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Ernesto Tamayo brings sounds of Spanish guitar to Clay Center Sunday

WANT TO GO?

Ernesto Tamayo

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $40, $45, $55

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The memories of a musical prodigy can be kind of a blur. Some of them only have vague recollections of those early days when they were shown off and around, when they were brought to concert halls and put on display.

Classical guitarist Ernesto Tamayo said he was pretty lucky. The Cuban-born musician got the chance to look around.

Tamayo, who performs Sunday at the Clay Center, said he remembers his first international tour.

"I was 11," he said. "There were concerts everywhere. I went to Romania, Bulgaria and Germany. In Germany, I actually touched the dividing wall between the two Germanys."

Because Tamayo was from Cuba, the side he stood on was part of the Communist Bloc.

"I didn't know back then what it meant," Tamayo said. "I remember receiving an explanation, but I was a child."

 He has a better understanding now, though he is quick to steer clear of overt political statements of one kind or another. He's always been a musician. It's the thing that's defined him and what he's passionate about.

"Life is too short," Tamayo explained. "You can [only] care about just a few things if you want to be successful."

Tamayo has been successful almost from the moment he picked up his first guitar at age 5.

"I used to listen to my father play the guitar for my mother," he said. "He would play for her every afternoon, and I was exposed to this."

His father taught him to play and how to read music. Tamayo said he started writing music not long after.

"About my dreams."

As his abilities grew, his father got him another teacher, then he went to school for music. As a young musician, growing up in Cuba was exciting. Arts culture is very different in the island country than in the United States.

Cuba, he said, believes in the importance of the arts. They support the arts, appreciate them, because art and music are the spirit of a society.

"The mentality is very much like it is in Europe," he said. "It has nothing to do with Castro's ideas. It's always been that way in Cuba."

But art isn't easy. The state supports and encourages talent, he said, but the state is demanding.

"A child is picked for a school," Tamayo said. "If you're talented, you go through a difficult audition. If you pass, the school is free. It's very structured. If you don't do what you're supposed to be doing, you're out of school. You get the best education in the world, but if you don't keep up with your practicing, you will probably be out."

In 1992, while performing a series of shows in Mexico, Tamayo was approached by Sony Records about coming to the United States to record a demo tape. He also met Cuban virtuoso Manuel Barrueco, who asked him to come study with him at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

Tamayo got permission to leave Cuba to study and was granted a full scholarship to attend the conservatory after he won the prestigious Guitar Concerto Competition in New Milford, Conn.

"I couldn't get financial aid," he explained. "And my parents were still in Cuba. I had to have a full scholarship in order to stay, so Manuel thought it would be more impressive [to get a scholarship] if I was a prize winner. He sent me to a competition in Connecticut. I won the first prize."

Over the years, Tamayo has won many awards and recorded six CDs. He's currently working on his seventh and touring with two of his former students, Paul Morton and Matt Bacon. (Morton is the son of renowned pediatrician Dr. D. Holmes Morton, who was raised in Fayetteville.)

"They're two up-and-coming guitarists," Tamayo said, proudly. "Both of them are national award winners in the United States and very passionate about the guitar. Kind of what I'm doing is taking them under my umbrella to do some shows together."

For the show Sunday, Tamayo said they'd do some chamber music together, and Tamayo would also play solo.

"It will be a very exciting show," he said.

Tamayo also performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Fayette Theater in Fayetteville. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Visit www.historicfayettetheater.com.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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