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Teaching and learning with classical guitarist Gohar Vardanyan

Classical guitarist and Interlochen alum Gohar Vardanyan sitting in a purple dress playing guitar
Classical guitarist and Interlochen alum Gohar Vardanyan

Classical guitarist Gohar Vardanyan is not only a star player, but she's also a committed teacher. She maintains an active teaching studio (both in person and online), she's published several instructional books in the Mel Bay series and she has an active YouTube channel full of teaching videos.

But, she told IPR, she never plays the guitar for fun.

"That might come as a surprise, and even sound kind of sad," she said. "But I play guitar because it's my job. When I sit down to practice, I sit down to improve something, to work on something. I rarely pick up a guitar and play a tune I like. My time with the guitar is precious because I have responsibilities with it."

That doesn't mean Vardanyan doesn't have fun, of course. She just does it in the form of having a social life, visiting museums and attending concerts - not playing the guitar.

Vardanyan graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy 20 years ago this year, and she is back in northern Michigan this week to perform and work with current guitar students.

Prior to the concert, she visited Studio A to play music by Ponce, Tarrega and Calleja.

She talked about her excitement about being back on the Interlochen campus (and back in Studio A), which guitarists have been most influential to her and why her fingernails are the bane of her existence.

Gohar Vardanyan performs "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" by Francisco Tarrega in IPR's Studio A

Vardanyan also answered questions submitted by current Interlochen Arts Academy guitar students, like issues she has with tone production and who some of the most influential guitarists in her career have been.

In her experience, the care of fingernails is one of the most important things a guitarist can do for their tone production.

"Our nails are the bane of our existence because if they're a little off, you pluck a string and the ugliest sound comes out," she explained. "We're constantly buffing our nails."

Vardanyan recently broke a nail less than a week before a recital, and she had to wear a fake nail since there wasn't time to grow her natural nail back before the performance.

"I had never worn a fake nail for a performance," she said, "and I was afraid it would go flying off." (It didn't, by the way)

Music performed in Studio A

Manuel Ponce, Suite in A minor: Prelude (in the style of Weiss)
Francisco Tarrega, Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Francisco Calleja, Cancion Triste

Follow her on Instagram at @goharguitar.

Interlochen Arts Academy alumnus Gohar Vardanyan returns to Interlochen to perform masterworks from the Spanish guitar repertoire this Thursday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall. This concert is free and doesn't require tickets.

Kelley DiPasquale engineered this edition of Studio A.

Emily Duncan Wilson, Matthew Cochran and Amanda Sewell provided additional support.

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.