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Guitar Quintet plays at String Theory event at the Hunter Museum

  • Arts + Music
  • Upper School
Guitar Quintet plays at String Theory event at the Hunter Museum
The Guitar Quintet performing at the Hunter Museum

 

Almost everyone has a favorite entertainer, be it an actor, musician, comedian or singer. Just look at the millions of people who’ve been willing to fork over hundreds of dollars each in recent weeks for the upcoming Taylor Swift concert tour.

McCallie sophomore Stuart Brown’s entertainer of choice is far from a household name in most households, however, but rather classical guitarist Jason Vieaux, who’s been described by National Public Radio as “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation”. 

And this interest in Vieaux caused Brown quite a dilemma during McCallie’s recent fall finals week. The famed guitarist was appearing at the Hunter Museum on December 13 as part of its String Theory concert. Unfortunately, Brown also had a Physics final that next morning.

To further complicate his decision on whether to attend the concert, someone had sent Vieaux an article from the school’s website in which Brown, after finishing second in Florida State’s international guitar competition for high schoolers, mentioned that Vieaux was his favorite classical guitarist.

The Guitar Quintet with Jason Vieaux

“As I’ve gotten older, I’m 49 now, those kinds of things mean more to me,” the Grammy-winning guitarist said. “I thought it would be nice to meet him. It’s interesting at this point in my career to be called Mr. Vieaux.”

Not only did they meet, the entire McCallie Guitar Quintet of  Brown, Sid Cheenakoti, Jude Rifai, Colin Sanders and Walker White was asked to perform at the Hunter event before Vieaux and saxophonist Timothy McAllister took the stage that night.

“With it being finals, we didn’t have time to prepare something new, so we played what we’d played at Candlelight (Christmas Eve/Sarajavo),” said Michael McCallie, head of the guitar program and a friend of Vieaux’s. “But once the boys all felt they could play at the Hunter and still get their studying done, we were all in.”

For all five students, it was both a thrill and a challenge. As sophomore Walker White said upon exiting the concert early to prepare for his final the next day: “It was actually kind of stressful. This is a knowledgeable audience. They know what good music is supposed to sound like.”

It certainly sounded good to Vieaux, who met with the boys in Hunter’s “green room” for a few minutes before the quintet took the stage.

“They were really good,” he said. “They sounded great. They were well-prepared.”

To make sure Brown sounded great, his parents, Scott and Cherie, bought him a new guitar as an early Christmas present. Then came time to meet his favorite classical guitarist.

“When we first saw him he was pretty tall and seemed like a nice guy,” wrote Brown in an email. “We didn’t really get time to have a long conversation with him because we were busy getting ready to go on stage.”

Asked if Vieaux brought up the article where Brown had listed him as his favorite guitarist, the student wrote: “He didn’t mention anything, probably to not embarrass me.”

It was all an early Christmas present for both the Guitar Quintet as a whole and Stuart, Scott and Cherie Brown as a family.

“We had no idea (Jason) was coming to town,” Cherie said. “Just to have the boys encouraged by him. So great to be able to play for someone they respect so much.”

And to top it off, Brown made B+ on his difficult Physics final.

No wonder one of Vieaux’s biggest hits is a duet he did with vocalist Yolanda Kondonassis of the Louis Armstrong classic “It’s a Wonderful World.”