Guitar Weekend Festival at Kent State Stark September 30 - October 2

Join us for a Free 3-Day Festival September 30 - October 2

Kent State University at Stark’s Guitar Weekend is a three-day festival celebrating all styles of guitar playing. This free event is open to guitar enthusiasts at any level. Join us for exciting, intimate concerts and hands on workshops given by some of the most respected guitarists in Ohio and from across the country.

The Guitar Weekend will also feature a community concert with the newly formed Canton Youth Guitar Ensemble, the McKinley High School Guitar Ensemble, and guitar students from across Stark County. 

September 30 - October 2, 2016

Kent State University at Stark
6000 Frank Avenue NW
North Canton, Ohio 44720

Adam Larison
Adjunct Instructor




9 a.m. -12 p.m.
Artist visits to Canton City Schools

1 - 2 p.m. 
Neil Zaza in Erin Vaughn’s studio class


7:30 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
Isaac Bustos
Classical Guitar Recital
A classical guitar recital featuring music by Rojas, Bach, Sor, Rodrigo, and Koshkin.



10 - 11:30 a.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
Isaac Bustos
Classical Guitar Masterclass
Half concert, half music lesson, a masterclass is an opportunity for festival patrons to learn about the finer points of guitar playing in the context of a real world performance. Students from Kent State Stark’s Music Department, as well as select students from across Stark County, will perform classical guitar music on stage in the Main Hall Auditorium. After each student performs, Dr. Bustos will give a 30 minute public music lesson based on the performance. At the conclusion of each lesson, audience members are encouraged to ask questions. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn secrets of the craft from one of the finest classical guitarists in the world.

12 - 1:30 p.m. | 101 Fine Arts
Ben Monder
Mr. Monder will present a guitar workshop covering a wide range of essential topics in guitar playing. All guitar players welcome. Please bring your guitar! Have you ever wanted to have a guitar lesson with an internationally recognized performer? Now is your chance! In a workshop setting, you will be joined by a group of fellow students. Mr. Monder will discuss various guitar related topics, guide the group through exercises, and will be available for questions. This event is free and open to anyone who would like to attend. Though students are encouraged to bring a guitar and participate, anyone who would like to come as an audience member is also welcome.

3:30 - 5:30 p.m. | 101 Fine Arts
John Covach
Coaching Pop Ensembles
Dr. Covach will coach Kent State Stark's popular music ensembles on Rock standards. Audience members welcome.


2 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
John Covach, Director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
Did you know that Popular Music Studies is one of the hottest and fastest growing academic subjects? Working on the cutting edge of the field, Dr. Covach has lectured across the US and in Europe, and has been the focus of feature stories in newspapers and magazines, as well as on radio and television
He has published dozens of articles on topics dealing with popular music, and has appeared on the BBC, CNN, and The Huffington Post. Dr. Covach co-edited Understanding Rock (Oxford, 1997), American Rock and the Classical Tradition (Harwood, 2000), and Traditions, Institutions, and American Popular Music (Harwood, 2000). His textbook, What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock Music (Norton, 2006), has been recognized internationally as the authoritative text on the subject.

7:30 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
Ben Monder
Jazz Guitar Recital 
Mr. Monder will present a concert of original jazz compositions for guitar. He will be joined by Jeremy Poparad on bass, and Zaire Darden on drums.



10 a.m. -12 p.m. | 101 Fine Arts
Neil Zaza


12:30 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
Community Performance
Come see some talented guitar students from across Stark County! This exciting concert will feature the McKinley High School Guitar Ensemble and the Canton Youth Guitar Ensemble. If you are interested in performing on this concert, please send an email to Adam Larison at Proposals must be submitted by September 22.

3 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
The Ritsos Project
New Music with Guitar Recital
The internationally acclaimed Ritsos Ensemble will present a concert of new music for guitar with other instruments. The program will feature North American premieres and compositions by members of the group.

7:30 p.m. | Main Hall Auditorium
Neil Zaza
Melodic Electric Guitarist Recital
Mr. Zaza will present a concert of original rock compositions. He will be joined by Raymond Liptak on bass, and 
Joe “Franchi” Czekaj on drums. 

Guest Artists

Isaac Bustos

“Soulful and virtually flawless,” hails the Portland Oregonian and the Boston Globe writes, “In warm, round tones, the notes of Bach cascaded from the guitar, every note correct and played without hesitation.” Classical guitarist, pedagogue and educator Isaac Bustos, enjoys an extensive performing career that has taken him to Canada, Central America, Europe and all over the US.  Dr. Bustos has made several Radio and Television appearances and is in demand as clinician and master class teacher invited to perform in some of the most prestigious festivals including the Guitar Foundation of America Annual Convention, Portland Guitar Festival, St. Joseph International Guitar Festival, Southwest Guitar Festival, Brownsville Guitar Festival, Classical Minds Festival, Festival Internacional de Guitarra Monterrey, Festival Ramon Noble and Festival del Noreste in Mexico. Isaac has also appeared as soloist with the Orchestra of New Spain, The Baytown Symphony Orchestra, The Nicaraguan National Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro JoAnn Falletta. 

Isaac holds an impressive number of top prizes in over 12 major international competitions, 7 of which are first prizes.  In the fall of 2008, Isaac released his debut CD titled Caprichos y Sonatas which Soundboard magazine described as “…one of the best…it has everything one could want.” Bustos is a featured artist for the Vgo Recordings label and has just released his second album titled “Canciones a mi Madre”. The album contains Latin American guitar from Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and Argentina. Additionally, Isaac has premiered new guitar works by composers Nico Muhly, Frank Wallace, Mark Cruz, Joe Williams II and has recently recorded the world-premiere recording of Peter Lieuwen’s Sonata for guitar on the MSR Classics label. Chamber music collaborations have included performances with the Grammy award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Grammy Award-Winning Conspirare Choir, the Turtle Creek Chorale and legendary Mexican cellist Carlos Prieto. Bustos is also a founding member of the award-winning Texas Guitar Quartet. Their critically acclaimed debut album titled “RED” was released in the spring of 2012. 

Bustos holds a Bachelor of Music degree in guitar performance from the University of New Hampshire, where he was the only guitarist to ever hold a full scholarship, a Master of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin where he also completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree under the tutelage of world-renowned American guitarist Adam Holzman. 

As an educator, his commitment to teaching is reflected in the success of his students whose prize-winning performances have included victories in the Eastfield Guitar Festival and competition, Brownsville Guitar Ensemble Competition, “Classical Minds” Guitar Competition, Houston Young Artist, East Carolina University Competition, Rosario Competition, Appalachian State Competition, Boston Guitar Fest International Competition and Guitar Foundation of America International Youth Competition. Since 2005, Dr. Bustos serves on the faculty at Texas A&M University Department of Performance Studies where he is head of guitar studies and artistic director of the Texas A&M International Guitar Symposium and Competition.  

Neil Zaza

Not only has guitarist Neil Zaza helped to define the genre of melodic instrumental guitar, he has become a worldwide ambassador for the instrument itself. His melodic compositions have changed the way musicians play, and what audiences worldwide demand out of their guitar heroes. 

With fiery technical brilliance and breathtaking musical interpretation, Neil Zaza has defined himself as the instrumental guitarist with an unparalleled ability to combine solid, catchy songwriting with a keen melodic sense and technical fury.

From his virtuoso rock solos, to laying a funk groove, to demonstrating his classical prowess by performing Bach and Mozart compositions, Zaza’s extreme versatility has been showcased worldwide in concerts, clinics, festivals, as well as on his own solo instrumental albums. Zaza has shared the bill with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Steve & Mike Porcaro (Toto), Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, and Andy Summers. He has performed on albums by Dweezil Zappa, Eric Carmen, Michael Stanley and also supplied guitar tracks for a Stewart Copland-produced movie soundtrack.

It all began... in Akron, Ohio, where Neil Zaza was born, and still resides. Zaza started playing guitar at the age of 10 and went on to study classical guitar at The University of Akron under renowned educator and performer Stephen Aron. Zaza began to teach guitar, and in 1987 he formed the rock band Zaza, which quickly became one of the hottest U.S. touring bands at that time. After a successful run and even a hit song “Maybe Tomorrow”, the band disbanded and a brilliant solo career began.

Ben Monder

“There’s an extraordinary level of detail in Ben Monder’s music, and it begins where his fingertips meet various fretboards, reeling off notes in tight and complicated whorls…It’s easy to wax poetic about the impression created by this labyrinthine but changeable chamber music; let’s lose our inhibitions and say it suggests the pointillist shimmer of waning light over a tidal surface.” - Nate Chinen, The New York Times

"Ben Monder is a very evolved kind of musician — great chord voicing and just excellent playing." - Pat Metheny

“A lot of people play well, but what stops me is if somebody’s got a musical concept that’s different. Ben Monder is a jazz guitarist, but he’s not playing any bebop phrasing at all. He’s made an album that reflects wide musical thinking and ability, and incorporated music from other places to create his own world.” - Andy Summers

Ben Monder has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, George Garzone, Paul Motian, Guillermo Klein, and Maria Schneider. He has conducted clinics and workshops around the world, and served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory from 2002-2005. He was also the recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2014. Ben continues to perform original music internationally with his own quartet, trio, and in an ongoing duo project with vocalist Theo Bleckmann. He has appeared on over 130 CDs as a sideman, and has released 5 as a leader: Hydra (Sunnyside, 2013), Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005), Excavation (Arabesque, 2000), Dust (Arabesque, 1997), and Flux (Songlines,1995).

John Covach

John Covach received his B.Mus., M.Mus. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. He was a Fulbright scholar in Vienna, Austria during 1987-88, and has done post-doctoral work in philosophy under Charles Bambach at the University of Texas-Dallas. Professor Covach has taught at the Interlochen Arts Academy, The University of North Texas College of Music, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His students have won a wide variety of awards, and hold faculty positions at CUNY, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the University of Surrey, the University of Utah, among others.

Professor Covach has published dozens of articles on topics dealing with popular music, twelve-tone music, and the philosophy and aesthetics of music. He co-edited Understanding Rock (Oxford, 1997), American Rock and the Classical Tradition (Harwood, 2000), and Traditions, Institutions, and American Popular Music (Harwood, 2000). His textbook, What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock Music, will be published by W.W. Norton & Co. in the spring of 2006. Covach currently serves on the Editorial Board of the Cambridge University Press journal, Twentieth Century Music, and is a General Editor of Tracking Pop, a monograph series devoted to topics in popular music to be published by the University of Michigan Press. He has lectured across the US and in Europe, and has been the focus of feature stories in newspapers and magazines, as well as on radio and television.

As a guitarist, Professor Covach has performed throughout the United States and Europe. He remains active as a member of the progressive-rock band, Land of Chocolate, as well as with various other projects.

The Ritsos Project

Ensemble Ritsos represents a selective group of excellent musicians who specialize in new music performance and creation. The ensemble includes: Zach Sheets, Flute/Composer; Sammy Lesnick, Clarinet; Phil Pierick, Saxophone; Josinaldo Costa, Guitar; Hanna Hurwitz, Violin; Daniel Pesca, Piano/Composer; Aristea Mellos, & David Clay Mettens, Composers. The ensemble was formed throughout the past iterations of the Ritsos Project, held in the Summers in Greece.

Our Values:
We believe in enhancing access to live performance, investing in education, and in exciting and diverse music programming. We also believe in the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration for the creation of vibrant art.

Our Story:
In 2013, composer Aristea Mellos visited the Aegean island of Samos, from which her grandmother’s family hails. During this visit, a conversation with some artists in the village of Manolates revealed that it was difficult for the residents of Samos to access live classical music. Upon returning to the Eastman School, Aristea, with the help of her colleague Theocharis Papatrechas began planning The Ritsos Project: a festival of art, poetry, and music, that would bring young musicians to Samos. The festival takes its name from the famed Greek poet and social activist Yannis Ritsos, whose prolific and multidisciplinary creative output serves as a common source of inspiration among the festival's participants. In the last two years, the festival has included a concert series, an outreach and education program, and collaborative and interdisciplinary events—all of which were presented to the public for free.

In 2014, the festival featured ten new art song compositions that were premiered in Athens at the National Library of Greece, The Megaron. The festival then traveled to Samos where an exhibition of local art was held in conjunction with a free recital series, and a second theatrical presentation of the commissioned art songs was performed in Karlovasi for a packed house. 

In 2015, musicians from The Eastman School of Music returned to Samos for a series of events including a week of recitals, an outreach workshop and concert with students and teachers of the Pythagoras Music School, and the staging of a production of Ritsos’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ with actors from Donoussa Theatre. 

In 2016, our focus is directed towards strengthening the relationship between different art mediums by staging events that bring music, visual art, and poetry together in non-traditional performance spaces, such as art galleries and public squares. Four exciting and emerging composers will be commissioned to write new works that compliment an exhibit by the rising photographer Chrysostomos Galathris. The works will be performed by Ensemble Ritsos in conjunction with actors from Donoussa Theatre to create an immersive art experience. Rehearsals and performances will take place in the USA between May - June 2016, and the international festival will take place in both Athens and Samos Island, Greece in July 2016. There are other performances planned in the USA during the Spring, including a reprise of the 'Moonlight Sonata' at the Eastman School of Music on February 16.

The Ritsos Project is proudly supported by the Presser Foundation, the Eastman School of Music, and Albert Augustine Strings.

POSTED: Saturday, September 24, 2016 11:55 AM
Updated: Sunday, January 29, 2023 05:49 AM
Kent State University at Stark