Increasingly, UWM attracts classical guitar students, artists

A growing number of aspiring musicians are heading to Milwaukee to study in the Peck School of the Arts’s classical guitar program.

Nathan Bredeson, a second-year graduate student and president of the classical guitar student organization, came to UWM in fall 2014 after his undergraduate studies at the University of Ottawa. He said the “fairly intimate” program with a small number of students helps to foster musical relationships and friendships.

With undergraduate and graduate students from as far as California and Washington, and Canada and Puerto Rico, UWM is internationally recognized for guitar studies and as a venue for classical guitar performances.

Nathan Bredeson came to UWM to study classical guitar after finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)
Nathan Bredeson came to UWM to study classical guitar after finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

The Peck School offers a BFA degree in guitar performance, in which students choose a primary and secondary style from among classical, jazz, flamenco and finger-style guitar.

Bredeson praised Rene Izquierdo, professor and director of classical guitar, for driving the program and inspiring his students.

“Rene has helped me figure out how to really make a career out of this,” Bredeson said.

According to Bredeson, Izquierdo helps his students prepare for a career as a musician by pushing them to perform regularly, and showing them how to market themselves before they finish school. Bredeson performed at least once a week in October.

Since 2005, UWM’s classical guitar student organization has worked to expose students to leading performers. Each year the group arranges three shows, inviting some of the world’s best touring performers to UWM.

The shows each have a theme, such as chamber music and performances by female guitarists.

“For a school to bring in this many performers is pretty unheard of,” Bredeson said.

After each show, the visiting performer gives a master class – a chance for students to play and receive a half-hour lesson. Other students in the audience benefit from these lessons, a major reason behind the master classes, Bredeson said.

“We want to make the music accessible to all students,” he said.

The student organization has made the student experience a priority in other ways. Each year the organization applies for a grant with the UWM Student Association to send four students to a guitar festival, such as the Indiana Guitar Festival this year. These festivals are an opportunity to network with other students who are pursuing careers as performers.

As UWM’s reputation grows in the musical world, some high-profile guitarists are approaching the student organization about playing in its concert series. Dale Kavanagh, a highly respected Canadian guitarist, asked UWM to be a stop on her 25th anniversary tour.

“As our reputation grows, we will attract more and more famous performers,” Bredeson said.


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