Meet DANIEL ROEST
Daniel Roest (pronounced "roost") started playing the guitar at the age of six and has never stopped. He began private lessons with local teachers including Rick Guido and Fred Stockton, and by the time he was a twelve, he had pursued classical guitar with Bunyan Webb, a protégé of Andrés Segovia. As a teenager, he was into rock and blues and didn't take any classical training during high school. But when it came time to go to college, he could only imagine himself being a musician, so he majored in music, and received his training in classical guitar, the only guitar major available.
While a student at Foothill College, he began studying guitar with Robert Burns. After living in Santa Cruz for a year, Daniel returned to San Jose and earned the first Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar Performance given by San Jose State University. He continued with his studies at the graduate level, studying with Bahram Behroozi, and eventually earned his masters in Guitar Performance. Other training included participating in dozens of master classes with Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, David Tanenbaum, Laurindo Almeida, Manuel Barrueco, David Russell, Michael Lorimer, Philip Rosheger, Eliot Fisk, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Selvio Carizosa, Manuel Lopez Ramos, Sharon Isbin, Abel Carlevaro, Ben Verdery, Masakasa Ito, Paul Galbraith, Lorenzo Micheli, Dennis Azabagic, Martha Masters and many other artists.
Currently Daniel works as a studio teacher and performer, and President and Artistic Director of the South Bay Guitar Society, an organization devoted to the promotion of the classical guitar.
Daniel Roest Interview
CMEA: Tell us how the South Bay Guitar Society began.
DR: In February of 1986, my friend Lester DeVoe called me and a few others to gather at his place for a guitar society style meeting. It continued monthly after that. I met Lester in the Peninsula Guitar Society (PGS), in the 70s, which had died out, and had thought since then of founding a guitar society, but Lester beat me to it. Lester had become quite a talented luthier, and now he's one of the world's best. He was head of the guitar society until 1991 when he left. I had taken over for him at monthly meetings when he was unavailable. He invited me to take his place along with John Mardinly and Richard Turner.
We continued to meet at the library in Saratoga until they had a 40% budget cut. We really needed a place to meet. They cut the night that we met. I asked everyone else to look for a place. No one came up with anything other than Le Petit Trianon in downtown San Jose, which is where we had been having concerts. We tried having our traditional meetings there, which involved: Featured Player or Players, Break, and then Members playing.
The concerts, the professional level concerts that we began having at Le Petit Trianon, really precluded the second half format that we had at the library. One aspect of the library meetings was that it was free. Consequently, we couldn't gather any money from a door charge to give to the performer. At Le Petit Trianon, we could, so we could hire professional artists to play. The concerts have been steadily building since 1994. At this point, we have a very high level concert series and we're one of two societies in the Bay Area, the other being the San Francisco Classical Guitar Society, which has been around for about two years.
CMEA: Does the Guitar Society focus primarily on classical artists and classical music?
DR: We're called South Bay Guitar Society and not South Bay Classical Guitar Society, but we started out in the very beginning as San Jose Classical Guitar Society. Classical guitar is our prime focus. On occasion, we've had non-classical guitar performers as part of our performance series, particularly at the Guitar Festival concerts at the Downtown Arts Series which is at the Stage Theater in downtown San Jose.
CMEA: Are you talking about the August series?
DR: The Downtown Arts Series is in both the spring and the summer and completely at the Stage Theater at First and William. The DAS has a number of small organizations, smaller than, say, the San Jose Jazz Society, and offers an opportunity for groups to collaborate with the City of San Jose and get professional arts production assistance. We've presented blues, jazz, and flamenco guitarists in our evenings that we call Guitar Festival. They're very successful with the audience, because the audience gets to see a variety of guitar styles in one evening. At least three, if not four, players.
CMEA: What are some of the goals of the Guitar Society?
DR: The primary purpose of the South Bay Guitar Society is to increase access to the arts, in particular our art form, which is classical guitar, and to provide a network for everyone interested in classical guitar. It addresses a fundamental need in a large metropolis like this where one organization can provide communication between teachers, students, artists, arts presenters, the City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs, the Santa Clara County Arts Council, and so on. As far as a vision, there are some fundamental problems in the profession of being a classical guitarist and through the Guitar Society, I hope to work toward resolving some of those problems.
CMEA: Could you elaborate on that?
DR: I'd be glad to. First of all, unlike the piano, for the guitar, there is no professional network for teachers. That is to say, a guitar-based network. There are teachers that I know of that are doing the same thing that I am, and I don't see them at any convention, I don't see them even at a concert. And yet they're doing the same work that I am. We don't have a round table. We don't have any kind of association. The Guitar Society is starting to reach out to those individuals to provide them and their students with activities, such as our concerts, our Classical Open Mic at the Expresso Garden Cafe [814 S. Bascom Avenue, San Jose] and "Friends of SBGS" monthly meetings at the library. I'd like to come back to those two items I just mentioned after I tell you a little bit more about your question.
There are several points I want to address regarding what the Guitar Society is about. The community at large is in dire need of increased access to the arts, at a time when already anemic arts funding sources are shrinking. Local private teachers, like those teaching in music stores and private studios, are not affiliated with academic institutions. They have no network of intelligence and moral support to hook into for ongoing inspiration. Prospective students have difficulty finding qualified instructors. The Guitar Society is acting as a resource for private teachers and students looking for teachers.
The academic institutions with guitar programs are falling short on fulfilling college's promise of preparing the student for life after college. Graduating students have not been coached on running a studio, recruiting or retaining students, or handling the business practices of maintaining a private teaching practice.
Students with ambitions to perform professionally don't know how to market themselves, negotiate with employers, write a contract, what to wear, what to play, etc. All this, despite having advanced degrees in music. Many of them will just get out of college, not succeed, and like a pendulum effect, go back to school for a business or technical degree or something completely out of the arts.
The Guitar Society is designed to give support to guitar players and students, artists and fans of the classical guitar. In other words, people at all levels of the art form. The Guitar Society is also operating as a resource for touring artists, classical guitarists who would like to perform in San Jose. A city like this certainly can support a classical guitar concert. But somebody needs to produce it. Our website, www.sbgs.org, has our event calendar, a teachers' page, old issues of our newsletter, a membership application, etc., to help get our message out.
CMEA: Could you explain how the Guitar Society is actually able to produce these? Is there a membership requirement? Is there a board of directors that solicits investments? It's a lot of work to produce a concert.
DR: It's not really as hard as it looks. This particular art form doesn't involve a lot of stage set up, lighting, and complications in the production. The artist goes out, sits down on a chair, and starts to play. It's just a matter of booking the hall, promoting the concert, and opening the doors. We do have a Board of Directors, because we incorporated in 1996 as a non-profit. We had been encouraged to do so. It led the way to grant support from government agencies.
CMEA: In a typical season, how many concerts do you produce?
DR: We've been producing eight to ten concerts per year. So it can be at a monthly rate for a while. Then we slow down in the late summer. Actually right now we're re-thinking the whole concert production aspect, and may hand it off to someone else as long as there will still be guitar concerts in the South Bay. That would allow us to concentrate more on outreach and low cost activities.
CMEA: Regarding teaching of guitar and the schools: Do you have any suggestions for the general music teacher? For instance, somebody teaching a band program, they might have a jazz band with guitars, or other performing ensembles. Most teachers really don't know very much about the guitar. Can you give advice to teachers about nurturing the guitar players in their programs?
DR: The guitar is the most popular instrument in the world. You have that advantage to start with. So, if you give the student some encouragement, some basic skills, and some appealing music, you have a winning combination. The band teachers should get a couple of private lessons for themselves. As far as what to teach, my philosophy has been for many years to achieve a balance for the student between repertoire, reading, scales, and arpeggios. So let's say the student has an hour to practice. The student should take fifteen minutes or so for scales, fifteen minutes for arpeggios, fifteen for reading, and the final fifteen for repertoire. If the student has only a half an hour, or two hours, or four hours, this approach of 25% for each of those four categories can be applied. The classical guitar repertoire contains many appealing and accessible pieces, so I would recommend the teachers themselves take a private lesson or two or more to get acquainted, and take that back to their classroom.
Jerry Snyder had a program going in the late 80's/early 90's where I and several other teachers were hired as consultants to out to the high schools in the East Side Union High School District. There's that resource that high school and junior high and elementary teachers can draw on: having somebody come out to their classroom, demonstrate, and be a hired gun, so to speak. I used to go out to seven high schools once a week for an hour each.
CMEA: What about performing group problems? In the jazz band, for instance, the guitar parts often contained very complicated chords expressed just as chord slashes or symbols, often in flat keys. Teachers have difficulty, unless they actually play the guitar, explaining how to voice the chords.
DR: The student really needs assistance from another guitarist who can guide them through the material. There's no substitute for seeing it done live in front of you so that you can imitate it and get your questions answered.
CMEA: So the best method is working one on one with a private teacher to get a lot of the problems resolved.
DR: That's right.
CMEA: Could you suggest some things that could be done in the public schools to promote more of what you're interested in? For instance, the idea of classical guitar music as opposed to the electric guitar, rock music or jazz music that is primarily taught now. As a classical guitar advocate, what you would you like to see in our public schools that perhaps isn't there right now.
DR: Well, finger picking is the prime difference between classical and the other styles, but it can be used in the other styles. Travis picking is a good example with alternating bass using the thumb and the right hand position being identical to the standard classical position. Tunes like Freight Train, Dust in the Wind by Kansas or the Beatles' Blackbird are good examples of that. So, using the right hand in a classical way with some simple classical pieces will get that started. And that can be applied to other styles: jazz, blues, rock, folk - they can all benefit from the classical platform of technique.
CMEA: What kind of advice would you give to a high school student who is interested in guitar about career opportunities in today's world?
DR: First, excellent instruction is a very important requirement for a future in music. They really need to apply themselves in practice to make the most of that instruction. But getting a teacher that knows how to play well and can give you a sound education in the art form is the first requirement. Second, if you want to make a profession out of it, and you feel that strongly about it, you need some role models. And there are guitarists like myself who not only teach but make their living part time performing, doing weddings, concerts and casuals. They can provide the guidance for the student in getting his or her career going. I did not find that to be part of my academic curriculum. So, I don't think the student can count on finding it in the academic setting.
CMEA: So where would you advise them to find out about business, especially the music concert business?
DR: Make an appointment with someone like myself, Jerry Snyder, Ken Brown, Don Ballistreri, Rick Vandivier Jim Robinson, Laura Longshore or Ken Andrade. Just look up some teachers and go from there. Find out what they're doing that works. I'd be happy to speak with anyone who was interested in a future as a professional.
CMEA: Where do you see the classical guitar area of music going in terms of repertoire now? Like any other style, there has to be new works created. Is the Guitar Society involved in promoting new works?
DR: I look for balanced programming with old and new so that audiences are exposed to several centuries of music. After all, it might be their first time hearing a classical guitar concert. We have great repertoire from the Renaissance through the present. There's also terrific guitar music written from Europe to South America to North America to Asia. It has really become "world music." So, the concerts that we produce often feature the latest offerings in classical guitar writing and provide some contrasting periods and styles. In the context of a two hour concert, it's impossible to cover all the bases. A lot of music is being written currently for the classical guitar, and it's wonderful to hear new music that succeeds with audiences.
CMEA: Who are some of the exciting new composers?
DR: We have an artist from Japan coming up February 27, named Keigo Fujii, who has written something called The Legend of Hagoromo. It's being compared to masterpieces of the 20th century, like Benjamin Britain's Nocturnes, Walton's Five Bagatelles, and Nikita Koshkin's The Prince's Toys. It's about 18 minutes long. There's a guitarist in Berkeley named Philip Rosheger who is writing wonderful pieces in baroque dance style, but with modern harmony.
CMEA: In other words he used the dance forms like the allemande or sarabande in a contemporary context.
DR: Yes, and his concert here of his own music was wonderful. David Russell plays Philip's music. In Japan, besides Fujii, Toru Takemitsu and Yuquijiro Yocoh come to mind. American composers like Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Aaron Jay Kernis, Lew Richmond, Alan Hovhaness and even Frank Zappa are getting promoted by David Tanenbaum, a great guitarist and recording artist who heads the guitar department at the San Francisco Conservatory. David is the guitarist most aware of cutting edge composition for classical guitar, as he has made it his specialty. I like certain pieces from Dušan Bogdanović, Nikita Koshkin, Carlo Domeniconi, Paulo Bellinati, John Duarte, Roberto Aussel, Aaron Shearer, Masakazu Ito, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza, Leo Brouwer, all these people from many countries. If someone wants to get hip quickly to what is new for the guitar, they should take a trip up to Guitar Solo on Clement Street in San Francisco.
CMEA: Regarding the membership of the Society: you mentioned that you're outreaching to college professors and their students, and to studio guitarists that teach privately. Is the group primarily composed of active playing guitarists earning a living from teaching or playing guitar, or is it primarily a group of amateur guitarists? Are some people just interested in the music and participate because they want to hear the music, and maybe listen to concerts?
DR: The membership is comprised of a blend of students, teachers, and non-guitarists. A couple of people on our board don't play the guitar at all.
CMEA: So they're interested because they like the music?
DR: They like the music and want to support the arts. We're trying to serve all segments of the community: people who are getting their first exposure to classical guitar, guitar students, guitar teachers, local performers and high level touring artists.
CMEA: What kind of time line do you follow in planning and producing concerts for a season? Could you explain the procedure you go through to acquire artists for concerts and how much advance notice they need? How many people volunteer? What are the inner workings?
DR: I'm besieged by requests to perform from artists all over the world. I match their offer with what our resources are and what our needs are, and begin painting a picture of the following season a year in advance, at least. Given sufficient notice, the hall is booked, the announcements are put out, and the audience will show up. There's a lot of footwork in getting the audience to show up, but it's very gratifying to have a sold out concert. We had Carlos Barbosa-Lima, and it was all put together within half a year. It was a standing room only concert, a great success, but all done pretty quickly.
CMEA: What's your primary method of getting the word out?
DR: Our promotions have been a blend of our quarterly newsletter, The Forum, flyers, mailings and press releases, primarily in the San Jose Mercury News and the Metro, a weekly events paper, plus word of mouth.
CMEA: What about the "Friends of SBGS" and the Open Mikes at the Cafe?
DR: The Friends of SBGS was started by our board member Tom Ingalz, and it's pretty much in the style of the events we had there before we started producing concerts at Le Petit Trianon, but it also incorporates a strong volunteer recruitment aspect. The open mic at the Espresso Garden started as an opportunity for me to gear up for a really big concert I do annually at Lick Observatory, and continues as the only classical guitar open mic outside of the classroom happening monthly in the Bay Area.
CMEA: If somebody wanted to become a member of the Guitar Society, how do they do it?
DR: At all of our concerts, we are signing up new members. We have an office on 2nd Street in San Jose with an office manager. Tom Ingalz works in the office afternoons and takes calls for members. That number is 408-292-0704. We also offer concert subscriptions above the membership benefits of receiving the newsletter and getting discount admission to our concerts. Tom can provide details to anyone who calls or they can visit our web site at http://www.sbgs.org.
CMEA: Talking about your own teaching techniques, I see you have some interesting studio equipment here. How do you approach your private teaching?
DR: I have some tape recording equipment for myself and my students. I encourage my students to get their playing level to a point where they would like to record it and will be happy with the result. It's also a technique for listening to themselves, and if they don't have a tape recorder at home, they can make a tape recording here. I can get a really good sound with the equipment I have. I'm using a mini disc player. It's a really convenient and high quality, low cost format. I have a Mackie mixer, an Alesis reverb unit and Tascam cassette mastering unit, a CD player and some microphones. Mainly, the teaching is just the two of us in my studio here with the music that they've prepared.
CMEA: What happens in a lesson?
DR: We run over some scales, some arpeggios, a tune or two, and I always try to attend to their technique, so that those issues are addressed. I help them with rhythm and volume, tone, balance between melody and harmony, phrasing, the overall concept of the piece, and performance practice from one historic period to another. I tell what I think they should focus on to get through problems. I enjoy private teaching a lot because my students are such interesting people, it's just a real pleasure to help them.
CMEA: How much is the recording of your students part of their lessons? Is that something you do on a weekly or monthly basis? How do you incorporate that?
DR: It's not as frequent as I'd like, actually. Lately, I've been thinking of adding more video into my teaching. I think everybody has a VCR; if I can make a video of the way I'm playing the same piece that they're working on, and I can video tape them playing it, they can take this home and look at it on their own television. It would help them have something to model their playing after, and also to learn what they're doing right and what they've been doing wrong.