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15 Questions to Ernesto Tomayo

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Hi! How are you Ernesto? Where are you?
Hi, I am fine, thanks for asking. At the moment I am at home in Maryland.

What’s on your schedule right now?
At the moment I just performed at Vivace Chamber Music Festival in Lancaster, PA. I am trying to rest and fully recover from my Asian tour, and continue working on my new recording due out this year which will showcase my own new compositions.

Can you still remember the first time you heard a piece of classical music?
Yes, I remember listening to an Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach in a TV series, I was very young, probably five or six years of age. I was already learning classical guitar at that time as well and tried to played this famous Bach melody on the guitar...

What was the deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?
Well, two things here. Since I learned classical guitar at such an earlier age I was always very moved by the sounds of my instruments, there was a hugh motivation to play everyday. When I was about ten years old, I listened to a recording of John Williams made in 1980 with all Spanish repertoire. That was the moment that I said to myself, I want to play like that, I want to become an artist and play the guitar forever.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?

Probably the hardest part for me at the moment are friendships, dealing with personal matters, etc. It has been very difficult for my friends and family to understand this kind of life style of being away most of the time, traveling to the other side of the world and not being able to communicate, and other times because I get very focus on my practicing which takes away lots of my time. The great thing about this life is that after all the traveling and the efforts to prepare the concerts, it is all worth it when you are on the stage performing and sharing wonderful music with people that came to hear you, probably because they love classical guitar, others because they needed a little space from reality and the sounds produced by six strings to heal their soul.

Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how, do you think, could this be achieved?
Yes, it is very important that young people care for classical music. Classical music is part of our daily life and it takes your mind to a totally unexpected experience like other musical styles will do. In my opinion, the problem we have had with classical music and young people could be blamed on classical musicians actually. There was a time when classical musicians did not communicate properly with the people. We were quite selfish, thinking only in ourselves, preparing programs without considering our audiences taste, judging composers that have written beautiful music, but choosing not to play it because the piece itself can not be compared with Schumann's works for example. I will say with all due respect that classical musicians allowed themselves to entered a circle where they were not affected by what was happening in our current society, kind of like anti-social behavior, therefore people without actually wanting to, seperated themselves from classical music a little bit. Today, I think we have seen the mistakes of the past, and we are trying hard to appeal to people, blending more with them, and making classical music extremely cool. The music we play is of the highest quality. It is all about learning how to communicate with the audiences. .

How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for classical music?

Very important, we have to be there. The internet and new technologies has impacted society 100%. The concept of business has changed. If you are not online, you are out of business pretty much I think.

With so many different recordings of a particular piece available – how do you keep yours fresh and different?
Well, every human being is unique, and we are able to talk about the same subject for hundreds of years, and still offer a new point, a new idea, a new version if you will of the subject. If you are true to yourself, to who you are without wondering what people might think or say, you will be able to bring yourself to the music with your own personality, therefore freshness and differences will be found in what you are proposing.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Interesting question! a good live performance is a solid performance where everything is clear, transparent, easy to understand so the audience receive a clear picture of what you are trying to propose. Think about an speaker, either you have a speaker that talks so fast that no one can really catch up with him and mess up every word, or a speaker that every five minutes needs to remember the subject because he didn't prepare himself correctly, or a speaker that can not communicate properly period. My approach is just the opposite approach. It is important to reach everyone, knowing well all your moves technically is crucial, this will avoid memory problems, playing and adjusting tempos is also an important part because allows you to adjust things on the daily basis. I believe that the music is the most important thing, we need to do our best to present it with respect and professionalism.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?

It means extracting, re-creating, and bringing alive the music.

How do you balance the need to to put your personal emotions into the music you play and the intentions of the composer?
Well, I try to understand what the composer proposed in the first place using the score as the interface between the composer and myself. I believe that the composer was also an interface, his talent and experience allowed him/she to organize a group of ideas to formaly create a piece, therefore I don't have to exactly perform the piece as the composer wanted. Eventhough I try to get as close as I can to the composer, I am the one bringing this piece alive again, and based now on my experience as a musician, if I have to change some dynamics, or the character of an spesific passage I will do so to support my interpretation of the piece.

What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and classical music?
Well, classical music is the right way to go for musical education, and I believe you are refering to musical education at regular schools. Classical music teaches the basics on how to read music, theory, and music history, so it provides an outstanding structure and a great introduction to music in general. They should always be related.

You are given the position of Artistic Director of a Classical Guitar Festival. What would be on your program for this season?

Yes, I am happy that I have this position, one more thing to worry about (laughing), but this another way to promote the classical guitar. This will be the first edition of my Guitar Festival at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music in Lancaster, PA. We have three days to make an impact in the community. I have invited reknowned guitarist Eliot Fisk for our festival, and two other wonderful guitarists, Valery Hartzel who studied with Manuel Barreuco, and award- winning guitar virtuoso, Petar Jankovic.

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?

It is a good relationship, we see each other every morning. I like to say hi before breakfast and during breakfast sometimes...(laughing). I love to play all day if I can. I feel that the guitar is part of me, I think that she will be ok without me, but I need her in order for my life to be stable.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

I studied piano for eight years in Cuba, and I was very good at it. I performed Bach preludes and fugues, Mozart's sonatas, some Bethoven works among others. Also I learned Jazz and I was able to enjoy the chords and progressions with friends at party’s. I think that it is very important for every musician to get to know another instrument like the piano, if they can play the piano it is even better! There is another world out there for us to be discover when it comes to other musical instruments!

Picture by Laura Mir

Ernesto Tamayo Plays Bach (1997)
Melodias Cubanas (2000)
The Cuban Guitarist (2005)
Classical Persuasions (2006)
Artistico (2007)

Ernesto Tomayo

Ernesto Tamayo is currently managed by: Luba Management Inc. He is kindly supported by La Bella Strings. 

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