves in order to control us.  Yet, sometimes along comes an artist who by their very being reminds us to look within and be ourselves.



I have had the recent pleasure to enjoy a concert and master class presented by classical guitarist Pavel Steidl and his very unapologetic presence reminded me of the importance to be our creative self.  During the concert I felt lured in by Pavel’s natural phrasing.  He breathes life into his melodic lines, which is something you wold think we all do, but maybe not….

Performing music can take an odd turn sometimes.  That is, when we play we become so concerned with the external thought process.  It stops our breathing and in turn, hinders the natural flow.

Then comes Pavel, presenting a reminder that in a sentence, a word or even a lilting breath there remains a pulse.  This fragment can be long, drawn out or short, but the importance is…. it has to have intention.

Let me explain, with concrete examples…

  1. Before you decide to perform, know your rhythms and if you are struggling, know that you are not breathing.
  2. And if you are not breathing life into the music , then you are focused on everything but the music.
  3. Sometimes a coach, a teacher, a mentor, or a friend can be your mirror.  Ask them if your music flows, like a beautiful sentence or a poem.
  4. Stop the process if you can’t play in time.  Stop immediately.  Why?  Because ultimately you are playing against yourself.

Pavel’s ability to focus and play exceedingly naturally was his gift to us the past two days.  A moment in time that I am grateful for.

Stephen Zurakowsky

Dear KW guitar patrons, this is truly the biggest concert of the year and not to missed.  World class guitar playing in our own backyard!  And the bonus, Pavel has agreed to a master class.  It is no secret in the guitar world that he is a brilliant teacher.  The performance spots are filled, but you can audit and still learn just as much.  I kept my fingers crossed since last summer that this would come together and through the diligent work of some fine people, I think we are going to experience the best class yet!

Below is the concert and master class information.  Please contact me, if you have any questions?


Pavel Steidl, Guitar

The concert is at 8:00 at KWCMS Music Room, 57 Young St. W., Waterloo]

$30 (st $20)

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!


Date: Friday, February 19, 2016
Venue: Woodland Christian High School, 1058 Spitzig Road, Breslau
Time: 1 PM
All performance spots are taken but there is room for adjudicators ($10 fee).  Here is part of Pavel’s bio:
“Here was a guitarist who knew how to laugh with the music and share the joke with his audience. But behind the entertainer lies a serious artist, whose extended composition in memory of Jana Obrovska proved fully capable of stirring emotions at the other end of the scale. Never was a standing ovation more richly deserved. Pavel Steidl had won the hearts and minds of a capacity crowd.” (Classical guitar magazine)
Since he won first prize at the Radio France International Competition in Paris in 1982, Steidl has become one of the most widely celebrated soloists of his generation. Among the members of the jury were such artists as Alexandre TansmanAntonio Lauro and Maria Luisa Anido.
Before that he studied with such guitarist as Milan Zelenka and Štěpán Rak in Prague. In 1987 he decided to emigrate to the Netherlands where after years of studying and getting inspiration from many different artists he has created his own style which is not ignoring authentic way of interpretation 19th-century guitar literature on periodic instruments and going far to some world music elements. Pavel Steidl also composes himself and his own compositions are often played on his concerts. He played in more than 40 countries of the world from among Canada, USA, China, India, Japan, Europe, South and Central America and many others. On demand of Italian Guitar Magazine Guitart the readers decided to choose him as a guitar player of the year 2004 . Pavel Steidl plays many instruments, but mainly Francisco Simplicio (1926) and Franz Butcher (2008), romantic guitar: copies of J.G.Stauffer guitar made by B.Kresse and original instrument from the beginning of the 19th century Nikolaus G.Ries cca. 1830
In his teaching, Pavel’s approach is encouraging but subtle. For, as he says, “the teacher is not allowed to say everything. […] I let them play one piece. Each note twice, one staccato, one tenuto, to show what you can do. The possibilities: that’s what I like very much.


Becky and Mike Pic 2.jpg

The concert is at 8:00 Sat. Dec. 5, 2015 at KWCMS Music Room, 57 Young St. W., Waterloo]

20 (st $10)


Agustin Barrios Mangoré: Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios

Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude, Fugue & Allegro bwv 998

Sergio Assad: Natsu no niwa Suite (6 movements from)

Marlos Nobre: Cicio Nordestino Suite(s)

Luigi Legnanai: Fantasy, Op. 19

Irish Traditional: My Gentle Harp (several Irish folk tunes,

set by Gerald Garcia and David Russell)

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Preludes and Fugues for To Guitars

Paulo Bellinati: Jongo

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!


One of The Registry Theatre’s favourite local musicians, Kevin Ramessar returns briefly from New York, where he is playing lead guitar in the TONY Award winning Broadway production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Kevin is one of the finest interpreters of popular song. This time he re-imagines the music of some of his favourite women singers such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Sade, Petula Clark, Reba McIntyre, and more. Plus some of his favourite guys too – Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and The Beatles. Kevin’s star is on the rise, and we are blessed that he still finds time to come back to The Registry Theatre. Featuring Kevin’s wonderful guitar and piano, and his beautiful vocals, plus his talented collaborators, Ben Rollo on drums, guitar and vocals, and Matt Lima on bass and vocals. Dont miss this special concert.


Thursday, November 26th & Friday, November 27th, 8 pm



Call 519-578-1570 or Buy Tickets Online


Within all my travels and hearing jazz guitarists I can say Reg is one of my favourites.  He has a brilliant mind for jazz.  His abilities to hear and play off other musicians is astounding.  Tonight he is performing with Canada’s best: Steve Wallace on Bass and Mike Murley on Sax.  Enjoy!!!

1. What guitars and amps do you own?

I have a few different guitars but usually I play an Eastman archtop. Live I use a ZT Lunchbox for an amp, and sometimes a Henricksen in the studio.

2. What will be your set up this weekend?

Eastman archtop and either my Lunchbox or the Jazz Room’s ZT Club.

3. How do you believe you achieve your tone?

(strings, pick, hands, effects, etc) All of the above, plus the amp, but not usually many effects for straightahead jazz stuff. I do like using effects for other styles though.

4. Tell us about any original music that will be performed this weekend?

The tunes will be chosen by the leader Mike Murley. He may play a few of his own songs. We’ll find out when we get there.

5. Tell us about your approach to composing?

I like to write with the guitar, noodling around till I find an idea to follow up on, sometimes watching TV so that I don’t overthink things.

6. What are your favourite songs to play?

I don’t know – too many to list. I do like the classic bebop songs though, like Hot House, Moose the Mooche and Scrapple From The Apple.

7. Do you have a favourite scale or lick that you play?

Scales and licks are secondary to playing and feeling in the moment. But I do like practicing different intervallic ideas. I have fun with symmetrical scales – whole tone, diminished and augmented, for example. Or what was the jazz scale that really changed your playing?

Working on modes of the melodic minor scale probably changed a few things for me.

8. What guitarist, song or album inspires you?

I can think of many, but Larry Young’s Talking About J.C., featuring Grant Green, is a favourite that I listen to often.

9. What do you do to practice technique?

(one or two things) I work on different intervallic patterns, using diagrams to generate different possiblities. And also right hand finger patterns (classical guitar technique) to try to develop that side of my playing.

10. What can the audience expect to hear next Saturday?

Mike Murley, Steve Wallace and I will be playing some favourite standards, trying to swing, get a good group feeling, and have fun doing it.


Some very insightful answers and brilliant hints about practicing.  Thanks Adam!

Buy tickets on-line

1. Can you tell us about what  guitar(s) do you own?  Which one will you be using on Sunday night and why?

I have been very fortunate to come across some excellent builders throughout my lifetime. However, it’s always difficult deciding which guitar to play.  My favorite builders include Richard and Marshall Brune, Stephan Connor and Paco Santiago Marin. I will be performing on a 2013 Stephan Connor made out of spruce and Brazilian rosewood.  This guitar really packs the punch! Anyone who wants to try it is welcome to have a go!

2.  Regarding your repertoire for this concert – how have your interpretations evolved over the years? Are they the same or have they developed in some ways?

I’ll use my experience living abroad in Madrid, Spain as a Fulbright Scholar as a pivotal moment in my artistic development.  The composer, Eduardo Morales-Caso, completely changed the way in which I conceive musical interpretation.  First, he told me you have to express and communicate each and every note. Second, he told me you have to always control your sound.  Third, “Tienes que tocar como tienes sangre en las venas.” “You have to play like you have blood in your veins”; that is to say, you have to play like you are living and expressing and bringing the music to life.
3. Any recordings or classical guitarists that have been inspirations for you?

My long-term mentor and teacher, Eliot Fisk, was a huge influence on my musical and personal life.  He has been a sort of second father to me.  His monumental recording of the 24 Paganini Caprices is absolutely incredible.  For those who don’t know it, I recommend it highly.

4. Can you give us some insights to your daily life of practicing?  Anything you have learned over the years that would help young aspiring classical guitarists?

Practice smart.  Hours are meaningless unless they are purposeful.  I’ve learned that you can tire yourself out hour after hour if you don’t have a plan.  Make a concise daily plan and determine how much time you want to alot for each goal.  My other question to young students is, what is it about music that compels you to play the guitar?  Also, what are are your goals in music and with the guitar 5 and 10 years down the road?  It’s important to determine why you are doing what you are doing and say it out loud or write it down.  Second, it is critical to examine what you want to be when you grow up, so to speak, and how you will get there.  These are questions that our global music students need to ask themselves as they think about pursuing a career in music.  We don’t have a traditional job structure, so it becomes even more important to build a framework in which we as artists will thrive.
5. What can the audience look forward to this Sunday night?
The recital will include an eclectic mixture of repertoire from the last five centuries, including works by Frescobaldi, Bach, Ysaye, Llorca, Morales-Caso, Tedesco and Turina.  I’m especially excited to share the music that I have personally commissioned. I spent three years living abroad in Madrid, Spain investigating new Spanish music (2008-2011). I thought it was high time to contribute to the guitar world and the repertoire, so I embarked on a huge mission to find and commission the 30 best living composers form 1930 to present day.  The pieces by Ricardo Llorca and Eduardo Morales-Caso are very distinct works; one work harkens back to the days of Handel in the form of theme and variation and the other work is a beautiful four part suite that tells the beguiling story of a witch, Il Sogno delle Streghe (The Witches Dream).  I can’t wait to share these gems!
Stephen Zurakowsky
Artistic Director


Adam Levin is a terrific young American guitarist, coming with accolades from the famed Elliot Fisk, plus a lengthy vitae including performances all over US and Europe, with several prestigious series, etc. His big program:

Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata No. 2, Op. 27 in a – Preludio, “Obsession” (Tr. Levin)
Bach: Lute Suite no. 4, BWV 1006a in E
Girolomo Frescobaldi Aria con Variazioni detta la frescobalda (arr. Segovia)
Ricardo Llorca: Handeliana – variations on a theme from Handel’s “Xerxes”
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Selections from Platero y Yo, Op.190
Eduardo Morales-Caso: Witch’s Dream Suite
Joaquín Turina: Fandanguillo; Sevillana-Fantasia

$30 (st $20)

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!


  1. Mariette, you have an exciting year coming up with teaching, your duo, Toronto Guitar Society and the guitar orchestra.  Can you tell us about each of your endeavours?

Thanks Stephen – yes this fall and winter will be extremely busy for me.  I’m very fortunate that I have a full teaching schedule, ranging from beginners to advanced students.  I teach young kids (starting around 6 yrs) through to retirees, prepare those who want to audition for university, and also teach some special needs students including one who’s autistic.  I truly enjoy the variety and love the challenge of developing a flexible curriculum to suit different learning styles.

The duo I currently perform in (Duo Calixa) features Kelly Williamson on flute and myself on guitar.  We’ve been performing together for about 3 years, and are putting the finishing touches on our first CD (Caminos).   The CD features music from South America, including Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos and Machado:  we discovered that we both love to play music that integrates cultural influences from around the world and enjoy programming that into our concerts.

I’ve also been involved with the Guitar Society of Toronto for 6 years, in particular working on their Development Committee.  I’ve learned a lot about the trials and tribulations that can happen behind the scenes for an arts organization, which would be the same for any charity regardless of its sector.  Funding continues to be a challenge, however the Guitar Society board constantly strives to engage its audience and donor base, and that has enabled it to successfully fund additional Outreach initiatives recently within the City of Toronto that would not have been otherwise possible.

My newest endeavour is the KW Community Guitar Orchestra:  I’m happy to say we have members from as far away as Brampton and Stratford, and for many, the main reason for joining is simply to meet other classical guitarists.  Other instruments quite frankly have far more opportunities to play in ensembles while the main focus for classical guitar since the early 20th century has been solo repertoire (in the late 19th century guitar orchestras were quite common but eventually declined in popularity).  Nothing wrong with that, but it can be quite isolating and lonesome!

Beyond meeting other guitar enthusiasts, there are so many additional benefits that include learning new repertoire, improved sight reading, improved listening, learning to work as a team (and those are only a few of the rewards when you play in a group).  As a member of a music ensemble, there is a wonderful feeling of being part of a team that playing solo simply can’t give you.

  1. Can you tell us about your musical background, education etc.?

I started guitar lessons when I was about 17, and got into university with only a couple of years experience on the instrument.  I regret not taking some more years of private lessons before auditioning because I felt I was always playing catch-up.  I did take quite a bit of time after graduation to further develop my technique and study with various teachers, including Jeffrey McFadden.  During my studies with Jeff I was able to complete my ARCT and Masters in Performance at the University of Toronto.

  1. What are some memorable moments in your guitar education and how do you pass these on to students?

Studying with Jeff was hugely inspirational and extremely intensive – many pedagogical/musical ideas I learned from him I use in my own teaching and performance practice.  I’ve also had the chance to study in master classes with other amazing teachers (including Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, SoloDuo), and those encounters left an indelible impression on me.  I actively encourage my students to attend concerts, guitar festivals or take part in master classes because what you learn will broaden your musicianship in ways you may not initially comprehend.  It was through these experiences that I developed a very high regard for people like Scott Tennant, Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela: they have had a profound effect on my approach to teaching and also my relationship with music.

  1. Discuss your practicing nowadays and what has really been working for you lately?

I was warned by Jeff and others that as your teaching studio becomes successful, your practice time will diminish (there are only so many hours in one day!).  Although I work at setting aside time to practice I always have music with me that I’m working on if a student cancels a lesson.  Most of my practice currently focuses on duo music, especially if we have concerts that are coming up.   Visualization is crucial for me – if I didn’t make it part of my practice time I would be screwed!

  1. What type of guitar(s) do you own, and types of strings you use?

In concert I currently play a lattice-braced cedar top by Kim Lissarrague with D’Addario medium tension lightly polished strings (I really can’t stand the sound of loud audible shifts on the base strings so I like the LP strings).  I will be getting a double-top later this fall by Gary Lee…I don’t know what strings will work on this one so I’ll be experimenting with different types for the next year.  Both guitars are small scale (640 mm).

  1. Please share any thoughts on how creativity plays a role in your daily life?

I am by nature a creative person and absolutely need to be occupied by artistic endeavours daily.  I think there are few jobs that allow you to have so many opportunities to push your creative limits, and I am very grateful for the variety of projects that I’ve been involved in since leaving school.  I absolutely can’t imagine doing anything else.


Here in Waterloo Region this week we lost a favourite guitarist. Duane Boles pasted away this Sunday after a courageous two-year battle with brain cancer.

I had the honour to play and rock out at his funeral today.  The packed church was filled with humorous stories as Duane was the loveable character.  It was sad but in our gathered mourning there was hope, community and the presence of God lifting every one of us.

I am writing this because I wanted to share about Duane the guitarist.  Wow, was he talented.  A brilliant ear and a touch that was the definition of “feel”.   He was so humble, in the ways he meshed his personality with his guitar playing.

With his talents he reached out to people in many ways. When I first met him he just composed a song for a woman who had  breast cancer and he played it for her in the hospital.  He seemed surprised that he could compose at all.  But that was Duane’s character; like a child of God, each creative moment was a blessing, a celebration and something to be cherished, all at the same time.

How is it that someone can die, when their memory, music and creativity have impacted our lives so much?  We jammed, joked and locked the groove together.  Those memories will live in me forever and for all the others he played with as well.

As Duane has moved on to jam in a place of peace, he leaves behind a rich memory of thoughtfulness, grace and humour.

Hopefully there is a section in heaven for guitarists who like really bad jokes….. till we meet again, my friend.

Stephen Zurakowsky


An exciting opportunity for KW fans of the blues to hear an upcoming Canadian star. After hearing his music a couple of years ago, I chose to interview him because I love his non-cliche lines. When JW solos, he constantly surprises with jazz lines and rhythms that are fresh, in the groove and spontaneous. JW has developed a colourful personilty in his guitar playing, which is making him stand out from the crowd. I am sure you will enjoy his show on Friday night!

1. What guitars and amps do you own?

For live performances, I use my trusty 2007 Gibson Gold Top Les Paul Standard, with a chambered body and 60s style neck, running through one or two Fender Pro Junior amps. Effects wise, I only use reverb and tremolo. The rest comes from the hands!

2. What is your set up this weekend?


3. How do you believe you achieve your tone?(strings, pick, hands, effects, etc)

It’s mostly in the hands for sure, and most blues artists will tell you that. However, it depends on the player and the tone they are looking for. I like it to sound as natural as possible, like all of my heroes, and let the tubes give me the break-up and natural distortion when it’s pushed. I alternate between a pick and fingers, sometimes mid-riff, or certain notes with my fingers while playing others with the pick. It’s not something I can analyze and just happens on it’s own!

4. Tell us about your original music?

Our new album, Belmont Boulevard, was produced in Nashville by Grammy winning producer Tom Hambridge. There are a few songs that I wrote on my own and several co-written with Tom. He’s written for Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, Rascal Flatts, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The original songs are fairly personal on the new record, from break-ups to my upbringing, and Tom really helped me dig deep and get some extremely personal material on there, lyrically. Musically, the vibe has to match, and that’s where I feel like we really nailed it on this record. Cocaine Boy and Don’t Be Ashamed seem to be the originals that are most requested, while the guitar fans have been liking Magic West Side Boogie.

5. Tell us about your approach to composing?

On one side, I am always collecting chord changes and riff ideas in my head, or recorded to my phone. On the other, I have subjects and lines that I keep in my notes. Every so often, I will sit down late at night, when no one is around, and connect the one side with the other until it feels right. Some songs come together in no time, and others take weeks of manipulating.

6. What are your favourite songs to play?

I love playing low-down Chicago blues shuffles and grooves, they feel so good – or anything with a B.B. King inspired feel. Playing originals and having people singing along is the ultimate compliment, and that’s a whole other trip!

7. Do you have a favourite scale or lick that you play? Or what was the blues/jazz scale that really changed your playing?

I learned how to play blues the same way my heroes did. It’s not about scales, it’s about collecting riffs and ideas and having an arsenal to draw from. Listening to a lot of blues is the most crucial part because you have to know which style of riff fits with which groove, and where they come from. You don’t play B.B. King riffs over a Jimmy Reed shuffle, and you don’t play Muddy Waters slide on a B.B. King slow blues, it just doesn’t feel right.

8. What guitarist, song or album inspires you?

B.B. is the man, and it was so sad to lose him this year. It hit me much harder than I ever expected. I’ve been so fortunate to have been listening to him and studying him since I was 15yrs old, and to have met him and hang out a few times. He wrote the book on single note blues guitar, period. He changed more than just guitar playing, he changed music. Now the most famous living bluesman is Buddy Guy, who has also been a huge influence and supporter after singing with us in Chicago and then inviting me to join him on two shows in Ottawa back in the spring. I’m a lucky guy!

9. What do you do to practice technique? (one or two things)

Almost all of my practice is on stage, when it comes to guitar. I work on my vocals daily, but the guitar playing happens on stage.

10. What can the audience expect to hear next Friday Sept 11. 2015?

A high-energy show with lots of twists and turns to keep things interesting. We’ll be playing several songs from our Juno nominated album on Blind Pig / Stony Plain records, Belmont Boulevard. Looking forward to this one!

DSC01657I researched this topic and then decided to write about specific benefits to being in a guitar orchestra here in Waterloo Region. After hosting this guitar society for several years, now is the time for us to come together and build a guitar orchestra.

Waterloo Region is rich in guitar talent and if you don’t mind me saying, it is all too  closeted in quiet corners.  Throughout the years I have continually listened to just how amazingly proficient guitarists here are and not a month has gone by without hearing another talented player.

Perhaps the nature of guitar lends us to practice in the quiet corners of the world. It gives us solace and accomplishment. But in building a community around us, we can flourish in ways that cannot be done individually.

We live in such an age of comfort and convenience and study after study is telling us we are more isolated and perhaps lonelier than ever. But why, especially when we have so much?

I have noticed that the biggest learning curve for my students has been when they joined bands.  In that community they shared songs and learned from each other quicker than on their own and nothing is more fun than discussing the merits and details of music with others.

I believe it is not about the level of talent you have but the level of sharing that makes a guitar community thrive.  So I want you to disregard the thought of not being good enough to join a guitar orchestra.  The music selected will cover all abilities allowing to grow and go ahead with confidence.  After all, the depth of fun comes with accomplishment.

Please consider joining! We have a great year planned under the baton of Mariette Stephenson and if you have any questions please feel free to contact us. The registration tab is on the top left of this page.

Stephen Zurakowsky
Artistic Director

Dimitris Kotranakis, Guitar


[The concert is at 8:00 at KWCMS Music Room, 57 Young St. W., Waterloo]

Atanas Ourkouzounov (b. 1970)    : Toryanse Tales

Sergio Assad (b. 1952)    : Fantasia Carioca

Carlo Domeniconi (b. 1947)    : A step to Paradise

    : Toccata in Blue

Gerard Drozd (b. 1955)    : Adagio (Omaggio a J. S. Bach) op.44

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)    : Souite Troilean

(arrangement by Dario Bisso)

       – Bandoneon

       – Zita

Štěpán Rak (b. 1945)    : Kaygorod

    : Balalaika

$30 (students $20)

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!

Dimitris performed in the Music Room in the 2013-14 season to a delighted audience. His technique is mind-boggling, and his sympathy for the music he plays immense. We welcomed this opportunity to have him with us again.

Dimitris Kotronakis was born in Heraklion, Creta (Greece), in 1973. His studies on classical guitar begun when he was at the age of seven, and were completed under guidance of Vassilis Kanaras in 1992, when he graduated from the “International Conservatory of Athens”, obtaining his guitar diploma.

He attended post-graduate studies on classical guitar at the “Athens Conservatory”, graduating again in 1996, under supervision of Costas Cotsiolis.

Meanwhile, he further expanded his theoretical musical knowledge (obtaining diploma in Fuge, under tutoring of Giorgos Sioras) and attended Musicology classes (obtaining diploma from the Musicology branch of the University of Athens, in 1996).

Today he is a Phd student of the above University, with his thesis having as its subject: “Greek composers for guitar in the twentieth century”.

He has been awarded many prizes in guitar competitions, including 1st prize in the Volos guitar festival (Greece 1994), 1st prize in the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria guitar festival (Spain 1996), 2nd prize in the National Conservatory composing for guitar contest (Athens 1998), 1st prize in the Sinaia guitar festival (Romania 1999) and 1st prize in the Chalkis guitar competition (Greece 2002). He also won the major honorary mention award at the 12th Web Concert Hall competition (USA – March 2011), among 39 competitors of all classical instruments

He has so far recorded two CDs with music by Nikos Mamagakis, namely “New Excursion” for solo guitar (two songs for guitar and voice included) and “Spring Synphony” for guitar and voice, based on poetry by Yannis Ritsos (IDAIA records – 2007).

In cooperation with the guitar quintet “Epsilon” (of whom he is the leed guitar), he has recorded another CD titled “Angel guitars” (MBI records – 2006).

His fourth CD titled “Echomythia” has been released in USA in the autumn of 2007 by the ClearNote publications. This disk contains pieces of the modern guitar repertory, influenced by the streams of Jazz, Latin and Brazilian music.

In Autumn 2010, he recorded the “Amsterdam Concerto” by Thanassis Moraitis for the EMI Classics. It is included in the double CD named “ Pictures of the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni”. Dimitris performs as a soloist with the collaboration of the “Camerata” Symphonic Orchestra of Athens.

His last CD, named “Our Old House”, has been released in winter 2011 by the Clear Note classics again, featuring music for one, two and three guitars, composed by Kostas Mylonas.

He has performed in numerous individual guitar recitals in Greece and worldwide; he has also co-operated as a soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Kielce (Poland), the Philarmonic Orchestra of Craiova (Romania), the “Artave” Orchestra, Portugal, the Orchestra of Colors (Greece), the “Camerata” Symphonic Orchestra (Greece), the National Symphonic Orchestra (Greece) and the “Nicolaos Mantzaros” Orchestra (Greece)

In the upcoming season performances are planned for Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Ukraine, Romania, Italy, Mexico, Trinidad, Venezuela, Canada and the USA.

He teaches classical guitar in the Panarmonio Conservatory and in the International Conservatory of Athens.

Hello Everyone!

I have been on a hiatus this season regarding The KW Guitar Society, but that doesn’t mean good things haven’t been brewing.  Next year we have a stellar line up of classical guitarists coming again and a few confirmed master classes.

But the biggest news is the new KW Guitar Orchestra under the baton and leadership of Mariette Stephenson.  This is an exciting venture and we hope to attract a large community of classical guitarists.  Mariette is an exceptional performer and teacher!  This is a rare opportunity to learn from one of the best.  You can read more about her at http://www.mariettestephenson.com

In the meantime, sign up by contacting Mariette or myself and please spread the word!

KW Guitar Orchestra

KW Community Guitar Orchestra Registration-3

KW Community Guitar Orchestra Registration
($175 registration fee due first rehearsal)
NAME: _________________________________________________ ADDRESS: _____________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ PHONE/CELL NUMBER: __________________________________ EMAIL: ________________________________________________
YEARS PLAYING CLASSICAL GUITAR AND PLAYING LEVEL: _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
ENSEMBLE EXPERIENCE: ________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________
Please email completed form to Mariette Stephenson (info@mariettestephenson.com)


Do you think there comes a time when one needs a break from playing the guitar?  A time to refresh, replenish and detox all the critical thoughts that have accumulated over time.

When change is in the air or a time of ending a long period of creative output, I start to feel flat.  Specifically I find the negative innner voice to be magnified.  Suddenly my playing takes a turn for the worse and I start to think too much about everything I am creating.

Here is an example: after a lenghty output of creating classical and jazz works I found myself feeling somewhat dry and overwhelmed. Perhaps this made me vulnerable, but a musician decided to unload scathing words about my playing and I had to look deeply into the meaning of those comments and criticisms.

I decided there were two types of criticism; one that helps and one that hinders and it’s really important to be able to define both and what to do with each one.

A criticism that hinders is one that will not help in any way towards positive growth. The words are usually vicious, void of meaning and can carry a backlog of hidden jealously.  Their words carry a lot of drama and when you become aware of that, these guitarists are easy to ignore or easier to spend little time with.

But what if that critique has some merit?  This is the one I find most difficult to deal with because my first reaction is to shoot the messenger rather than hear the message.   What if……. I really play that way, can have an unsettling affect.

As difficult as it may be, there is much to be learned at this point. I call it the learn or flight response. It becomes a time to either buckle down and practice with a new focus or a time to run away. The latter never being a good idea if one truly wants to become better.

Sometimes, a criticism can lead to quick correction and then all is well. But the biggest changes in our guitar playing don’t happen overnight. After so many years of playing I find myself in a season of extraordinary change. So much so, I find it overwhelming.  So much so, I think I need a break to restore, replenish and time to get rid of what does not work any more.  It really becomes a time of hope and faith.

Time – because the true nature of learning works on its own schedule.

Faith – because, just like the seasons, we will always return to the uplifting season of light, where our guitar playing feels easy and effortless once again.

Stephen Zurakowsky

Artistic Director


I have been a freelance guitarist for over 30 years. Being in a reflective mood lately, I would like to share with you my thoughts on what it is like to be a guitarist, as an artist.

Steve Vai once stated in a seminar, “If you are questioning to be a guitarist for a living, then you are in the wrong business”.  It is the guitar that picks us and is not a choice the artist has.

What a lot of people might not realize, is how difficult it is to live life so authentically in todays society.

First of all, creative production can be a struggle and even be a dark place, until one is able to release the music that is within.  Sometimes anxiety can really take hold of an artist until that musical idea breaks through.  This is not a 9 to 5 job, it is a total way of being.  It flies in the face of convention and people have difficulty categorizing us, resulting in sheer indifference, even hostility.

My creative efforts can be easy or exhausting.  These days it leans toward the later because I am striving towards being anything but cliché or cookie-cutter.  Either way, creating music is not so much a choice for me, rather it is something I have to do, in order to be whole and quite frankly, to be well.

The positive side of pouring ones soul out into the world is experiencing the joy of all types of feelings and emotions; maybe even a magnified joy.  Creative production is a magical even miraculous activity and I live in constant gratitude of where all these melodies come from.

But in the end, it is not a fairy-tale existence, like the pop media might leave you to believe.  An artist has a life-time of work to create and the balance to produce and still make a living to feed a family is a tenuous one at best.

Next time I am asked for advice for someone’s musical career choices, I might lead them to this article.  If they read it and feel this is for them, then great!  If they would rather stick their thumb in their eye, then a  9 to 5 job is out there for them somewhere.

But if they are baffled by the challenge, the commitment, the discipline, then I hope they find that deep spot within themselves to be who they truly are.

If my reflection can inspire just one person in this world, then we are closer to living in a better place, because ultimately life is about sharing our vunerabilty with one another.

My life as a guitarist may not be glamourous but in the end if I have challenged you to think outside of your box, or created emotions through the sharing of my music, then that is an aspect of success I can truly live with.

Stephen Zurakowsky

Artistic Director

Over the last twenty years, Jeffrey McFadden has established a place among the preeminent guitarists of his generation. Concert engagements have taken him throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. He has been a featured performer at international music festivals, including Guitar ’87 and GuitarFest ’91 in Toronto, The Guitar Foundation of America Convention, Gitarren‑Symposium Iserlohn, the National Flute Association (USA) Convention, the Festival Mediterraneo della Chitarra and many others.

In 1992, Jeffrey McFadden was awarded a Silver Medal in the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition and was a prize-winner in the 1993 Great Lakes Guitar Competition. His debut recording was the first in the Laureate Series on Naxos, and has sold in the tens of thousands of copies. He has recorded eight CDs since then, featuring the works of Fernando Sor, Napoléon Coste, Agustin Barrios, J.S. Bach and others.

His performances and recordings continue to receive high acclaim. McFadden formed Duo Spiritoso in 2004, with American guitarist Andrew Zohn. The duo has toured extensively and released one CD to date.

Jeffrey McFadden is the first ever graduate of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree program at the University of Toronto. An Eaton Fellow, he completed his dissertation in 2010. It forms the basis of his groundbreaking book, Fretboard Harmony: Common-Practice Harmony on the Guitar, published in 2010 by Les Productions d’Oz.

McFadden is the founder and artistic director of the Sauble Beach Guitar Festival, artistic director of the Guitar Society of Toronto and Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Toronto.

Program (tentatively):

J.S Bach Suite BWV 1008 (arr. J. McFadden)

Agustin Barrios:

Pais de Abanico

Don Perez Tango

Medallon Antiguo


M. de Falla Cancion del fuego fatuo

Albeniz Capricho catalan

J. Rodrigo En los trigales

Luciano Berio  (1925-2003) Sequenza XI

Antonio Carlos Jobim:

Samba do Aviao (arr. J. McFadden)

Wave (arr. J. McFadden)

Felicidade (arr. R. Dyens)

$30 (sr $25; st $20) [6*]

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!

Robert Gruca, Guitar

The concert is Feb. 18, 2015at 8:00 at KWCMS Music Room, 57 Young St. W., Waterloo


 Robert Johnson (17th c), Pavan, Galliard; John Dowland, Frog Galliard; J.B. Loeillet, Suite No. 1; Agustin Barrios Mangore, La Catederal; Vicente Asencio, Collectici intim; Leo Brouwer, El Decameron Negro

$30 (sr $25; st $20) [6*]

Buy tickets on-line – it’s easy!

Master Class: aspiring guitar students can take advantage of Gruca’s master class which has been arranged for the following day: Thursday feb 19 at 12:30 at Woodland Christian High School. E-mail Stephen Zurakowsky, of the recently-formed K-W Guitar Society, for details, and to registerszurak@sympatico.ca

Robert Gruca is an exciting guitarist who performs a wide range of solo, chamber, and concerto repertoire. In recent seasons he has toured throughout the US and into Canada.

Highlights of Roberts seasons include touring the eastern United States and Europe with the Cleveland Orchestra, performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 under the direction of Franz Welser–Most. Other performances with the Cleveland Orchestra include Kurt Weill’s Little Three Penny Music, Igor Stavinsky’s Le Rossignol with Pierre Boulez and Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony with Howard Shore. Robert Gruca made his concerto debut performing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with the Marquette Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Nuvi Mehta. Recent concerto performances include Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasia para un Gentilhombre with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra and the New Philharmonic both under the direction of Kirk Muspratt.

Possessing powerful musical interpretation and complete technical command over his instrument, Robert Gruca has earned several first prizes in national guitar competitions. He won first prize in the Columbus State Guitar Symposium Competition, the Appalachian State Guitar Festival Competition, and the East Carolina University Guitar Festival Competition. He was a top prize winner in the Rantucci International Guitar Competition and a semifinalist in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition and the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.

Other awards and honors include receiving the 2007 Distinguished Alumni award from Grand Valley State University, Department of Music. Robert Gruca has studied with John Holmquist and Jason Vieaux at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he received a Master of Music degree. Previous teachers include Brian Morris of Grand Valley State University and Roger Humphrey of Olivet College. He has participated in master classes with such prominent guitarists as David Russell, Lily Afshar, Judicael Perroy, Stephen Robinson, Sergio & Odair Assad, Hubert Kappel, Antigoni Goni, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.

In a 2006 compact disc, Robert Gruca recorded solo guitar works by Bogdanovic, Koshkins, Dyens, Rodrigo, Schubert and J.S. Bach. He has recently completed a recording of several pieces by Handel including some original transcriptions. That compact disc was released under the MSR record label in 2012.

Robert Regularly performs with flutist Linda White as part of the Gruca White Ensemble.  As Artists in Residence at The Music School Settlement, Robert and Linda entertain audiences throughout Greater Cleveland with their fresh approach which combines classical, latin, popular, and improvised music.

In addition to performing, Robert Gruca is a highly motivated and dedicated guitar instructor.  Robert recently completed Every Child Can! and Guitar Unit 1, 2 and 3 of the Suzuki method of music instruction.  Robert teaches at The Cleveland Music School Settlement and is proud to have started the first Suzuki guitar program of Northeast Ohio, there, in 2013.

February 18, 2015

WOW! What an eventful couple of years we have had.  Check out the collage of pictures below to see all the internationally famous guitarists who have given master classes for us.  The list of names is quite impressive: Victor Villadango, Marcin Dylla, Shawn Kellerman, Remi Boucher, Ted Quinlan, Ana Vidovic, Irina Kulikova, Dimitris Kotronakis and Marten Falk.

When I started this endeavor it was meant as an outreaching activity towards the KW guitar community and I am very thankful to all who have supported me.  One of the biggest surprises was the far reaching enthusiasm I have received from the international guitar community.  Also, a special thank you to Jan Narveson for bringing such an array of top notch talent to us!

What is next for the KW Guitar Society?  The beginnings of a KW Guitar Orchestra under the leadership of Marriette Stephenson, starting next September and soon a directory of all the guitar teaches here in KW.

In the meantime, I have accepted a new teaching position and have slowed down the posts for a time being,  but regular posts will start appearing soon.

Thanks everyone and I look forward to building the KW Guitar Society!  If you feel like making a contribution in one form or another, please contact me, even if it just to say hi!

Stephen Zurakowsky,

Artistic Director



Victor performing Pujol etudes at the master class.

Victor performing Pujol etudes at the master class.

Shawn Kellerman playing Mel Browns guitar

Matt listening to the singing quality of the melody.

Matt listening to the singing quality of the melody.



A Tribute to The Mahavishnu Orchestra 

Saturday, January 24th ~ 8pm

At THE REGISTRY THEATRE ~ 122 Frederick St. (at Weber St.) Kitchener

Vital Transformation, like many great bands, began with a dare:

Bassist Tom Nagy dared guitarist Dan Beacock, in mid-2014, to form a Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute project with him. Both music degree graduates, Tom and Dan were fans of the classically-influenced guitarist John McLaughlin and his seminal 1970s jazz-rock band, a group renowned for its new way of combining rock, modern jazz, and Indian classical music to form a complex and technically virtuosic sound.

Dan and I were playing together in a Boston tribute project, and were joking around, trying to psych each other up about the most complex progressive/fusion music we knew. I kept threatening to start a Mahavishnu tribute project; before we knew it, I had asked Penderecki String Quartet violinist) Jerzy Kapłanek if he’d be willing to play in such a group, and he was immediately enthusiastic,” recalls Tom. “That clinched the deal.”

With the necessarily-high bar for musicianship in such a band, Thomas Hammerton (keyboardist) and Adam Bowman (drums) were natural choices, and both immediately accepted the call and enthusiastically launched into preparing for the show.

Vital Transformation brings together some of our community’s finest and most adventurous musical talents. Bassist Tom Nagy is a popular and eclectic musician who has created other tribute projects, including the music of Genesis and Boston. Dan Beacock is a rising guitar star and a member of Will Currie & The Country French, and Steeling Dan. In addition, he has produced his own projects, featuring the music of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler, and also the music of Eric Clapton. Jerzy Kaplanek is violinist with the world renowned Penderecki String Quartet. In addition to the classical repertoire, the PSQ have performed modern works such as the complete Bartok String Quartets, the music of Frank Zappa, as well as performances with Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana, and the upcoming collaboration with chamber-jazz composer Quinsin Nachoff. Accomplished keyboard player Thomas Hammerton can be heard with

the Jason Raso Quartet, his own trio, and with vocalists Joni NehRita, and Mary Catherine McNinch-Pazzano. Adam Bowman is one of Canada’s finest percussionists who plays with Jason Raso, Joni NehRita, Kevin Ramessar and Kelly Lee Evans.

We were all familiar with the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, so we all recognized that there would need to be serious rehearsal time put into the show. All of the people in this group are first-call musicians, really exemplary guys, but the sheer complexity of the music meant that it would take a lot more time and energy than an average show would. It takes practice to play difficult music, but it takes much more work to play difficult music in a musical way. That’s what we were going for, and that’s what we’ve been able to do,” says Tom. The band quickly gelled, and with the full show learned and under their belts, Vital Transformation is looking forward to many more appearances in months to come.

Special guest opening act: A solo performance by bassist Jason Raso

Tickets $25 at Centre in the Square box office:

519-578-1570 ~ http://www.centreinthesquare.com ~ and at the door

Perhaps the most memorable and inspirational concert for me was Jorge Caballero’s concert this past fall at the KWCMS Music Room.

I have not been much of a believer in arranging monumental symphonic works for the guitar. In the past, performances have left me spiritually empty and discouraged. But as they say never say never!

The complete second half of his program was Symphony #9 by Antonin Dvorak. It was astonishing! First of all, sometimes we are witness to technical gymnastics now and then that surprise and delight us. But Caballero kept coming at us with a technical ferocity that was beyond anything I have ever heard. All because it was combined with a beautiful, soulful interpretation.  A rare, opportunity for us listening to hear a performer in the zone, operating fully between technique and emotions.

To be honest, I kept waiting for a mistake, wondering how long can Jorge keep this perfection going. My mind was spinning the chores of my life; it kept fighting to do anything but be drawn in.  Until finally I gave in to the moment and joined Jorge in the zone. There began some huffs and guffaws from the audience as we all began to realize what was happening.

In the end, after the standing ovation, Jorge Cabellero bowed and left the room. No words needed.  Only an incredible lasting memory of one of the worlds best artists, here in Waterloo ON.

Stephen Zurakowsky
Artistic Director

Here are some pictures from his master class:



In upcoming posts I will focus on learning issues for the guitar: there are many ways that students can improve their practice skills, allowing them to progress at a greater rate. The first one I would like to address is practicing slowly.
By far, most students do not practice slow enough. There are numerous studies that show the benefit of slow practice, including improved finger co-ordination, memory, and sight-reading. When I was a student, one of my teachers encouraged me to practice slowly, pointing out that he could tell when a student is practicing too fast because they consistently made needless mistakes. When a guitarist is learning a piece and playing it at a quick tempo before the fingers know what they are supposed to do, they have less control (which means more buzzes and dropped notes, making their playing less musical). Unfortunately these muscle movements, though unintended, become ingrained and the fingers execute them consistently even though they aren’t welcome.
So, when should we practice slower? According to music pedagogues Dr. Noa Kageyama and Graham Fitch:

• Use it when learning new pieces, in order for the brain to move faster than the fingers.
• Use it for passages requiring fine motor skills that are uneven or that lack control.
• Use it for places that sound dull and mechanical, exaggerating the dynamics, hairpins and balances.
• Use it to maintain accuracy and finesse in pieces you already know.
• Use it to command control of every single note, inflection, dynamic and expression mark, and pedal.
• Use it for memory work (if you can play ultra slowly from memory, you know every atom and molecule of the musical structure).
Don’t use it when you are forming the reflexes for fast playing after the initial learning stages. Let’s say you’ve spent some time learning a fast piece slowly and you want to get it up to speed. Now is the time to lay off the slow practice for a while, even though it will feel very comfortable to go back to it each day. Resist this, and make a plan to do little bits fast. (http://www.practisingthepiano.com/enjoying-ultra-slow-practice/) http://www.practisingthepiano.com/inner-conductor/)
How slow is slow? I like to set my metronome around 50, each click for the shortest note in the piece I’m working on (e.g. one sixteenth note). Yes, that’s slow! And it is tempting to play faster, but the benefits when learning a piece far outweigh the urge for speed. I encourage everyone to try this – it’s well worth the effort.

Mariette Stephenson, http://www.mariettestephenson.com/ is a Canadian classical guitarist who has performed in numerous recitals as a soloist and chamber musician. She has premiered works by Canadian composers William Beauvais and Patrick Power, and Brazilian composer Jonatas Batista-Neto. Performances include recitals for the Guitar Society of Brantford, Guitar Society of Toronto and the Organix Festival.

Chamber music collaborations include performances with soprano Brooke Dufton, Stephanie Pesant (flute), Bonchiku Hoshi (shakuhachi), Tom Fitches (organ) and a performance under the baton of Gordon Mansell of ‘The Prayer Cycle’, a work for guitar, choir and orchestra. As well, Mariette is currently a member of Duo Calixa with flutist Kelly Williamson, which will release a recording of South American flute and guitar music in 2014.

Mariette Stephenson studied with Dr. Jeffrey McFadden, having received her B.Mus from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and her ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She also earned a Masters of Music (performance) from the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of the Eli Kassner Guitar Scholarship, a University of Toronto Fellowship, a Bernice Adams Memorial Bursary, and an Arts Award in 2006 from the City of Cambridge, Ontario.