Guitar — Summer Student Activities

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Guitar Professor Peter Yates has let us know about performances this summer in Guatemala He says:

I would like to share this notice of summer activities by two of our UCLA students, one in my studio (Hanna Yocute), and her sister who has been admitted to the Ethno area (Sarah Yocute).

Our UCLA sister-Guitarists/Singers Hanna and Sarah Yocute just returned from Guatemala where they presented a masterclass/concert at the National Music Conservatory of Guatemala, German Alcantara. UCLA alumnus guitarist Marcus Gerakos played for the guitar students there last year.

Hanna is a senior guitar-performance major, and Sarah is a freshman entering the Ethno program. The Conservatory has invited Hanna and Sarah to return next July to teach a 1-2 week masterclass/workshop for their music students.

September 12th, 2017– We have heard from Hanna Yocute, one of these student performers, with more detailed information about these performances.

“My name is Hanna Yocute and I am a UCLA senior studying music performance, with an emphasis on classical guitar, at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. My sister, Sarah Yocute is also a UCLA student. She is an incoming freshman who will be in the Ethnomusicology department majoring in jazz studies. Sarah plays piano, clarinet, flute, alto saxophone, some guitar, and sings. My professor, Peter Yates, told me that you would like more information about our visit to Guatemala’s National Conservatory of Music, German Alcantara. I am thrilled you are interested in hearing more about it!

I have always had a passion for working with students and knew that at some point I would want to reach out to students internationally. Before making the trip to Guatemala, I asked Professor Yates to write an official recommendation letter for both Sarah and I. My professor also knows Sarah because as a high school student she performed for several events at UCLA along with UCLA’s guitar ensemble. I planned to speak directly to the faculty of Guatemala’s conservatory with Dr. Yates’ letter in hand.

When Sarah and I arrived at Guatemala, we planned to meet with the faculty the first Sunday there. Unfortunately, our meeting was cancelled because there was a major event blocking the main roads. We rescheduled for the following Sunday, which was two days before our return to the US. When I arrived at the conservatory, I met Z?si de Rold?n, weekend music coordinator of the conservatory. She read Dr. Yates’ letter and with regret said if we had come sooner she could have arranged for us to play. We left a little disappointed, but content that we had an introduction to the faculty there. The day before our return flight to LA, Z?si enthusiastically called and said the conservatory has invited Sarah and I to give a master class and musical presentation to their music students, some professors and faculty. It was all very providential. We were not expecting to play for the students until possibly a visit in the next year.

When we returned to the conservatory, we were welcomed by Vinico M?nzon, music director and weekday music coordinator. He was thrilled to meet Sarah and I, especially because he had read in the letter Dr. Yates wrote for me that I had a master class with Marcus Gerakos, an alumnus of The Herb Alpert School of Music. Marcus has played for the guitar students there last year and it turns out Marcus’ wife is a cousin of the music director. Very providential, like I said.

For our musical presentation, Sarah and I wanted to be very personal and open with students there. We felt that it was such a unique opportunity to share our musical experiences since like them, we are also students of music. We found a way to incorporate the telling of our musical journey with musical excerpts and performances that fit along our story line.

Sarah was the first to share her story with the group. She told them of how she started playing classical piano at the age of six and was a classical musician during the majority of her musical studies. She played several excerpts of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin to demonstrate her knowledge of classical music and technique. She shared with the students how she was almost about to apply to UCLA as a classical pianist. She performed what would have been her audition piece, Bach’s Prelude No.3 in C# major. She went on to say that she realized she did not have a connection with this genre. She told them that she had to realize her heart was with jazz music and last minute, decided to audition for jazz alto sax. Her and I performed her audition piece, “Take Five” by Paul Desmond, for the students. Sarah wanted to stress the importance that as a musician you must feel emotionally connected to the music you are studying or performing, and that one can find contentment in doing so.

My story shared similarities to Sarah’s. We shared the same theme throughout the presentation, as we are sisters. I also started playing classical piano when I was eight and loved classical music. I played several excerpts from Joplin, Mozart, and Chopin on the piano for the students. At the age of twelve, I picked up the classical guitar. Between practicing piano and guitar, I noticed I enjoyed practicing and playing guitar a lot more. I enjoyed manipulating the sound of the strings and making an effort to produce my own sound. I noticed, like Sarah, that I was lacking a connection, not with the musical genre, but with the instrument. Like Sarah, I was on the path to auditioning to colleges as a classical pianist. I played an excerpt of “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 for the students. It was not until my senior year of high school that I decided to commit to studying classical guitar because I knew in my heart I enjoyed the instrument. I have never looked back to regret that decision.

We concluded our presentation with “Black Bird” (1968) by The Beatles, “Jubilation” (1998) by American composer Andrew York, “Meditation” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and “Vincent” (1971) by Don Mclean. Towards the end, the students were able to ask questions and get our contact information. After the presentation, many students wanted to take pictures with us. As Sarah put it, “the fact that these students wanted to take a picture with us to remember our visit, really proves that we had an impact on their lives.” I believe she is absolutely right! It was such an inspirational experience that Sarah and I will never forget. I must say, it was the most fulfilling experience, more fulfilling than visiting Guatemala’s beautiful touristic sights.

The response from the faculty there was also great. The Conservatory would like Sarah and I to return next year, sometime in July, and teach a 1-2 week masterclass/workshop for their music students. This would ideally conclude with a concert of Sarah and I performing with some of their very own students. I will be working closely with Dr. Yates as I prepare to write up a proposal and lesson plan to be approved by their faculty. Sarah and I are very excited about the positive response from Guatemala’s conservatory and the support demonstrated by UCLA. We look forward to next summer when we can reunite with the students and continue the mutual inspiration as we study music, the world’s universal language.”